Rolling Stones exhibition: 10 reasons why Exhibitionism will be a smash hit

Rolling Stones exhibition

Rolling Stones exhibition – Exhibitionism promo

Exhibitionism, the Rolling Stones exhibition opening in London on 5 April, will attract record numbers of visitors for a rock art show. It’s set to be a smash hit – the most popular exhibition of rock art ever staged.

Here are 10 reasons why the Rolling Stones exhibition will be so successful.

#1 The Rolling Stones – the most popular musicians of all

The Rolling Stones are the most popular musicians on Planet Earth. By a mile. They appeal to people almost everywhere. Aged 8 to 80. Male and female. Early school-leavers to PhD boffins, long-term unemployed to CEOs.

#2 Fanbase – enormous, fanatical following

If you’ve ever attended a Rolling Stones arena concert, you’ll have witnessed just how fanatical are their fans. The Stones have been filling arenas and stadiums around the world with these hardcore fans for decades.

Rolling Stones fans buy just about anything bearing the Stones name (and the lips logo). Even those fans who’ve never stepped inside a museum or gallery before (and there are many) will be tempted by the Rolling Stones exhibition, if only to hoover up any merchandise.

The hardcore fans travel. And they spend big.

#3 Mick Jagger – one of the most famous

Mick Jagger is one of the most famous people in the world today. More famous than virtually anybody in music, the arts, entertainment, sport, business, politics and any other sector you might mention. If you don’t recognise a photo of Mick Jagger, you’re probably living in a place untouched by Western culture.

#4 Mick Jagger – most photographed/painted

And Mick Jagger is probably the most photographed man ever. He’s attracted leading photographers for the last half century: David Bailey… Gered Mankowitz… Annie Leibovitz… Cecil Beaton… Anton Corbijn… Terry O’Neill… to name just a few.

And Jagger has been immortalised in major series of artworks by two leading contemporary artists, Andy Warhol and Richard Hamilton.

Rolling Stones exhibition - album cover

Rolling Stones Love You Live: album cover artwork by Andy Warhol © Rolling Stones Records

#5 The Rolling Stones’ superlative marketing

The Rolling Stone exhibition, Exhibitionism, will be supported by a superlative marketing machine – the best you’ll ever encounter. Whenever the Rolling Stones have a new project/product to promote, you’ll find yourself reading about them, thinking about them, whistling their tunes… and buying their product. All because of the Stones’ world-class marketing machine.

They’ve been testing the London market for a Rolling Stones exhibition for some time. Witness the pop-up shop and sponsorship of Carnaby St a few Christmases ago. And Rolling Stones 50, the wonderful small photo exhibition at Somerset House. These events may well have been dummy runs. The Rolling Stones exhibition may well be the roll-out.

And they’ll have been encouraged by the success of David Bailey’s Stardust exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, and David Bowie Is at the V&A.

Media – old and new – is a sucker for Rolling Stones stories. Expect to be reading about the Rolling Stones exhibition in the saturation media coverage throughout summer 2016.

#6 Saatchi Gallery – ideal venue for a Rolling Stones exhibition

The Saatchi Gallery is the ideal venue for a Rolling Stones exhibition. It’s accessible, high profile, hip… and enormous. It has made contemporary art fashionable in England – a tough call. People who wouldn’t normally go within a mile of an art gallery will flock to the Saatchi Gallery.

Exhibitionism at Saatchi Gallery

Saatchi Gallery, London: venue for the Rolling Stones exhibition © Saatchi Gallery

#7 London – ideal location for a Rolling Stones exhibition

London is the ideal location for a Rolling Stones exhibition. It’s the birthplace and spiritual home of the Rolling Stones. If you wanted to run a major Bob Dylan show, you’d choose New York; for an Edith Piaf show, you’d obviously choose Paris, and for a Mozart exhibition, Vienna. A major Rolling Stones exhibition has to start in London.

Remember – London is the most visited city in the Western world. Paris, Berlin, New York and LA aren’t even close. Exhibitionism will benefit from a heavy footfall.

And London is the world capital of rock art. Public museums, private galleries and pop-ups exhibiting rock art abound. The National Portrait Gallery… Somerset House… Tate Modern… Snap!… Proud galleries… Castle Fine Art… and an array of temporary exhibitions/spaces mean that there’s always some rock art worth seeing, whenever you’re in London.

#8 The sweet summertime – ideal season for a Rolling Stones exhibition

The Rolling Stones exhibition, Exhibitionism, is very well-timed, filling the whole of London’s sweet summertime of 2016, April to September.

#9 Timing – Rolling Stones exhibition catches the Rock Art wave

Rock art – album covers, posters, photos and paintings – is becoming more popular every year. As well as visiting smaller Rolling Stones shows, I’ve recently seen loads of popular exhibitions featuring David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, The Jam, Punk Rock, Bruce Springsteen, Blondie… the list goes on and on… .

The new Rolling Stones exhibition, Exhibitionism, is timed perfectly to catch this wave.

#10 Organisers expect big crowds

The organisers of the Rolling Stones exhibition have clearly planned for big crowds. You’ll need to book a timed entry slot to get in – even though the Saatchi Gallery is an enormous space, capable of accommodating vast numbers of visitors. And booking for the Rolling Stones exhibition began nine months ago.

If the business brains who have been monetising the Stones’ global appeal for so many years think Exhibitionism will be so very popular, I’m tempted to trust their judgment.

But will the Rolling Stones exhibition be any good? Will it tour?

Exhibitionism, the Rolling Stones exhibition, will be the most important rock art show ever. But will it be any good?

To find out, please bookmark ROCK ART EDITIONS and pop in occasionally: I’ll be visiting Exhibitionism very soon, and reporting what I find.

But if you can’t make the Rolling Stones exhibition in London this summer, don’t despair. If it’s as successful as I expect, it’s likely to tour. Remember, the Rolling Stones are a truly global brand, so expect this gig to go on the road… to NYC, LA, Berlin, Tokyo… ?

Copyright: text, Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2016; illustrations as in captions. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Which is the best Bob Dylan box set? And which is the worst?

Which is the best Bob Dylan box set? Which is the worst? And how good are the in-betweens?

There have been eight official Bob Dylan box set releases (on CD in the UK)  – in addition to the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series standard box sets and their Deluxe Editions, both recently reviewed here on ROCK ART EDITIONS.

If you can, for a moment, ignore the music of each Bob Dylan box set and judge it purely as an artefact – that is, the packaging, cover art, books and memorabilia – you’ll find that they range from the excellent, through the good (but not great), to the disappointingly half-hearted.

Most aficionados already owned much of the music in every Bob Dylan box set, long before they were released. So, many bought each box set as an artefact, not a collection of music. (The sonic quality of Bob Dylan albums is expertly documented by Derek Barker of Isis in a lengthy survey, Bob Dylan Remastered, compiled with the help of Alan Fraser of Searching for a Gem.)

The Complete Album Collection Vol. One – the best Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan The Complete Album Collection Vol. One

The Complete Album Collection Vol. One, comprising 47 CDs, is the best Bob Dylan box set. It’s a fitting package for a peerless collection of music.

