December 3, 2021

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Bettina Grossman, an Creative Fixture on the Chelsea Resort, Dies at 94

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

It may appear unlikely, upon seeing Bettina Grossman pushing her purchasing cart full of art work exterior the Chelsea Resort, that she was an completed artist with a once-promising profession.

Ms. Grossman was uncommon even by the requirements of the Chelsea, the storied haven for quirky artists. Her studio residence, Room 503, on the finish of a protracted fifth-floor hallway, had turn into so crowded along with her accrued art work — largely summary, extremely conceptual drawings, sculptures and pictures — that she had been displaced from her personal residing house. She slept in her hallway on a garden chair.

“She was eccentric with a capital E,” mentioned Robert Lambert, a painter who lived down the corridor from Ms. Grossman on the Chelsea, which through the years was home to the likes of Mark Twain, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin.

“Her room was like an Egyptian tomb,” he added in an interview. “It regarded like a wreck, however you blow off the mud and there’s nothing however lovely sculptural treasures.”

For a lot of the Nineteen Fifties and ’60s, Ms. Grossman labored as an artist in Europe. However after a collection of profession disappointments, she remoted herself as a everlasting resident on the Chelsea for a half-century, fiercely guarding each her privateness and the trove of artwork she had produced in her prime in New York and Europe.

She refused friends and saved her residence door secured with quite a few heavy locks.

Ms. Grossman died on Nov. 2 of respiratory failure at a Brooklyn care heart, the place she was rehabilitating after a fall a number of months in the past, her niece Aliza Inexperienced mentioned. She was 94.

Towards the top of Ms. Grossman’s life, she and her work turned extra extensively recognized. She was the topic of two documentaries and allowed a small circle of her fellow artists to have her items cataloged and exhibited in reveals in New York and Germany. Her work is presently on show on the Museum of Fashionable 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 three siblings in an Orthodox Jewish residence within the Borough Park part.

Her father owned a music retailer in Manhattan however didn’t encourage his kids to pursue the humanities, her brother Morty mentioned in an interview.

“How she obtained the expertise, I don’t know — I suppose God put it into her,” he mentioned.

After learning industrial artwork in highschool, she turned a designer of neckties, sheets, pillowcases and the like for a textile producer and had saved sufficient cash by her early 20s to maneuver to Europe. There she pursued her artwork profession and eschewed her youthful nickname, Betty, going just by the only identify Bettina.

“She selected her identify and created her persona,” mentioned Ms. Inexperienced, her niece.

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

She additionally led a daring, dashing life. With a mannequin’s appears and wardrobe, her niece mentioned, she drove sports activities automobiles, skied the Alps and attracted quite a few boyfriends.

She returned to america and was residing and dealing in a Brooklyn Heights constructing within the late Sixties when a fireplace ruined most of her work, together with work, sculptures, photograph slides and textile designs.

“That was a breaking level,” Ms. Inexperienced mentioned. “It was a traumatic factor for her.”

In “Girl With Black Balloons” (2010), a documentary directed by Corinne van der Borch, a Dutch filmmaker residing in Brooklyn, Ms. Grossman mentioned that after the hearth “destroyed my life” she redoubled her dedication to her artwork, which precluded her from marrying and having kids and even taking time away from her work to market it.

“The one method you could possibly do lovely issues like that’s by isolating your self from actuality, from buddies, from the messy scenario on the market,” she mentioned.

Round 1970, she moved into the Chelsea Resort — not due to its romantic repute, however for its accepting environment and its inventive habitués.

She continued to create work and confirmed it often, however she was more and more discouraged by the difficulties she confronted as a girl within the industrial artwork world, and by a pervasive perception that her concepts have been being co-opted by different artists.

Her myriad frustrations typically fueled new works. As soon as when gazing from her fifth-floor balcony and pondering of leaping, she as an alternative started taking footage of pedestrians from above and compiled a photograph collection.

In making her neighborhood rounds, she pushed a purchasing cart containing portfolios and samples of her work that she was loath to go away unguarded at residence.

Whereas beloved by a decent circle of artist buddies, Ms. Grossman remained an enigma to others. Outdoors her room, she mounted provocative artwork and messages on her door declaring the premises the “Institute for Noumenological Analysis” and itemizing mental, inventive and philosophical ideas. One other merely declared, “Assist Me, I’m Being Killed.”

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

“Actually, she was suffocating in her personal greatness,” he told The New York Times in 2008.

The rising trove of labor started hindering her entry to the lavatory and kitchen. With little house, she turned to photographs and printmaking and slept in an area she cleared by her door.

“Surrounded by a lot phenomenal artwork hidden in packing containers from ground to ceiling, it virtually felt as if she had created a fowl’s nest,” mentioned Ms. van der Borch, the director of “Woman With Black Balloons,” which gained the Metropolis Competitors prize on the DOC NYC pageant in 2011.

Yto Barrada, a Moroccan artist primarily based in Brooklyn, befriended Ms. Grossman a number of years in the past and started exhibiting her work to curators from a number of museums and galleries.

Ms. Grossman’s art work was proven alongside Ms. Barrada’s at the Arts Center at Governors Island in 2019, in addition to in a 2020 present on the Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Hamburg, Germany.

A photograph by Ms. Grossman is now on display on the Museum of Fashionable Artwork alongside works from the museum’s assortment chosen by Ms. Barrada. Titled “Two Hours within the Lifetime of One Hair,” it’s a number of exposures of a curlicued strand of hair floating in water. Extra of Ms. Grossman’s work is on show as a part of the “Better New York” exhibition at MoMA PS1.

Ms. Barrada helped put collectively a guide of Ms. Grossman’s work, to be revealed subsequent yr. The distinguished Rencontres d’Arles Festival of worldwide pictures within the South of France has scheduled a solo exhibition of Ms. Grossman’s work for subsequent summer season.

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

In recent times, followers would go away flowers and notes on a small desk within the hallway exterior Ms. Grossman’s door, mentioned Mr. Lambert, her former neighbor.

“She’d get letters from all around the world,” he mentioned.

Since she refused to let members of the lodge workers into her residence, it fell into disrepair. In 2006, she efficiently fended off the lodge’s try to evict her.

In recent times, with the lodge present process renovations to be become a luxurious property, Ms. Grossman was among the many dwindling variety of full-time residents who remained due to state hire laws. Her hire was roughly $350 a month, her brother mentioned.

She dismissed the potential for contemplating a buyout provide to surrender her lease.

“I mentioned, ‘Inform them you need $5 million,’” Mr. Lambert mentioned. “She mentioned, ‘The place would I am going?’”

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