The list of the artists, writers, musicians and sundry other creative types who have lived at the Chelsea Hotel is staggering: Bob Dylan, Charles Bukowski, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Janis Joplin, Larry Rivers…
So, apparently, is the list of artworks that have disappeared from its walls over the years. Today the hotel blog Living with Legends reports that the place has been hemorrhaging artworks, whether because the artists who made them get evicted; the pieces are mistakenly thrown away; or relatives of the artists steal things. Sometimes an artwork’s disappearance is, well, just a mystery.
Recently, the hotel had perhaps its most sheepish moment yet: a painting of a nude by Akbar Padamsee that had hung above the door to its lobby sold in March, at Sotheby’s, for $1.4 million.
Now the hotel is worried that two paintings by Australian artist Brett Whiteley may end up on the block. “[A]ccording to an anonymous tipster,” the website breathlessly reports, “several paintings were observed being carted out of the hotel last Wednesday and taken away in a van.”
What remains unclear is how, exactly, what the website rather bathetically characterizes as “the looting of our proud artistic tradition” happened right under the hotel’s eyes. How, in other words, did the consignor of Mr. Padamsee’s painting get the painting out of the lobby and over to Sotheby’s without anyone noticing? (The website claims, rather confusingly, that part of the proceeds from the Sotheby’s sale “should be used to compensate the widows whose husband’s stolen paintings formed an integral part of that tradition.”)
Is security that loose over there at the Chelsea Hotel? Perhaps the disappearance of its art, like so much that happened behind closed doors at this storied artist residence, will remain a mystery.