Joe Marchese was absolutely right in his perceptive review on The Second Disc: “excels in a flawlessly designed presentation worthy of its subject. It’s housed in a box with a lift-off cover, and every album is presented in a faithfully-reproduced LP mini-sleeve… the 268-page hardcover book is also a wonder to behold… track listings… original liner notes for every album… great selection of photographs and memorabilia images… Clinton Heylin has written an album-by-album chronology of over 40 pages’ length. As none of Legacy’s past Dylan reissues has included liner notes from a historical perspective, Heylin’s analyses are a crowning touch here.”

if you want to check out the package before buying, you can see the artwork, including the entire book, on the wonderfully detailed Discogs.

The Original Mono Recordings – another excellent Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan The Original Mono Recordings

The Original Mono Recordings is another superlative artefact. It delivers the first eight albums, from Bob Dylan to John Wesley Harding, in replica LP covers, original inserts and sleeves, housed in a slip holder which slides into a striking monochrome slipcase. The full colour book has new Greil Marcus liner notes.

Many will be hoping that it will eventually be discounted: the almost-identical Miles Davis mono box, which launched at the same high price (about £100), now retails for about £20.

Biograph – a good (but not great) Bob Dylan box set

Biograph (1985) included 21 rare/unreleased songs. A dummy run for The Bootleg Series, Biograph is – musically – a key Bob Dylan box set. The 3CD triple jewel box wouldn’t win any prizes for package design, but its 64pp booklet, with Dylan’s own “Deluxe Notes” (!) on each track, was revelatory. Cameron Crowe’s extensive essay take up the booklet’s first 41 pages. And the photos include work by luminaries like David Gahr, Ken Regan and Daniel Kramer.

The original release also has three picture discs, each with a different Dylan portrait.

Subsequent reissues of Biograph have different formats. The 1991 version is a true box set, with each of the three discs housed in its own card cover, all in a rigid cardboard box. The bookset edition (2011, pictured below) is equally tempting, though the bookset format has its critics.

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan Biograph

Collectors’ Box – another good (but not great) Bob Dylan box set

Sonically innovative – it tested the viability of the SACD and Surround Sound formats – Collectors’ Box (2003) is another good but not great Bob Dylan box set.

Its 15 albums – selected who knows how? – are packaged in delightful digipak gatefold sleeves, with the original vinyl LP artwork enclosed as individual leaflets.

But the attractive design of the digipak sleeves is compromised by their being packed into an open-ended box, which is both rudimentary and a bit too small. There’s no accompanying book/let, disappointing in what was intended as a high-ticket premium product.

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan Collectors’ Box

DYLAN Limited Edition Deluxe – yet another good (but not great) Bob Dylan box set

DYLAN, the “Limited Edition Deluxe” 3CD box, packages its discs in fine original card covers, complete with inner sleeves. The set of 10 photo cards is memorabilia worth having.

But the package is a misfire: the box has a bizarre combination of a cloth exterior and a (faux) velvet lining. The 40pp booklet is thin and over-reliant on photos at the expense of text. The CDs are disguised as mini-vinyl discs. Oh dear… .

And the “Limited Edition” has no indication of how many were made: 50,000? 500,000? 5 million?

For me, DYLAN, the package, doesn’t work.

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan box set: DYLAN

50th Anniversary Collections – the worst Bob Dylan box sets

The three successive 50th Anniversary Collections contain some desirable music, and they are collectable, because of their tiny edition sizes.

As artefacts, though, they hardly warrant discussion. Their packaging is perfunctory. They are lo-cost packages housing music released, we are informed, by Sony, to ensure that their 1962, 1963 and 1964 Dylan recordings didn’t fall into the public domain, following changes in European copyright law.

Sony reportedly manufactured just 100 copies each of the four-CDR “1962” set and the six-LP “1963” set, and 1000 copies of the nine-LP “1964” release and sold them only in Europe. (Buyers and traders should not rely on these second-hand figures: I have no way of checking their accuracy.)

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan The 50th Anniversary Collection 2012

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan 50th Anniversary Collection 2013

Super Deluxe Edition has a review of the 1963 release by astute Editor Paul Sinclair which has more information, including a track list.

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan 50th Anniversary Collection 2014

In safeguarding its 1965 recordings, Sony got wise and made money, too. The result: the The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Cutting Edge Collector’s Edition, 18 CDs in a sumptuous, ultra high-priced limited edition box.

So, to sum up: the Complete Album Collection Vol. One is the best Bob Dylan box set (as an artefact); the 50th Anniversary Collections are the worst.

Are any of the Bob Dylan box sets a worthwhile investment? Because of their rarity value, the 50th Anniversary Collections could appreciate significantly in value. Ditto The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 Collector’s Edition.

Is any other Bob Dylan box set likely to grow in value? I don’t see much evidence so far.

Copyright: text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2016; pictures © Sony Music Entertainment. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: desirable? Good value? Worthwhile investment?

How desirable are the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets?  Do they offer good value?  Are they a worthwhile investment?

The last Bob Dylan article in ROCK ART EDITIONS concluded that the ten standard releases in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series are noteworthy for their “definitive photos and exquisite packaging”, as well as their music.

This follow-up article turns to the visual art of the four Deluxe box sets, focusing on their “rock art” – slipcases, books, photos and packaging.

The music – which ranges from very good to celestial – is largely ignored in this article.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs

After releasing Vols. 1-7 in a standard 2CD-in-slipcase format, Columbia Legacy innovated for Vol. 8 with an added-value option, an “Expanded Deluxe Edition”, with a third CD and more artefacts.

The release introduced a handy new format in a rigid card slipcase, in an attractive new size, 8 5/8″ square x 1 5/8″ thick. The slipcase holds two hardcover books. A 60pp book with liner notes and photos is a bigger version of that in the standard-size 2CD release. The extra book, Collected Single Sleeves, is a 160pp hardback, with reproductions of the paper covers which housed Dylan vinyl 45rpm records released around the world.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

Tell Tale Signs Deluxe Edition

The Bob Dylan online store offered an incentive to customers ordering from them: an exclusive 7″ single. And the first 5,000 orders were also rewarded with a Theme Time Radio Hour poster.

Sony probably had mixed feelings when evaluating the success of the release. It must have been a commercial success – it seems to have sold out pretty quickly. But it attracted hostility from some hardcore Dylan fans. Many, perhaps shocked by the novel nose-bleed price level, labelled it a “rip-off” – bad news if the intention was to roll out subsequent releases.

The naysayers perceived Vol. 8 as an attempt to extract an unwarranted premium price for CD3. The problem was probably not the new price level (about £100 in the UK, from memory), but limited added value: the extras didn’t warrant the price differential over the 2CD release.

The music on the standard Tell Tale Signs is among the high points of the whole series. CD3 in the Deluxe Edition was, frankly, rather marginal. And the second book was an odd choice, appealing to a minority of purchasers. The book was also sold separately as a “limited edition”, undermining further the allure of the Deluxe box. I bought (for £15) the copy I happened upon in London.

The release of a single CD version of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs – another  novelty – probably confused buyers further.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: the template is fixed

In hindsight, Columbia Legacy made errors with the Deluxe edition of Vol. 8.  But they proved there’s a market for high-priced, added-value product and worked out a template for subsequent releases: a rigid card slipcase, measuring 8 5/8″ square; two hardback books, the first an expanded version of the mainstream CD-sized version, also housing the discs, and a second with extra photos, vinyl cover art, studio logs and the like. They probably learned that they needed to offer more obvious added value.

