A Piece of the Chelsea Hotel’s Fabled Art History

Buyers can nab a piece of the iconic Chelsea Hotel’s history when Freeman’s auction house in Philadelphia offers the private art collection of longtime manager Stanley Bard at auction next month (May 16).

Bard, who passed away in February at age 82, oversaw the hotel for 50 years. His life is inextricably linked with the hotel’s rich history—which is both famous and infamous—and the many creative geniuses, including writers, musicians and artists for whom it was a favorite haunt or longtime home.

The Chelsea Hotel “was obviously such a magnet for creative types, so a lot of the artists in the sale are those who were associated with the hotel,” said Dunham Townend, head of Freeman’s modern and contemporary art department. “Of course,” she added, “no one was more associated with the hotel than Stanley himself so he got to be great friends with many of the artists.”

A New York Times obituary dubbed Bard the “Robin Hood of innkeepers,” and a longtime resident called him “the most beloved—and enigmatic—character ever to grace the halls of the Chelsea.”

Townend said the auction, titled “Stanley Bard: A Life at the Chelsea,” features about 90 lots and spans a relatively wide time frame, with the earliest work dating to 1901. Further, some of the works, such as the sale’s top lot—an oil on shaped canvas by Tom Wesselmann—bear personal dedications to Bard from the respective artists.

The Wesselmann, for instance, Face #1 (1966) bears an inscription on the verso that reads, “For Stanley with Affection–Tom Wesselmann”. It is estimated at $600,000 to $800,000 and is by far the most expensive lot of the sale. Most of the works are priced under $50,000, and the least expensive, is a work by Don Olsen, also inscribed to Bard, that is estimated at $300 to $500.