DOX Prague

170 00 Prague

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press release


Are we witnessing the end of bohemia? Perhaps no other place epitomizes the artistic bohemia of the last century better than the Chelsea Hotel in New York. Many important painters, filmmakers, writers, composers, musicians, dancers and actors lived and created groundbreaking works there.

This exhibition doesn’t aspire to present a comprehensive history of the Chelsea Hotel and its bohemia. Instead, it focuses on three seminal artists associated with that legendary place - Harry Smith, Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe – to explore the changing notions of bohemia from the ‘50s to the ‘80s. The work and lives of Harry Smith, Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe represent multiple chapters in the story of America’s bohemia. They all struggled with modern contradictions between material progress and spiritual pursuits or between the artist’s critical attitude to society and his dependency on it. Their work and lives also expose a changing attitude to success. By comparing Smith, Warhol, Mapplethorpe and also other two artists, Jonas Mekas and Michel Auder, a complex picture emerges, revealing not only differing notions of bohemia’s “otherness” and various attempts to address the above contradictions, but also describing bohemia’s trajectory in the second half of the 20th century. The exhibition highlights the crucial role of bohemia in modern culture and ask what is its meaning today when we may be witnessing the demise of bohemianism? Or its fundamental transformation?


The Chelsea Hotel is a legendary place connected with artistic Bohemians of the 20th century, which inspired many books and films as well as famous songs by Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.

One of the most impressive portraits of the hotel is a body of photographs and texts created by Julia Calfee, recently published in a successful book with a preface by Miloš Forman, a resident of the hotel himself. The photographs are presented here for the first time in the form of an exhibition.

Julia Calfee has lived and photographed in the Chelsea Hotel for four years which enabled her to befriend a number of its permanent hotel guests and made her camera almost invisible. As she points out, “When I photographed at the Chelsea Hotel, I would stay in a space or situation for hours. Time would pass and my presence would become less and less visible. Sometimes I would even disappear.” Thanks to her long-term stay and established friendships, in one word thanks to the inside view, Julia Calfee has managed to capture that which would elude most of the other photographers and filmmakers: the unique intimate atmosphere of the place formed by personalities of its inhabitants and the overall environment including its archetypes, legends and ghosts.

Julia Calfee was born in the USA, but has spent most of her professional life living and working in Europe. She majored in journalism at the New York University and studied art history at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her publications comprise Photogénèse (Joan Miró Foundation, 1995) The Mountain Spirits of Mongolia (Richard Liu Foundation, 2002) and Spirits and Ghosts: Journeys through Mongolia (PowerHouse Books, 2003). Her photographs and photographic essays have been published in leading international magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Time, Business Week, The Sunday Times of London, Paris Match, The Guardian, Elle Italia, Elle Japan, Paris Photo, Digital Photography, Corriere della Sera and foto8. Julia Calfee has exhibited her photographs also in museums and galleries in France, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Spain and the USA.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Harry Smith, Andy Warhol, Jonas Mekas, Michel Auder
04.12.09 - 29.03.10


04.12.09 - 15.02.10