Columbia Legacy also demonstrated their marketing nous by standardising the size and formatting of deluxe boxes.  It tempts collectors to buy the complete set… by buying Vol. 8 Deluxe Edition, many Dylan fans unconsciously signed up for subsequent deluxe box sets.

The next Bootleg Series release, Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos, probably came too soon to apply these lessons. It was only released as a CD-sized two disc package with card slipcase and matching booklet: a first-rate release, but not Deluxe. (In Concert – Brandeis University 1963, a seven track promo CD was offered as an exclusive incentive by Amazon, but it wasn’t part of the Vol. 9 package).

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait

Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait improves on the Deluxe model established with Vol. 8. It has two extra CDs of music, “the first complete release of the August 1969 Isle of Wight Festival performance newly re-mixed from the original source” and a “remastered version of the 1970 Self Portrait album, in its entirety with original sequencing.”

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

Another Self Portrait Deluxe Edition

The musical extras might be underwhelming, but the packaging isn’t. The attractive rigid slipcase houses two excellent hardcover books. A bigger version of the standard version liner notes includes the revisionist essay by Greil Marcus (author of the notorious “What is this shit?” 1970 Self Portrait review in Rolling Stone).  It has the same exquisite front cover photo as the CD-sized booklet (uncredited, but probably by John Cohen). The second book, Time Passes Slowly – Photographs And More, is an “Exclusive Deluxe-Bound Book” of 127 pages of rare and unseen photographs, as well as magazine covers and sleeve art from worldwide Dylan releases.

The first 5,000 customers ordering from the Bob Dylan online store also received a fine poster promoting the original release of Self Portrait.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete, Limited Deluxe Edition

With Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete, a “Limited Deluxe Edition” of 6CDs, Columbia Legacy perfected the deluxe edition format. And hit the mother lode, commercially and creatively. Sony’s bean counters must have been as pleased as the legions of Dylanistas.

Steve Berkowitz, Sony’s Co-Producer for the whole series, claims that The Basement Tapes is the most sought-after bootleg in all rock music.  He’s absolutely right: gems from The Basement Tapes kick-started the (unofficial) bootleg industry nearly 50 years ago.  It has engaged hardcore rock fans ever since.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

The Basement Tapes Complete (Deluxe Edition)

Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete sets a new benchmark for deluxe back catalogue product.  The musical content of The Basement Tapes Complete is so important, so revelatory, that Columbia Legacy could probably have sold the CDs in plain paper bags, without any embellishment. To their credit, they created a very high spec package, too.

The slipcase holds two books. The one holding the six CDs has the liner notes, with several long features including a nine-page essay by Dylan guru Clinton Heylin on the origins of the recordings. The cover has the original Reid Miles artwork from the 1975 album release, with Dylan pretending to play a mandolin. (The same cover is used on the standard-sized booklet of the 2CD “Raw” version of Vol. 11.)

The second book in the package, Lo & Behold: Photographs & More has exquisite photos by Elliott Landy, as well as pictures of tape reels, record sleeves and magazine covers. The “exclusive 120 page deluxe-bound book containing rare and unseen photographs and memorabilia” is a beauty, a very desirable bonus.

If I were to buy only one of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets, it would be The Basement Tapes, because of its essential, often unheard, music and fine packaging. In my view, it’s the Deluxe Edition with most added value.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 12 The Cutting Edge Deluxe Edition

The music of The Cutting Edge is an alternative history of Peak Dylan, out-takes from his top three albums, all recorded in a whirlwind of creative genius in a short period in the mid-1960s.

The Deluxe Edition’s six CDs consist of alt versions of songs that were immortalised on the trio of albums, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde. One disc is devoted entirely to different versions of Like A Rolling Stone.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

The Cutting Edge Deluxe Edition

Alone among the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets, The Cutting Edge gives you an entrée into Dylan’s creative process, as he chops and changes between different tempi, instrumentation, arrangements and lyrics.

The packaging follows the by-now-familiar deluxe format: slipcase, two hardback books, one with liner notes and the CDs, the other a collection of Bob Dylan photos. The first book is a bigger version of the liner notes booklet issued with the 2CD version and the bonus  book is the 120-page Mixing Up the Medicine: Photographs and More.

Having cemented the high value deluxe format with The Cutting Edge, Sony pushed the envelope again with an ultra deluxe edition, pitched at an atmospheric price point. The Collector’s Edition 18CD version was released in a numbered limited edition of 5,000, complete with the package number on the Certificate of Authenticity, and only available from the official Bob Dylan website.

Packaged in an attractive, hefty box, the Collector’s Edition comes complete with the two books of the Deluxe Edition (though Mixing Up the Medicine: Photographs and More is longer – 170pp).

Its massive collection of 18 CDs is housed in a third “book”. The product is enhanced by memorabilia, including nine x 7″ vinyl mono singles, housed in repro paper sleeves; a piece of celluloid with a few random frames from Don’t Look Back; and semi-transparent item separators featuring artwork promoting the mid-1960s releases.

The music of Bob Dylan has always been at the centre of music biz innovation: Great White Wonder kick-started the bootlegging revolution.  The Bootleg Series created a new “official” product category.  The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 opened up a higher value niche.  Vol. 12 Collector’s Edition has kick-started yet another segment of the market, for very high value product.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: desirable?  Value for money?  A worthwhile investment?

So, are the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets desirable?

Yes: very desirable, both as beautifully designed artefacts and as collections of music.  They have found a ready market among Dylan devotees.  Some are more desirable than others, of course.  My favourites are Vols. 11 and 12.

Good value for money?  Deluxe Vol. 8 was released at the new high price to a chorus of outrage. But it quickly sold out. Subsequent releases contain rather more added value.  The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets are affordable.

Value is in the eye of the beholder: if you think these box sets will give you pleasure, you’ll probably buy them.

But are they a worthwhile investment?  How likely are they to rise in value?

One or two might.  The first of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets – Vol. 8, Tell Tale Signs – has (limited) potential for growth – because it was released as a “limited edition”. Since its 2008 launch, it has roughly doubled in value. But only to about £160, according to the Discogs website. Hardly an “investment”, unless you risked buying a few cratefuls at discount on release!

It’s difficult to see increases in value in the deluxe editions of the other volumes, certainly not while you can still buy them new, from major retailers.  They’re not my idea of a worthwhile investment.

The Collector’s Edition of Vol. 12 is a true limited edition – Sony pegged the edition size at 5,000 copies and indicated that it would never be exceeded. As it’s a definitive record of Peak Dylan music, as well as a very fine artefact, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t appreciate in value.

Conclusions: Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets are desirable and reasonably good value, but they have limited investment potential.

Fans are eagerly awaiting the release of many more volumes in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. Most will buy the standard 2CD versions, but a growing number will switch to the Deluxe Editions. And I’d guess Columbia Legacy will roll out the ultra deluxe format of Vol. 12 Collector’s Edition: expect more very high-priced limited editions.

