Before telling you about the "Circus Room", a short Preface:
Like San Francisco's earthquake retrofit ordinance, NYC adopted a similar ordinance, with a 2007 deadline for completion. Wellll,(as Jack Palance might have whispered), most every business involved, waited until the last minute to shell out hundred$ of thou$and$ of dollars for necessary "up to code" repairs. This explains all that scaffolding you walk under and into as you walk and gawk throughout Manhattan and the other boroughs.
The Chelsea Hotel fell into this group as well, so each morning at 8:01, workmen were on the exterior scaffolding or balcony that holds the large neon sign...just opposite our room, making
repairs to walls, window sills and/or door jambs, as well as the large sign.
This is not a problem if you don't mind getting dressed, showering or trying to talk while hearing workmen discuss the ups and down in their lives and career choices accompanied by a background of a morning radio talk show host at full volume.
(There are road signs posted throughout Manhattan that warn motorists of a $300(!) fine for honking their horns, yet construction workers can play their radios at full volume with impunity.(?)
Like all Chelsea Hotel rooms, the ceilings are 12' high, and in our "Circus Room", the window frame that housed our air conditioner, was about 3' wide and 8' tall. The material used to construct the curtain for that window, had to have come from Ringling Bros., as it was as close to striped canvas,in feel and color, as any painting that ever came out of the Op Art school. The colorful(?) stripe patteren could best be described as somewhere between what Roy Lichtenstein might have chosen for pajamas, and a bar code as seen through the eyes of a rabid dog.
However the most interesting feature of this single curtain panel, was that it had to have originally been made for a window much wider than 3', and since it was fully lined, probably weighed in around 12 pounds or more. Since we wanted to run the a/c unit whenever we were
in the room, each morning we'd get up before the workmen arrived, and we'd make a large roll of the bottom four feet of the curtain and pile it back on top of the a/c unit, where it had been when we went to bed the previous night. And within thirty minutes, the vibrations of the a/c unit would "walk" the pile of curtain over to the edge, and finally come crashing down, completely covering the a/c unit and four or five inches of the floor.
Realizing that taking matters into our own hands was not enough, on our second day of museum and gallery hopping, we stopped at a Duane Reade Drug Store,( There's one every half-block throughout Manhattan), and bought a dozen of the largest, most industrial-looking safety pins we could find. And each morning before we left for the day, we'd remove the safety pins and pile the curtain atop the a/c , knowing that the housekeeper would find it exactly where she expected it to be, completely covering the a/c and part of the floor. We did this for the next six days.
The Chelsea is 10 stories tall, and most every wall, stairwell and passageway has art hanging on it. Most by current tenants, but also dating back for decades by then residents. The roof is a sculpture garden, but was locked during our visit. However, we began at the front desk and walked up all ten floors, taking it all in. Some artists have their business cards pinned up with their work. The subject matter truly "covers the waterfront" as far as every school or "ism" throughout Artdom being represented. There are also installations that make you wonder if you're looking at an artist's visual statement, or just their uncontrollable fascination with plastic picnic ware. One floor even had an on-duty curator in the form of a calico kitten that
mostly slept under a large canvas painting of Mao Tse Tung, prompting my wife to offer: "Look, Meow Tse Tung!" The portrait was further proof that Mao still reigns as "Extreme GI Joe".
You come away from all this work, and you wonder, if this is the kind of stuff they show in the hallways, what does the stuff that they really care about look like, for none of these works are done by hacks or Sunday Painters. To be continued, as we are house sitting in Brooklyn in July, and plan on visiting the Chelsea to see if my "guerrilla art" piece is still part of the hotel's permanent collection...(?)