Bettina Grossman, an Artistic Fixture at the Chelsea Hotel, Dies at 94

Bettina Grossman, an Artistic Fixture at the Chelsea Hotel, Dies at 94

It may seem not likely, upon observing Bettina Grossman pushing her buying cart loaded with artwork outside the house the Chelsea Lodge, that she was an completed artist with a as soon as-promising vocation.

Ms. Grossman was uncommon even by the standards of the Chelsea, the storied Manhattan haven for quirky artists. Her studio apartment, Space 503, at the conclude of a lengthy fifth-ground hallway, had develop into so crowded with her accrued artwork — largely summary, remarkably conceptual drawings, sculptures and photographs — that she had been displaced from her possess residing area. She slept in her hallway on a lawn chair.

“She was eccentric with a funds E,” claimed Robert Lambert, a painter who lived down the hall from Ms. Grossman at the Chelsea, which above the a long time was property to the likes of Mark Twain, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin.

“Her place was like an Egyptian tomb,” he extra in an job interview. “It looked like a wreck, but you blow off the dust and there is absolutely nothing but lovely sculptural treasures.”

For much of the 1950s and ’60s, Ms. Grossman labored as an artist in Europe. But soon after a series of occupation disappointments, she isolated herself as a everlasting resident at the Chelsea for a half-century, fiercely guarding the two her privateness and the trove of art she experienced generated in her key in New York and Europe.

She refused visitors and saved her condominium door secured with large locks.

Ms. Grossman died of respiratory failure on Nov. 2 at a Brooklyn care centre, where by she was rehabilitating following a slide several months ago, her niece Aliza Environmentally friendly said. She was 94.

Towards the conclude of Ms. Grossman’s life, she and her operate turned more extensively known. She was the issue of two documentary films and authorized a smaller circle of fellow artists to have her items cataloged and exhibited in exhibits in New York and Germany. Her function is currently on exhibit at the Museum of Modern day Artwork in Manhattan and at MoMA PS1 in Queens.

Bettina Grossman was born on Sept. 28, 1927, in Brooklyn to Saul and Pauline Grossman and grew up with 3 siblings in an Orthodox Jewish property in the Borough Park segment.

Her father owned a audio retailer in Manhattan but did not persuade his kids to pursue the arts, her brother Morty said in an job interview.

“How she bought the expertise, I really do not know — I guess God set it into her,” he explained.

After finding out business artwork in higher school, she created neckties, sheets, pillowcases and the like for a textile manufacturer and by her early 20s experienced saved ample income to transfer to Europe. There she pursued her art job and eschewed her nickname, Betty, going only by the one name Bettina.

“She selected her title and developed her persona,” mentioned Ms. Environmentally friendly, her niece.

Ms. Grossman grew to become an exacting craftswoman. She traveled to Carrera, Italy, to find marble for her sculptures. She analyzed stained glass with a learn in France.

She also led a daring, dashing lifetime. With a model’s seems and wardrobe, her niece mentioned, Ms. Grossman drove sporting activities cars and trucks, skied the Alps and captivated various boyfriends.

She returned to the United States and was dwelling and operating in a Brooklyn Heights setting up in the late 1960s when a hearth ruined most of her operate, which include paintings, sculptures, picture slides and textile patterns.

“That was a breaking issue,” Ms. Environmentally friendly said. “It was a traumatic thing for her.”

In “Girl With Black Balloons” (2010), a documentary directed by Corinne van der Borch, a Dutch filmmaker living in Brooklyn, Ms. Grossman claimed that after the fire experienced “destroyed my life” she redoubled her commitment to her art, which, she reported, precluded her from marrying and owning kids or even using time absent from her function to endorse it.

“The only way you could do wonderful factors like that is by isolating by yourself from actuality, from buddies, from the messy condition out there,” she explained.

She moved into the Chelsea Hotel about 1970 — not simply because of its passionate standing, she mentioned, but for its accepting atmosphere and innovative habitués.

She ongoing to build get the job done and showed it from time to time, but she was progressively discouraged by the problems she faced as a girl in the business art earth, and by a profound perception that her thoughts were being remaining co-opted by other artists.

Ms. Grossman’s myriad frustrations usually fueled new operates. Once when gazing from her fifth-floor balcony and contemplating of jumping, she mentioned, she alternatively began using shots of pedestrians from previously mentioned and compiled a photo collection.

In earning her neighborhood rounds, she pushed a searching cart containing portfolios and samples of her get the job done that she was loath to leave unguarded at residence.

While beloved by her artist pals, Ms. Grossman remained an enigma to some others. Outside her area, she mounted provocative artwork and messages on her door declaring the premises the “Institute for Noumenological Research” and listing intellectual, inventive and philosophical principles. Another simply just declared, “Help Me, I’m Being Killed.”

In 2007, Sam Bassett, an artist who was a hotel resident at the time, produced a documentary about Ms. Grossman termed “Bettina.”

“Really, she was suffocating in her have greatness,” he informed The New York Instances in 2008.

The rising trove of operate commenced hindering her entry to the rest room and kitchen area. With tiny area, she turned to photos and printmaking and slept in a room she cleared by her doorway.

“Surrounded by so a great deal phenomenal art concealed in bins from ground to ceiling, it almost felt as if she experienced established a bird’s nest,” reported Ms. van der Borch, the director of “Girl With Black Balloons,” which received the Metropolis Levels of competition prize at the DOC NYC festival in 2011.

Yto Barrada, a Moroccan artist based mostly in Brooklyn, befriended Ms. Grossman a number of several years ago and commenced demonstrating her function to curators from museums and galleries.

Ms. Grossman’s artwork was demonstrated together with Ms. Barrada’s at the Arts Centre at Governors Island in 2019, as very well as in a 2020 clearly show at the Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Hamburg, Germany.

A photograph by Ms. Grossman is now on display at the Museum of Modern day Artwork alongside will work from the museum’s assortment chosen by Ms. Barrada. Titled “Two Hours in the Lifetime of A person Hair,” the image is many exposures of a curlicued strand of hair floating in water. More of Ms. Grossman’s get the job done is on display screen as part of the “Greater New York” exhibition at MoMA PS1.

Ms. Barrada aided set jointly a guide of Ms. Grossman’s perform, to be posted up coming 12 months. The prestigious Rencontres d’Arles Pageant of global photography in the South of France has scheduled a solo exhibition of Ms. Grossman’s do the job for next summer.

Ms. Grossman was buried in Israel in close proximity to her mom. In addition to her brother, she is survived by a sister, Esther Zitwer.

In new decades, lovers would leave bouquets and notes on a smaller desk in the hallway exterior Ms. Grossman’s door, claimed Mr. Lambert, her previous neighbor.

“She’d get letters from all above the world,” he said.

Considering the fact that she refused to allow associates of the hotel team into her apartment, it fell into disrepair. In 2006, she successfully fended off an try by the hotel to evict her.

In current years, with the resort undergoing renovations to be turned into a luxurious house, Ms. Grossman was among the the dwindling quantity of comprehensive-time citizens who remained due to the fact of condition hire rules. Her rent was roughly $350 a month, her brother reported.

She dismissed the chance of thinking of a buyout present to give up her lease.

“I reported, ‘Tell them you want $5 million,’” Mr. Lambert mentioned. “She stated, ‘Where would I go?’”