Columbia Legacy/Sony Music Entertainment are outstanding curators of Dylan’s legacy. Their Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets are fine luxury products. Though it’s unfashionable to heap praise on record industry “suits”, I raise my glass to Sony’s long-term Bootleg Series Co-Producer, Steve Berkowitz.

Copyright of this article, Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: text © Gerald Smith, Rock Art Editions, pictures © Columbia Legacy/Sony Music Entertainment. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Leonard Cohen art: an outstanding private collection

Leonard Cohen art is instantly recognisable.  It’s beautifully chiselled.  It raises philosophical questions.  It’s witty, knowing – often evoking a wry smile.  It’s autobiographical – Leonard Cohen’s favourite topic is, er, Leonard.  And women he has known. And domestic, everyday scenes.

Just like Leonard Cohen’s music, then.

And, just like Leonard’s music, his body of artwork, though sparse, places him in the very top echelon of rock muso-painters.  If you were to develop a first-class collection of visual art by rock musicians, you’d want to ensure it had a few pieces by Leonard Cohen.

After publishing A beginner’s guide to Leonard’s art here on ROCK ART EDITIONS, I was contacted by Simon de Markoff, a Cohen fan who has assembled a very fine collection of his artwork, principally signed, limited edition prints. He also has a portrait of Cohen by Morton Rosengarten, plus a couple of informal original drawings.

A selection is reproduced below.  They don’t need any words of description.  The only analysis required is to say that this is an outstanding collection of Leonard’s art.  It includes most of the key pieces which have ever been put on sale, including my three personal favourites – Grecian woman, Paris again and The end of the day.

Paris again – Leonard Cohen art #1

Leonard Cohen art: Paris Again

Paris Again by Leonard Cohen

The Hat – Leonard Cohen art #2

Leonard Cohen art: The Hat

The Hat by Leonard Cohen

I sit with the old men – Leonard Cohen art #3

Leonard Cohen art: I sit with old men

I sit with old men by Leonard Cohen

Happy at last – Leonard Cohen art #4

Leonard Cohen art: Happy at last

Happy at last by Leonard Cohen

Grecian Woman – Leonard Cohen art #5

Leonard Cohen art: Grecian Woman

Grecian Woman by Leonard Cohen

Portrait by Morton Rosengarten/I left a woman waiting – Leonard Cohen art #6

Leonard Cohen portrait by Morton Rosengarten

Portrait of Leonard Cohen by Morton Rosengarten

The end of the day – Leonard Cohen art #7

Leonard Cohen art: The end of the day

The end of the day by Leonard Cohen

Sketches – Leonard Cohen art #8 and #9

Leonard Cohen art: "Big Cocktail Julie"

“Big Cocktail Julie” by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen art: "Traveling Julie"

“Traveling Julie” by Leonard Cohen

If you’d like ROCK ART EDITIONS to profile your private collection of visual art by any rock musician-cum-visual artist, please email me (address in side-bar). I’ll be pleased to preserve your anonymity, if you so wish.

Disclaimer: the ROCK ART EDITIONS Ltd website occasionally publishes content supplied by third parties. Please note that we have no control over and do not vet or guarantee the existence, provenance or legality of any artwork described in such content. Neither do we vouch for the truth or accuracy of any third party content.

Copyright: text © ROCK ART EDITIONS 2016; all pictures © Leonard Cohen. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: definitive photos, exquisite packaging

The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series is a superlative collection of music. Its studio and live recordings underline Dylan’s status as the benchmark musician of the rock age.

The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series also has definitive photos and exquisite packaging.  Beautifully designed slipcases, jewel case inserts and booklets turn all ten releases into cherishable artefacts.  The Bootleg Series is a visual feast.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 is an astonishing collection of great music. On release in 1991, it was welcomed by most Dylan fans as the Holy Grail.  Many of its tracks were greeted as equals of those which had been released on the first thirty years of Dylan albums.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3

Michael Gray, the highly regarded Dylan commentator, waxed lyrical about it: “… 58 recordings, almost every one of which is of numinous excellence… could, of itself, establish Bob Dylan’s place as the pre-eminent songwriter and performer of the age and as one of the great artists of the 20th century.” (The Bob Dylan Encyclopaedia).

I’m with Gray: he wasn’t exaggerating.  For once, I can’t accept Greil Marcus‘s view: “A lot of it is dross… ” – Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010.

The artwork and packaging of volumes 1-3 are almost as impressive as its music. The 3CD set, originally released in an LP-sized box, has a front cover monochrome portrait by Don Hunstein which is one of the most recognisable, most intimate Dylan images ever released.

The long-form 72-page booklet is outstanding. A detailed track-by-track analysis by pioneering Dylanologist John Bauldie fills out a fabulous collection of photos by many of the big names who documented Dylan’s first thirty years of performing, including Joe Alper, Don Hunstein, John Cohen, and Ken Regan, as well as Howard Alk, Joel Bernstein, and some uncredited Columbia staff photographers.

Later versions of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 have different formats. As Alan Fraser shows in his commendably exhaustive Searching for a Gem  website documenting Dylan rarities, even the UK releases have at least three formats:

  • the original 1991 12″ x 12″ box, with 12″ x 6″ 72-page book and three CDs in separate jewel cases
  • a 1997 remastered version, housed in what became the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series standard format of CD-sized card slipcase with matching booklet, and
  • (least desirable from the perspective of this article) the 2010 version, housed in a 3CD jewel case, without a slipcase and with a shortened booklet, which has John Bauldie’s text, but only a single photograph.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 4 Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert

Bob Dylan’s performance captured on The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert is one of the high points of rock music – rock’s ne plus ultra – It simply doesn’t get any better than this.  You could even argue that Vol. 4 is one of the high points of all music, sitting comfortably alongside the other high peaks of the musical canon like Bach’s B Minor Mass or Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 4

So the artwork and packaging had to be special.  It is.

Jerry Schatzberg‘s Dylan portrait on the slipcase front cover is appropriately ethereal – one of the defining images of the singer’s career.  And Schatzberg’s portrait is complemented by telling images by Don Hunstein, Barry Feinstein and several other, slightly less familiar, photographers.

The package design for Vol. 4 established the template for future releases in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: two CDs in a jewel case, plus a substantial booklet with expert text and a cornucopia of photographs, both housed in a striking CD-size card slipcase.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 5 Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue

The packaging artwork of Vol. 5 Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue is remarkable, even by the high standards of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. It’s the work of only two hands: liner notes are by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, and his text is as entertaining as you’d hope from the author of the wonderful On The Road with Bob Dylan. Uniquely in the series, all the marvellous photos are by a single photographer, Ken Regan.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 5

Portrait by Ken Regan – Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 5

Regan had a very photogenic subject – creative adults at play. He certainly made the most of his opportunity. Many of his shots are magnificent. The definitive close-up of Dylan in face paint and cowboy hat, cropped for use on the inside of the jewel case front insert, is among the best-liked of all Bob Dylan photos. It’s a breathtaking image.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 6 Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall

Vol. 6 Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall’s haunting slipcase cover photograph of a vulnerable, callow Dylan is the work of  Hank Parker. The bulk of the photographs in the package are by Daniel Kramer and Douglas Gilbert, with contributions by Barry Feinstein and Slinky Speiser.

