On April 12, several doors from New York’s historic Chelsea Hotel were displayed at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery and sold at auction. The event, conducted by Guernsey’s Auction, featured 50 original doors to the hotel’s residences, which housed bohemians and writers from Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Humphrey Bogart, Tom Wolfe, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Jim Morrison and Bob Marley, among many, many others.
Among the top sellers at the event was the door to Bob Dylan’s room, which sold at auction for $100,000, per the BBC. A door to a room used by Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin during their affair was sold for $85,000, as was the door to Joni Mitchell’s room. Despite having written On the Road in the hotel during his stay, Kerouac’s residence’s door went for only $30,000, whereas Warhol’s room door, where he filmed Chelsea Girls, went for $52,500.
Also up for sale was the door to a room which, at one point or another, held Madonna, actress Isabella Rosselini and filmmaker Shirley Clarke. That one sold alongside the door to Jimi Hendrix’s residence for $13,000.
The doors were obtained by a former tenant of the hotel, Jim Georgiou, who was homeless during the time of the hotel’s top-to-bottom renovation, which began in 2011. Georgiou saw the doors being thrown away by the renovation crew and arranged to obtain them, label them and ultimately sell them at auction.
“For me they were history and beauty and connected to my heart,” said Georgiou speaking with the New York Times. “They’re precious because there are so many people who’ve been through them.”
Indeed, the hotel has been a stomping ground for artists and celebrities since its foundation in the early 1880s. The hotel became a crime scene in 1978 when Sex Pistols singer Sid Vicious was charged with murder after Nancy Spungen was found dead in their shared room. The hotel has also been a muse to writers and musicians alike, including science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey inside one of its rooms. The hotel was commissioned as a designated city landmark in 1966 and was sold to a group of investors in 2016.
While the doors are symbolic of the people that inhabited those rooms, the NYT reports they’re not that nice to look at.
“The doors are anything but beautiful,” said Arlan Ettinger, the president of Guernsey’s. “Some of them have big spray-can X’s to indicate the throw-it-out kind of thing. They are iconic objects, but as with many objects, what’s important is not their physical presence but what they represented.”
Watch the trailer for the auction and an ‘80s Dylan performance from the Paste Cloud down below, and see the full catalogue of doors through the Guernsey’s Auction website here.