Minneapois Institute of Arts
New Pictures at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Robert Frank Looks for Fleabag Hotel in Minneapolis

Posted Jun 6, 2011

In 1955 and 1956, the renowned street photographer Robert Frank traveled around the United States making pictures that eventually comprised his influential book The Americans (published a few years later). He is known to have visited Chicago, Iowa, and Nebraska, but apparently never ventured further north to our state at this time.

Over thirty years later, however, Frank did visit Minneapolis, on the occasion of his exhibition “Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia.” The MIA presented this traveling show in 1987 and also screened all of his films. Frank came to Minneapolis primarily to introduce the presentation of his film “Cocksucker Blues,” which documented the 1972 North American tour of the Rolling Stones. The Stones ultimately were uncomfortable with some offstage footage of sex and drug use that Frank included in the final cut, and they were able to legally require him to be present for any screenings, thus heavily limiting how often it is shown. Frank dedicated the Minneapolis screening to his assistant on the film, Danny Seymour, who had lived in Minneapolis before moving to New York and teaming up with Frank.

The MIA booked Frank into a decent downtown hotel, which apparently was too nice for him; he lived in New York’s rough Bowery neighborhood. Frank noticed a more downscale hotel and tried to switch to it, but the place was a residential hotel, not open to short stays. The Continental Hotel still sits on the corner of La Salle Ave. and S. Twelfth St., directly behind the YWCA. Usually when I go to the Y, I remember this story and chuckle to think that this hotel is probably the only one to ever turn away Robert Frank.

This is the first image in Frank’s book The Americans, and the MIA’s print is unusually large for him, measuring about thirteen by nineteen inches.

Christian A. Peterson, associate curator of photographs

Robert Frank, American (born Switzerland), born 1924
Parade-Hoboken, New Jersey, c.1955 printed c. 1968
Gelatin silver print
The Robert C. Winton Fund, 84.104
© Robert Frank, from “The Americans”