Long-form liner notes, by Sean Wilentz, combine the passion and insights of a long-term fan with the analytical skills of a leading academic historian. Wilentz actually attended the Philharmonic Hall gig, aged 13! He is, of course, “Historian-in-Residence” of the official Dylan website, so is also privy to insider information. His text and the super photos make the Vol. 6 56-page booklet into a fine snapshot of early Dylan, an appropriate complement to the precocious music.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 7 No Direction Home: The Soundtrack

Like the revelatory Martin Scorsese film it accompanied, the artwork of the No Direction Home CD package is a telling document of crucial early-to-peak-period Bob Dylan.

The slipcase, like the DVD box, has Barry Feinstein’s shot of listless traveller Dylan in front of his car and film-maker Howard Alk, waiting for the Aust Ferry to take them across the River Severn to the next gig, in Cardiff.

The jewel case front cover has an intriguing variant of Daniel Kramer’s cryptic set-up used on the front cover of Bringing It All Back Home. The inside cover reproduces  Jerry Schatzberg’s era-defining Blonde on Blonde cover shoot.

Reinforcing the scope of the Scorsese project, the 60-page booklet’s front cover is an out-take by Don Hunstein from his Freewheelin’ shoot, Suze Rotolo on Dylan’s arm. The booklet is a near-perfect photographic sketch of Bob Dylan, from Hibbing High School to the 1966 European tour, including work by many of the key Dylan photographers of the era – Joe Alper, John Cohen, Barry Feinstein, David Gahr, Jerry Schatzberg, Daniel Kramer and John Launais, as well as the unnamed staffers of Sony Archives (including work recognisably by Don Hunstein).

The liner notes are a personal memoir of the period by sometime Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham and a track-by-track analysis by Dylan associate Eddie Gorodetsky. The highlight is the entertaining insider essay by the ever-reliable Al Kooper.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs: Rare & Unreleased 1989-2006

Bob Dylan photos from the 1960s are very familiar – some readers will have been seeing them for over half a century!  But photos of the later Dylan – since his mid-1980s fall from grace (surely you remember albums like Knocked Out Loaded and Down In The Groove!) are less well-known.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 8

The packaging of Tell Tale Signs fills a gap, with its definitive collection of late Dylan photos, not least the dignified William Caxton portrait of Bob as middle aged-going-on-old man on the slipcase front cover. This wonderful portrait says to me: “listen very carefully to this wise man… for he has many things to teach you.”

The 64-page booklet also has many highlights, not least the trio of shots by Ana Maria Valez, portraying Bob Dylan in top hat and coat on a publicity walk around London’s Camden Town.

Liner notes by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, both the essay and the track-by-track analysis, are entertaining bonuses in this key volume of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

The artwork of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 stands as an impressive photo album of Bob the folkie. Photographers John Cohen, Ted Russell, Don Hunstein, Daniel Kramer, Barry Feinstein and Douglas Gilbert make up a virtual Who’s Who of early Dylan chroniclers.

The most striking photo in the package is the 60-page booklet’s front cover shot of Dylan playing in a smokey folk club in The Pindar of Wakefield pub in Gray’s Inn Road, King’s Cross, London on 22 December 1962. It was his first visit to England, and the native folkies, who reportedly gave him a less-than-ecstatic welcome, seem slightly perplexed. Dylan seems hesitant but defiant. You can almost smell the beer and cigarette smoke. If the original photo hadn’t been cropped for Vol. 9, you might also detect the whiff of sweaty, smug purism rising from the self-regarding audience.

It was shot by Brian Shuel (“Schuel” in the Vol. 9 credits), a photographer who produced fine portraits of Shirley Collins, doyenne of the English folk revival, and contemporaries like Bert Jansch and Anne Briggs, as well as showbiz celebs. London’s National Portrait Gallery has over 50 of Shuel’s portraits.

The expert liner notes, by Colin Escott, explain the music, its derivation and commercial context.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 10

The striking slipcase front cover of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) is, appropriately, a recent self-portrait painted by Dylan.

His original self-portrait, on the cover of Self Portrait (1970), attracted derision, much like the music it introduced. The 2013 self-portrait, like the reworked music within, was received far more favourably. It’s a commendably painterly painting which will cement Bob Dylan’s reputation as an artist deserving serious attention.

Most of the photographs in the 56-page booklet are by folk singer/photographer John Cohen. Freezing Dylan in home surroundings, both in upstate New York and in the city, Cohen’s series captures the Zeitgeist. His masterful shots are complemented by some fine work by Elliott Landy.

Liner notes by Greil Marcus place both the 1970 and 2013 releases in their historical context. Michael Simmons’ notes are a more straightforward critique of the new collection.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Raw

The Basement Tapes Raw booklet includes two early examples of (unrelated) Bob Dylan’s faux-naïf Woodstock-era paintings – the album cover for Music From Big Pink by The Band and the cover of Sing Out! magazine.

Nearly all the photographs are by Elliott Landy. His work is particularly evocative, especially the familiar shot used on the slipcase front cover, a portrait of country boy Dylan in white hat and matching shirt and the booklet’s striking shot from the same session which has Dylan leaning on a car, framed by the vibrant reds of maple trees in autumn.

The booklet also reproduces the inventive narrative cover shot used for the 1974 LP release by Reid Miles (best known as the creative force behind the famed covers of Blue Note jazz albums).

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 11

The 56-page booklet’s liner notes has an instructive context essay by writer/musician Sid Griffin, track-by-track notes by Ben Rollins and data on the technical production of the restored Basement Tapes by Jan Haust.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Best of the Cutting Edge 1965-1966

The music of the most recent release, Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Best of the Cutting Edge 1965-1966, is probably the most talked about since the release of volumes 1-3.

Understandably, as it documents in detail the creative process of peak Dylan. Hence, it illuminates one of the key periods in twentieth century culture.

The photography and packaging of Vol. 12 is appropriately impressive. My favourites photos include shots by Jerry Schatzberg, especially the slipcase front cover; work by Columbia staffer Don Hunstein, including the iconic photograph of Dylan at the piano, on the back cover of the jewel case; and lesser-known shots by French photographer Jean-Marie Périer.

The 60-page booklet’s liner notes include a long essay by renowned historian of contemporary USA Sean Wilentz, an insider muso’s view from the irrepressible Al Kooper, plus short pieces by Ben Rollins, Rowland Scherman and Angeline Butler.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: many versions

The albums described above are the original UK CD releases. Other territories and later re-releases have different artwork and packaging. The 2010 Europe re-releases, for example, present the great music in its entirety, often at a very low price, but their photos and packaging are inferior to the originals: they come without slipcases and include cut-down versions of the booklets, often without photos, making them less attractive to anyone buying the collection for its visual art.

And, starting with Vol. 8, Sony have also released enhanced versions of most new volumes, targeting hardcore fans and collectors with deep pockets. Thus Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs was issued as a Deluxe Edition, with an extended hardback book, plus a second hardback of the sleeves of Dylan vinyl singles (as well as a third CD). Vols 10, 11 and 12 were also released in Deluxe versions, with attractive additional packaging and artwork, as well as extra music.

Catering for the recent re-emergence of a significant market for vinyl, several of the Bootleg Series volumes are also available in boxed collections of LPs.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: overview

Reviewing The Cutting Edge, Bootleg Series vol. 12, in The Guardian newspaper, top writer Richard Williams praised the package’s “meticulous assembly and handsome design”.

