The hotel holds personal significance for the gallerist, as well. Maresca himself calls El Quijote (the ground floor eatery at Hotel Chelsea, which shuttered last week) “the very first restaurant that I ever ate in in my life.” In 1967, at age 17, Maresca began working for advertising photographer Irving Schild. With his boss, he sometimes socialized with the Hotel Chelsea set. “The doors radiate the essence of the Chelsea Hotel,” Maresca said. “I would call them plain and gritty.”
So—who wants them? “You can never predict who buyers might be,” said Ettinger. He says that gallery owners, noted photographers, and even the head of a bank have already expressed interest. Estimates are very broad, from a door affiliated with Pollock ($5,000 to $100,000) to one bearing associations with both Brian Jones and Liam Neeson ($2,000 to $20,000). Proceeds will benefit the charity City Harvest and Georgiou himself. In the future purchasers’ homes, the doors may serve as reminders of a bygone era, inspiration for creative practitioners, or anthropological curiosities.
New Yorkers, after all, are uniquely primed to revere these battered totems and yearn for such a grungy, authentic past. Dylan, who started to write his 1966 record Blonde on Blonde while staying in the Chelsea, perfectly captured the tension between presence and absence, desire and detachment, and dirt and romance that characterize the city. In one of his best-loved songs from the album, “Visions of Johanna,” he sings, “And the all-night girls, they whisper of escapades out on the D train…The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain / And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain.”