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

It may possibly appear to be unlikely, upon observing Bettina Grossman pushing her shopping cart crammed with artwork exterior the Chelsea Hotel, that she was an accomplished artist with a once-promising job.

Ms. Grossman was strange even by the requirements of the Chelsea, the storied haven for quirky artists. Her studio condominium, Space 503, at the close of a prolonged fifth-flooring hallway, experienced turn out to be so crowded with her accrued artwork — mainly summary, very conceptual drawings, sculptures and photographs — that she had been displaced from her own dwelling place. She slept in her hallway on a lawn chair.

“She was eccentric with a funds E,” stated Robert Lambert, a painter who lived down the corridor from Ms. Grossman at the Chelsea, which more than the decades was house to the likes of Mark Twain, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin.

“Her place was like an Egyptian tomb,” he additional in an interview. “It appeared like a wreck, but you blow off the dust and there is nothing at all but wonderful sculptural treasures.”

For a lot of the 1950s and ’60s, Ms. Grossman worked as an artist in Europe. But just after a series of profession disappointments, she isolated herself as a long lasting resident at the Chelsea for a fifty percent-century, fiercely guarding equally her privateness and the trove of art she experienced created in her prime in New York and Europe.

She refused guests and stored her condominium doorway secured with various major locks.

Ms. Grossman died on Nov. 2 of respiratory failure at a Brooklyn care center, where by she was rehabilitating soon after a slide numerous months ago, her niece Aliza Environmentally friendly mentioned. She was 94.

Toward the conclude of Ms. Grossman’s everyday living, she and her work turned more widely identified. She was the matter of two documentaries and allowed a modest circle of her fellow artists to have her items cataloged and exhibited in demonstrates in New York and Germany. Her perform is at this time on display screen at the Museum of Contemporary 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 home in the Borough Park section.

Her father owned a tunes keep in Manhattan but did not persuade his little ones to pursue the arts, her brother Morty reported in an interview.

“How she acquired the expertise, I don’t know — I guess God put it into her,” he claimed.

Just after studying business art in higher school, she grew to become a designer of neckties, sheets, pillowcases and the like for a textile producer and had saved ample dollars by her early 20s to move to Europe. There she pursued her art profession and eschewed her youthful nickname, Betty, going merely by the solitary identify Bettina.

“She selected her title and produced her persona,” claimed Ms. Eco-friendly, her niece.

Ms. Grossman turned an exacting craftswoman. She traveled to Carrera, Italy, to decide on marble for her sculptures. She studied stained glass with a learn in France.

She also led a daring, dashing life. With a model’s appears to be like and wardrobe, her niece said, she drove sports vehicles, skied the Alps and attracted many boyfriends.

She returned to the United States and was residing and operating in a Brooklyn Heights constructing in the late 1960s when a fireplace ruined most of her perform, together with paintings, sculptures, picture slides and textile styles.

“That was a breaking level,” Ms. Green claimed. “It was a traumatic factor for her.”

In “Girl With Black Balloons” (2010), a documentary directed by Corinne van der Borch, a Dutch filmmaker dwelling in Brooklyn, Ms. Grossman explained that after the fireplace “destroyed my life” she redoubled her determination to her art, which precluded her from marrying and acquiring kids or even getting time absent from her function to encourage it.

“The only way you could do lovely factors like that is by isolating by yourself from reality, from pals, from the messy condition out there,” she said.

Close to 1970, she moved into the Chelsea Hotel — not since of its passionate popularity, but for its accepting ambiance and its artistic habitués.

She ongoing to produce perform and showed it sometimes, but she was significantly discouraged by the troubles she confronted as a female in the business art environment, and by a pervasive belief that her ideas had been currently being co-opted by other artists.

Her myriad frustrations often fueled new functions. When when gazing from her fifth-flooring balcony and contemplating of leaping, she alternatively started having images of pedestrians from higher than and compiled a photograph sequence.

In generating her neighborhood rounds, she pushed a shopping cart containing portfolios and samples of her work that she was loath to leave unguarded at property.

Even though beloved by a tight circle of artist close friends, Ms. Grossman remained an enigma to other people. Exterior her space, she mounted provocative artwork and messages on her doorway declaring the premises the “Institute for Noumenological Research” and listing mental, artistic and philosophical ideas. One more merely declared, “Help Me, I’m Staying Killed.”

In 2007, Sam Bassett, an artist who was a resort resident at the time, built a documentary about Ms. Grossman referred to as “Bettina.”

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

The growing trove of perform commenced hindering her accessibility to the rest room and kitchen. With tiny space, she turned to pics and printmaking and slept in a space she cleared by her doorway.

“Surrounded by so a great deal phenomenal art hidden in packing containers from ground to ceiling, it pretty much felt as if she experienced established a bird’s nest,” reported Ms. van der Borch, the director of “Girl With Black Balloons,” which gained the Metropolis Competition prize at the DOC NYC competition in 2011.

Yto Barrada, a Moroccan artist based mostly in Brooklyn, befriended Ms. Grossman many years in the past and started showing her do the job to curators from many museums and galleries.

Ms. Grossman’s artwork was shown alongside Ms. Barrada’s at the Arts Middle at Governors Island in 2019, as very well as in a 2020 show at the Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Hamburg, Germany.

A photograph by Ms. Grossman is now on show at the Museum of Present day Art together with will work from the museum’s collection selected by Ms. Barrada. Titled “Two Several hours in the Daily life of A person Hair,” it is a number of exposures of a curlicued strand of hair floating in h2o. A lot more of Ms. Grossman’s function is on display as portion of the “Greater New York” exhibition at MoMA PS1.

Ms. Barrada served place collectively a guide of Ms. Grossman’s work, to be published upcoming yr. The prestigious Rencontres d’Arles Pageant of worldwide pictures in the South of France has scheduled a solo exhibition of Ms. Grossman’s get the job done for next summertime.

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

In recent a long time, enthusiasts would leave bouquets and notes on a small table in the hallway exterior Ms. Grossman’s doorway, stated Mr. Lambert, her former neighbor.

“She’d get letters from all over the entire world,” he claimed.

Due to the fact she refused to enable associates of the hotel employees into her condominium, it fell into disrepair. In 2006, she efficiently fended off the hotel’s attempt to evict her.

In latest many years, with the hotel undergoing renovations to be turned into a luxurious property, Ms. Grossman was among the the dwindling selection of total-time citizens who remained since of condition lease rules. Her hire was about $350 a month, her brother stated.

She dismissed the likelihood of considering a buyout supply to give up her lease.

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

Kenneth Proto

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