You could say the same of every release in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: it’s outstanding visual art. While the different releases vary in musical value – vols 1-3 and 8 are the key releases, but even the weaker volumes, such as 6 and 9, are indispensable – the packaging and artwork of all the volumes is uniformly desirable.

The slipcases, jewel case inserts and especially the ten booklets, running to almost 600 pages, are key Bob Dylan collectables. Their rich array of photographs, insightful prose from a galaxy of expert writers, and level of technical detail could keep the Dylan nut happy for weeks.  Even in the unloved CD format, the Bootleg Series offers the tactile pleasures that many music lovers get from vinyl LPs.

Bob Dylan’s management, notably Producer Jeff Rosen – presumably the driving force behind The Bootleg Series since its inception – and record label Columbia/Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment‘s Steve Berkowitz, are diligent, often inspired, curators of the Dylan legacy; the Bootleg Series must be one of their finest achievements. It’s an exemplary blend of fine rock art and smart commerce.

If you haven’t explored The Bootleg Series recently, you might consider setting aside some quality time to dig into its photos and packaging while you listen to the peerless music.

Copyright: text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS Ltd 2016; record artwork © Columbia/Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment 1991-2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

David Bowie art: cementing the reputation of a giant of twentieth century culture

David Bowie ART? Really?


Alongside his abundant musical innovation, David Bowie art showed another side of a great creative force. David Bowie art, expressed through a multiplicity of media, cements his reputation as a giant of twentieth century culture.

David Bowie, creative giant: RIP.

Here’s my review of the extraordinary ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition I visited in Paris last spring.

Aladdin Sane photo on David Bowie is poster in Paris

David Bowie is poster directing you to la Phiharmonie de Paris

David Bowie is, now showing at la Philharmonie de Paris, is a fine exhibition. The venue – the brand-new-but-not-quite-finished Philharmonie – is superlative.

David Bowie is: rich content

David Bowie is gathers together a rich array of content from a wide spectrum of media, much of it supplied by Bowie himself.

Apart from the kind of artefacts you’d see in any rock art exhibition – photographs, album cover artwork, gig posters, ephemera, handwritten lyrics, instruments, video and audio clips – you also get designs, drawings, stage sets and costumes, and clothing, tracking David Bowie as an indefatigable style icon.

That’s what you’d expect: David Bowie is a multi-faceted creative – songwriter, singer/musician espousing innumerable genres, serial creator of personas, choreographer, film actor… .

David Bowie is also, of course, an occasional painter: he mounted his first solo show, New Afro/Pagan And Work, in 1995 at The Gallery, Cork St, London W1.

Sexual ambiguity, forays into high culture and regular Zeitgeist-challenging changes of direction add to the allure of David Bowie as a subject for a rock art show. David Bowie is doesn’t disappoint.

David Bowie is: strengths

My lasting impression of the David Bowie is exhibition is of the iconic photography and, especially, the compelling album cover artwork.

David Bowie is Paris exhibition

Entering David Bowie is at la Philharmonie

My preferred album covers include: Brian Duffy’s Aladdin Sane portrait (1973), used as the exhibition poster by la Philharmonie; the striking monochrome Masoyoshi Sukita portrait for “Heroes” (1977); and Guy Peellaert’s appropriately disturbing artwork for Diamond Dogs (1974).

David Bowie is: weaknesses

David Bowie is has no obvious weaknesses. It’s a rich collection, well curated. There’s even a sumptuous hardback catalogue which will take pride of place on fans’ bookshelves.

My attention lagged, however, when confronted by stage costumes, sets and fashion. They interest me far less than they would most David Bowie fans, I’d imagine.

David Bowe is Paris catalogue

Catalogues/merchandise, David Bowie is

David Bowie is: la Philharmonie de Paris

Familiar with David Bowie is from 2013’s inaugural exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, I spent most of my visit admiring the magnificent new building hosting the show.

La Philharmonie de Paris, designed by Jean Nouvel, was opened after much delay in January – still, embarrassingly, unfinished.

La Philharmonie de Paris

The newly-opened, not-quite-finished Philharmonie de Paris, at Cite de la Musique, venue for David Bowie is

Located in la Cite de la Musique, at Porte de Pantin in NE Paris, just inside the Peripherique, la Philharmonie is easily accessible by Metro and tram.

Approaching the site on foot, I saw an unpromising hulk rising above the hyper-urban transport hub. Maybe it’s a temporary storage facility for grit used to de-ice the Periph in winter, I mused.  “Please don’t let that be la Philharmonie,” I pleaded aloud to the God of Architecture.

Thankfully, that view from distance is misleading. Close up, la Philharmonie is an exciting addition to the Paris cityscape, with its challenging shapes, high quality materials and impressive build quality.

It all adds up to a building which is easy to navigate and a pleasure to explore. It seems fit for purpose, too – I’ll be confirming that by attending a concert there just as soon as a suitable gig entices me.

La Cite de la Musique already had an impressive track record of curating an unparalleled programme of rock art shows. In recent years, I’ve seen outstanding Miles Davis and Bob Dylan exhibitions and just missed shows devoted to Great Black Music, and Punk.

David Bowie is: the first global rock art exhibition

I’d guess that London’s Victoria & Albert Museum was tempted to create the David Bowie is exhibition by the myriad creative possibilities of a rock art show devoted to a polymath like David Bowie. That, and its tempting audience potential.

The enormous customer base of David Bowie fans – almost by definition, receptive to artistic, even avant-garde, expression – presumably emboldened the V&A to create a show at the junction of pop and high culture, popular but also acceptable to major public galleries acting as gatekeepers of the artistic canon.

After successful spells in London, Chicago, and now Paris, David Bowie is moves next to Melbourne, Australia (16 July-1 November) and then Groningen, in the Netherlands (15 December-13 March 2016).

The David Bowie is exhibition is the first large-scale global rock art show.  Bravo the V&A and its international partners!

David Bowie is runs at la Philharmonie de Paris until 31 May. If you’re a Bowie or rock art fan with access to Paris, you won’t want to miss it.

If you’re a fan of bold, contemporary architecture, you’ll soon be visiting la Philharmonie de Paris anyway, regardless of David Bowie is.

Copyrights: text and photographs © Gerald Smith, Rock Art Editions. David Bowie images © David Bowie Archive. Aladdin Sane photograph by Brian Duffy. Exhibition posters © la Philharmonie de Paris. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan… Rolling Stones… Beatles… Hendrix… Jam… Fela Kuti… Kills… rock art alive and kicking in 2015

Bob Dylan… Rolling Stones… Beatles… Hendrix… Jam… Fela Kuti… Kills… rock art exhibitions and products abounded in 2015. Here are some posts on the best rock art I came across last year.

Fela Kuti poster promotes West Africa exhibition in London

An outstanding Fela Kuti poster is the key image in the promotion of West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song – an exhibition of literature and music, now running at The British Library, until 16 February 2016.

The unmissable Fela Kuti poster is the key image advertising the show around the British Library site on Euston Rd, just west of St Pancras railway station.

