It was Martin Kippenberger who initiated the exchange of art against lodging. Dr. Werner Peters, the owner of the hotel, remembers: Since 1985, Martin was a regular guest at the Café Central, which is part of the hotel’s first floor, since he had his studio close by „behind Karla’s kiosk“. It was in the summer of 1986 that he took up residence in the Chelsea. He very generously offered me loans from his collection of works of art (not only his own) to decorate the walls of the rooms and exchanged them for lodging, or sold them to me. In this way we developed the prototype of the now often copied „art hotel“. The Chelsea became his preferred residence whenever he stayed in Cologne – often for several months in a row. It all started with a bet. Martin came to the Café Central during the Football World Cup 1986 boasting: „Patriotism finally pays off! I just won 500 Deutschmarks worth of free drinks at Café Broadway and a 500 Deutschmarks voucher for food at „Chin’s“ because I bet on Germany’s victory.“ He asked me if I would bet with him on the next game: He offered a drawing worth 1000 Deutschmarks against one week in a double room with breakfast at the bedside and every service imaginable. I lost the bet. The next morning, rather early Martin appeared at the front desk with a little suitcase and demanded his prize. When the week was over, he told me that he liked the idea of living in a hotel and since he was going anyway to Teneriffa during the winter, he could as well give up his apartment in Cologne and stay at the Chelsea in exchange for works of art. This is how the symbiosis between artist and hotelier and the legend of the Chelsea hotel in Cologne started. Many prominent, and lesser known colleagues followed suit. A veritable collection ensued, much to the enjoyment of the overnight guests. The tour may start with the check-in at the Chelsea. For many artists, gallerists and museum’s curators it is the „home away from home,“ as Joseph Kosuth the American conceptual artist, whose neon installation greets the guests at the entrance, once observed.

Over the roofs of Cologne

Since the construction of the new roof in the year 2001 the exterior of the Chelse presents itself as a piece of art, too. Upon top of the rather unpretentious building from the 1960s a spectacular roof in deconstructionist architectural style was installed. It looks like a sculpture on a pedestal, for which the artist Günther Förg designed the colour scheme. The slanting architecture creates unique and intriguing spaces with wide outlooks through the floor to ceiling cantilevered windows. The construction pinnacles in the twisted split-level Martin Kippenberger suite with a glassed-in staircase which juts daringly out of the building’s facade.