The Fela Kuti poster is well-chosen to promote such a show – he”s one of the most important African poprock musicians, variously a composer, singer, bandleader, horn player and keyboardist. He fused rock n roll values – sex, drugs and rebellion – with jazz/rock and West african highlife into a musical style that became known as Afrobeat.

It’s not clear from the British Library website whether you can buy the beautiful Fela Kuti poster, although other merchandise, like this DVD, is on sale.

Finding Fela: Music is the Weapon

Fela Kuti DVD, Finding Fela

Copyright: illustration © British Library 2015; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015.

Rolling Stones photos: Michael Cooper at Proud Gallery, London

First published on ROCK ART EDITIONS – WHAT’S NEW IN ROCK ART – on 13 November 2015.

Courting the Stones: Photographs by Michael Cooper is currently showing at Proud Chelsea, in SW London. But you’ll need to hurry, this recommended portfolio of Rolling Stones photos is due to close on Sunday 22 November.

Rolling Stones photos by Michael Cooper

Rolling Stones photo © Michael Cooper/Proud Gallery

Michael Cooper’s best-known Rolling Stones photos grace the front cover of their controversial 1967 album, Their Satanic Majesties Request – nice photography, pity about the music!

In the same year, Cooper also provided the photos for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the rather better received classic Beatles album.

So he was clearly a top rock photographer. The exhibition’s odd title refers to Michael Cooper’s privileged position in the Rolling Stones inner circle (hence “Court”).

As you’ll see from their website, Proud Galleries are major global players in rock photography.

Copyright: text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS; photo © Michael Cooper/Proud Gallery, London. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

New Beatles photos in Ringo Starr book, Photograph

Beatles photos are not difficult to come by – the Fab Four number among the most photographed individuals in history.

But Beatles photos shot by a Beatle are pretty rare. Or were… until the recent publication of Photograph by Ringo Starr (£35). The mass market edition of Photograph follows an earlier limited edition – both released by Genesis Publications.

Ringo Starr photos

Rare Beatles photos in Photograph by Ringo Starr

Photograph, by Ringo Starr, was launched at London’s National Portrait Gallery. The Gallery, along with Genesis, is also currently selling 10 different framed prints of Beatles photos taken from the book. All 10 are published in a limited edition of 25 copies, signed by Ringo Starr. The framed prints cost £1965 each, delivered.

The Beatles have long been important creators of rock art: both John Lennon and Paul McCartney have impressive portfolios. It’s a pleasure to welcome Ringo Starr to the rock art party!

Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger portraits in new French collection

New-to-me portraits of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger are two highlights of a new French collection, 100 Photos de Jean-Marie Périer Pour La Liberté de la Presse. You can’t miss it in the bookshops, thanks to a striking cover portrait of 1960s pop chanteuse Françoise Hardy.

It’s a timely reminder of the importance of France, and especially Paris, as a centre of rock art.

Bob Dylan photo

Bob Dylan portrait © Jean-Marie Périer

Bob Dylan and the 1960s Folk Revival

I wish I was visiting New York soon – I’d certainly visit a compelling new exhibition, Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival.

It’s showing at the Museum of the City of New York until 29 November 2015.

If I don’t make it, I’ll be buying the accompanying book written by curators Stephen Petrus and Ronald D Cohen (Oxford Univ Press, 2015):

Folk City exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York

Book accompanying Folk City exhibition, New York

The Jam exhibition in London extended to 27 September

The Jam exhibition in London 2015

The Jam About The Young Idea extended to 27 September

Iconic Jimi Hendrix portraits in Paris show

Lost in le Marais quartier of Paris last Friday, I stumbled upon a soon-to-be-closed exhibition of iconic portraits of Jimi Hendrix – solo and with the other two members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Jimi Hendrix photo

Jimi Hendrix © Donald Silverstein 1967

Jimi Hendrix – Can You See Me? exhibited about a dozen large-scale, limited edition photographs from a 1967 shoot by Donald Silverstein. It was hosted by La Galerie Stardust, 19 rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, 75003 Paris.

Although the show closed a week ago, collectors are alerted to watch out for follow-up exhibitions. The Paris show followed a 2014 showing of the same material by Snap Galleries, London.

Total Records: The Great Adventure of Album Cover Photography – exhibition in Arles, France

Last Friday’s Guardian newspaper had a full review, by Sean O’Hagan, of an important rock art show running in Arles, France, until 20 September:

“Man Ray’s proposed cover for the Stones is one of the highlights of a sprawling, but always intriguing, exhibition at Les Rencontres d’Arles called Total Records: The Great Adventure of Album Cover Photography.

“It traces pop’s relationship with photography using album sleeves that span the history of vinyl recordings, and includes work by pioneering photographers who were either commissioned by labels to shape the identity of an artist or else allowed existing images to be used, often at the musician’s request. That was how Anders Petersen’s picture of an embracing couple from his gritty series Cafe Lehmitz ended up on the cover of Rain Dogs by Tom Waits, an almost perfect reflection of the melancholic music therein. (Intriguingly, the man in the photograph bears a resemblance to the young Tom Waits, both physically and in terms of the beatnik-barfly image Waits once projected.)…”

Recommended reading in The Guardian

Guido Harari exhibition of rock art photos – Ravello, Italy

Rock photos by Guido Harari

Sonica exhibition of Guido Harari rock art photos, Ravello Festival

Sonica, an exhibition of portraits by rock art photographer Guido Harari is now showing at the Ravello Festival. It runs until 31 October.

Bob Dylan, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits are among the 30+ rock musicians portrayed by Harari.

A catalogue is available from the Festival and from Guido Harari’s Wall of Sound Gallery.

If I was anywhere near, I’d be going!

The Jam in London exhibition: a major post-punk rock art show

Exhibition of photos and memorabilia of The Jam

Post-punk rock art: The Jam – About the Young Idea, London 2015

The Jam About the Young Idea is a major exhibition of photos and artefacts now showing at Somerset House, London until 31 August 2015.

The Jam About the Young Idea is a rare show devoted to post-punk rock art. Curated with the full cooperation of the band, it includes photos, lyrics, stage outfits, video, instruments and scrapbooks.

Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and John Lennon in Bailey’s Stardust

David Bailey portrait of Mick Jagger, in Bailey's Stardust exhibition

Mick Jagger, Bailey’s Stardust

After a successful run in London last year, Bailey’s Stardust, a recommended collection of important rock art, opens at the Scottish National Galley, Edinburgh on 18 July and runs until 18 October.

Bailey’s Stardust has iconic portraits by celebrated photographer David Bailey, including ROCK ART EDITIONS favourites Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and John Lennon.

Bailey’s Stardust is one of the most significant exhibitions of rock art in recent years. Here’s my review of the London show.

Alison Mosshart (The Kills) shows 100+ works in New York

Another fine collection of rock art, Fire Power, 100+ works by Alison Mosshart (The Kills) is showing at Joseph Gross Gallery in New York until 11 July.

Alison Mosshart work, one of 120 in Fire Power, showing in New York

Rock art by Alison Mosshart of The Kills

(posted 3 July 2015)

The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism: the key rock art show of 2016?

Art of the Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones art – exhibition in 2016

A major new show to be held at the fabulous Saatchi Gallery in London, April-Sept 2016. Tickets go on sale next Friday, 10 July. Almost certainly the major rock art exhibition of 2016.

(posted: 3 July 2015)

Bob Dylan art: Brazil Series prints – second release, 2015

The Bob Dylan art portfolio – accessible to Everyman – just keeps on growing.

The latest release – a second trio of prints from the Brazil Series – was recently launched into what looks like a receptive market.

Bob Dylan art, Brazil Series, Wagon Master

Wagon Master from the Brazil Series, © Bob Dylan 2010

Bob Dylan art: three new Brazil Series prints

The new limited edition prints reproduce three paintings – Grande Arvore Beachfront, Wagon Master and Favela Villa Candido.  They continue the themes introduced by the first three Brazil Series prints, released in May 2015.

Grande Arvore Beachfront and Wagon Master are, like the first three prints, narratives documenting ordinary lives. The new Favela print, best described as a townscape, is similar to that in the earlier release.

The three signed prints are available individually and as a Portfolio Set of three.

Bob Dylan Brazil Series: accomplished, realistic

The new Brazil Series prints are an accomplished trio, likely to raise Bob Dylan’s stature as an artist among critics and potential buyers alike.  The works are technically proficient: Bob Dylan’s draughtsmanship, questioned by some on the release of his Drawn Blank series, is no longer an issue.

And their more realistic style will reassure those discomfited by the Expressionism of Dylan’s Drawn Blank works.

The three new prints, giclee on paper, with an image size of 30″ x 26″, cost £1500 each (framed).  The Portfolio Set of 3 is priced at £3500.

When I last checked (in early November), the new signed, limited edition prints seemed to be selling quickly.  After only a couple of weeks on sale, Castle Galleries (linked to publisher Washington Green) had sold out.  Indie galleries in the distribution network were also reporting low stock levels.

Bob Dylan art: how the new Brazil Series prints fit in

The latest Brazil Series prints follow a May 2015 release of three different prints.  They are the latest examples of a growing body of visual art by the septuagenarian musician.  Make no mistake – Bob Dylan is a prolific artist.  His creativity has found expression – so far – in no fewer than ten different series, outlined in an earlier article,  here.

Bob Dylan art: are the new Brazil Series prints worth collecting?

Potential buyers usually ask two questions of a piece of art: how good is it?  And how much is it worth?  My opinion?  Regarding these three prints: they’re fine, enjoyable pictures, although I prefer the key works from Drawn Blank, notably Man On A Bridge (2008).   And you’ll only know how much they’re really worth in a few years, when they start appearing in the secondary market.

To buy or not to buy?  In the end, of course, it’s a very personal decision.  If you need help before taking that decision, you might find it handy to consider this article from ROCK ART EDITIONS.

Bob Dylan art: the low-cost Brazil Series option – the catalogue

If you’re keen to explore or own Bob Dylan art from the Brazil Series but are not in the market for these new prints, remember that the excellent catalogue (published by Prestel) of all 40 Brazil Series paintings exhibited at the Statens Museum for Kunst, Kopenhagen in 2010/2011, is widely available, often at a knockdown price.

Bob Dylan art - The Brazil Series Copenhagen exhibition catalogue 2010

Exhibition Catalogue © Bob Dylan/Museum for Kunst/Prestel 2010

Copyright: Wagon Master print © Bob Dylan 2010/2015; book cover © Prestel 2011; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015.  Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Ringo Starr Photograph: new book has rare and unseen Beatles photos

Ringo Starr Photograph, the new book by the former Beatles drummer, presents Ringo’s Beatles photos alongside shots of other phases of his life and times. The “rare and unseen” photographs are enhanced by a commentary by Ringo. The mass market edition of Ringo Starr Photograph follows an earlier signed limited edition, both from Genesis Publications.

Beatles photos are not difficult to come by – the Fab Four number among the most photographed individuals in the history of the world. But Beatles photos shot by a Beatle are pretty rare. Hence the interest from fans and collectors.

Ringo Starr photos

Ringo Starr Photograph © Genesis Publications 2015

Ringo Starr Photograph was launched at London’s prestigious National Portrait Gallery. A couple of weeks ago, the gallery and Genesis were still selling 10 different framed prints of Beatles photos taken from the book. All 10 are published in a limited edition of 25 copies, signed by Ringo Starr. The framed prints cost £1965 each, delivered.

Ringo books before Ringo Starr Photograph

Ringo Starr Photograph isn’t the musician’s first contribution to Beatles art: his two earlier books interest fans and collectors, though neither carries his photos of the band.

Beatles photos

Ringo Starr, Postcards From The Boys © Cassell 2004

Postcards From The Boys was published as a mass market book (Cassell, 2004) after first appearing as a signed, limited edition by Genesis Publications. Postcards From The Boys consists of the facsimiles of 50+ postcards sent to Ringo Starr by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison over 30 years, from the band’s 1960s heyday. Both Lennon and McCartney decorate their postcards with quick sketches: Beatles art for Everyman.

And Ringo Starr lyrics from the Beatles song Octopus’s Garden were worked into a children’s book of the same name (2013/2015), with charming illustrations by Ben Cort.

Beatles art by Lennon, McCartney (and Harrison)

Collectors of Beatles art realised long ago that the Fab Four had individual creative talents well away from the recording studio and the concert stage.

John Lennon drawings and paintings, the best-known category of Beatles art, can be seen in several collections, starting with his witty mid-1960s books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. John Lennon: The Collected Artwork, edited by Scott Gutterman (Insight Editions, 2015), brings the story bang up to date.

Macca’s engaging canvases are collected in Paul McCartney Paintings (Little, Brown, 2000). And George Harrison entered the fray with I Me Mine, a book of curated images, also published in two editions, like Ringo Starr Photograph, by Genesis.

ROCK ART EDITIONS will be exploring Beatles art – Beatles photos, John Lennon art, Paul McCartney paintings and the books of Ringo Starr and George Harrison – in depth. So fans and collectors should keep checking in!

John Mellencamp art: accomplished portraits on show in New York

I’ve never really given John Mellencamp the musician a fair hearing.  I passed through my Heartland Rock phase – Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger – long before I’d even heard anything by John Mellencamp.

But, boy: I’ve raved about John Mellencamp art ever since I stumbled across his expressive paintings.  Of all the rock artists, John Mellencamp is one of the most accomplished.  There’s little chance of any jaundiced art critic accusing him of lacking painterly technique, as they are wont to do with some artists featured here on ROCK ART EDITIONS.

John Mellencamp art exhibition New York

Sometimes There’s God © John Mellencamp 2015

John Mellencamp art focuses on oil paintings of “the little people”.  He’s clearly on the side of Everyman and consistently finds humanity in his poignant portraits of ordinary people.

Well-informed critics see echoes of German Expressionism in John Mellencamp art, notably the work of Otto Dix and Max Beckmann.  I concur, though I struggle to find any links with another favoured comparator, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

John Mellencamp art now on show in New York

If I were in New York this autumn, I’d be making a beeline to ACA Galleries to see the latest exhibition of John Mellencamp art.   The Isolation of Mister, a show of nine canvases, runs to 19 December.  (The title refers to a song on Mellencamp’s album, Plain Spoken).

It looks like a delightful small show.


Copyright: picture © John Mellencamp/ACA Galleries 2015; text © Gerald Smith, Rock Art Editions 2015.  Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.