Which is the best Bob Dylan box set? And which is the worst?
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 15 March 2016
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Super Deluxe Edition has a review of the 1963 release by astute Editor Paul Sinclair which has more information, including a track list.
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, 18CDs 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?
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 29 February 2016
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: definitive photos, exquisite packaging
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 11 February 2016
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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)
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).
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.
Bob Dylan art: Brazil Series prints – second release, 2015
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 16 December 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: 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.
Copyright: Wagon Master print © Bob Dylan 2010/2015; book cover © Prestel 2011; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan photos: early New York portraits by Ted Russell
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 11 November 2015
Connoisseurs of Bob Dylan photos will want to see the exhibition of early portraits by Ted Russell, currently on show in Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964 at the Richard Goodall Gallery, High Street, Manchester, England.
But you’ll need to hurry – the exhibition of Bob Dylan photos was advertised as closing this Saturday, 14 November. (And I’d check with the gallery before travelling.)
The 33 Bob Dylan photos on display include historic shots of the young singer at Gerde’s Folk City and the controversial National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee Bill of Rights dinner, where Dylan received the Tom Paine Award and delivered an address which reportedly upset some fellow diners. Ted Russell took the Bob Dylan photos in various assignments for Life magazine.
Limited edition prints of the images are on sale at £950-£1,900. The exhibition is due to travel to venues in Ireland and LA – watch ROCK ART EDITIONS for details.
Bob Dylan photos 1961-1964: new book
If, like most readers of ROCK ART EDITIONS, you can’t get to the Manchester or subsequent exhibitions, you can still enjoy the 33 images – plus 50 or so more – in the splendid book on which the show is based – Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964, by Ted Russell, with Chris Murray, Foreword by Donovan (NYC, Rizzoli International Publications, 2014, hardback).
Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964 is a desirable, handsome collection, evoking a time and place which now seem shrouded in the mists of history.
Bob Dylan photos 1961-1964: my favourites
A few of the book’s Bob Dylan photos are familiar, but many others were new to me. I particularly like three sequences:
* the shots of Dylan with Suze Rotolo in their Greenwich Village apartment,
* the half dozen shots of the NECLC Bill of Rights Tom Paine Award dinner, showing Dylan being scrutinised by, and engaged in deep conversation with, radical novelist James Baldwin, an influential spokesman for the civil rights of African-Americans, and
* the pensive two-shots with tour manager Victor Maymudes, showing them (presumably) plotting Dylan’s guerrilla attack on the citadels of American popular music.
My favourite Bob Dylan photo in this lovely collection is the final shot, a grainy, gloomy shot of Dylan, guitar case in hand, marching purposefully towards the camera down a Village street: on the road again… .
Shortcomings of this wonderful collection? Very few and very minor. An additional page at the end labelling the different shoots, with captions, would enhance the book – although most aficionados of Bob Dylan photos, the audience for this fine work, will have little trouble identifying the people accompanying Dylan.
Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964 is a fine portfolio of Bob Dylan photos. Ted Russell’s documentation of the crucial early days of one of the greats of 20th culture places him in the premier division of early Dylan photographers, alongside better-known chroniclers like John Cohen and Don Hunstein.
Bravo Ted Russell (and collaborators)!
Copyright: book cover illustration © Ted Russell/Rizzoli International Publications 2014. Text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser: at auction this week
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 14 October 2015
A copy of the celebrated Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser is being auctioned this week by New York specialists Poster Auctions International, via Invaluable.
The Bob Dylan poster – one of the finest pieces of rock art available to man – was produced by Milton Glaser in 1966, at the peak of the singer’s creative powers.
Here are the details of the Bob Dylan poster from Invaluable:
invaluable for Poster Auctions International, Lot 313, NYC 16 Oct
Estimated Price: $1,200 – $1,500
Description: Artist: MILTON GLASER (1929- ) Size: 22 x 32 3/4 in./55.6 x 83.4 cm Originally included in Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits-Volume 1 album on vinyl, this image of the singer is possibly Glaser’s most iconic design. When speaking of it, the artist mentions being influenced by Duchamps and Islamic paintings, resulting in “a style some now consider peculiarly American” (Glaser, p. 50).
Condition Report: A/ Usual fold marks. Dimensions: 22 x 32 3/4 in./55.6 x 83.4 cm. Artist or Maker: MILTON GLASER (1929- ). Medium: Poster. Date: 1966.
Copyright: poster © Milton Glaser 1966; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan comic books: three little-known rarities
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 28 September 2015
The three Bob Dylan comic books published in the Rock N’ Roll Comics series in 1992 are pretty rare. And they are little-known: I stumbled across them for the first time a month ago – nearly a quarter of a century after they were published.
Bob Dylan comic books are a growing niche, increasingly popular among Dylan collectors. Most of the recent titles are best described as graphic biographies. They are modern, hardback, long-form books, rather than the traditional thin, paperbound serials like Rock N’ Roll Comics.
Rock N’ Roll Comics pioneered a cartoon approach to their biographies of musicians, including their three on Bob Dylan. They were an imprint of Revolutionary Comics (slogan: “Unauthorized and proud of it”) of San Diego, California. The company also published comic book series on pop music and sport, notably baseball. Sadly, it went out of business in 1994.
As a collector of Dylan books, I bought the three Bob Dylan comic books because I was intrigued to find out whether mixing genres – applying the avowedly lowbrow Batman-type treatment to a serious subject like Dylan – would work. It does.
These three comic books are rare – and little-known – certainly to this English collector. They are delightful artefacts – collectable Bob Dylan art at a cut-down price.
All three Bob Dylan comic books in the series were written by Jay Allen Sanford and illustrated by Blackwell. Scott Pentzer painted the cover of #50; it’s not clear who did the other two covers.
Bob Dylan comic books #1: Kingdom Come (1961-1965)
Bob Dylan, Part One: Kingdom Come (1961-1965), Rock N’ Roll Comics #50, August 1992 tells the story well of peak period Dylan. And it has the most striking cover (above) of the three.
Bob Dylan comic books #2: The Jester’s Thorny Crown (1966-1976)
Bob Dylan, Part Two: The Jester’s Thorny Crown (1966-1976), Rock N’ Roll Comics #51, Sept 1992 handles a complex decade of Dylan’s development with assurance. To my eyes, its cover is the weakest of the three.
Bob Dylan comic books #3: Hard Rain A Comin’
Bob Dylan, Part Three: Hard Rain A Comin’, Rock N’ Roll Comics #52, Oct 1992, the concluding part of the Bob Dylan comic books trilogy, is my least favourite. But it’s still good enough to make you wish for a sequel to bring the story up to date.
The cover of #52 has a wistful, middle-aged Bob, looking perplexed, staring into the distance. You’ll probably know where it originated.
Bob Dylan comic books: overview
These three comic books are worthwhile additions to any Bob Dylan art library: as a collector, I’m pleased to have acquired them.
The Rock N’ Roll Comics concept – comics for grown-up music fans – is both ambitious and compelling. It elevates the art of the comic book above the pulp level aimed at children or poor adult readers. The comic books tackle serious subjects, give them context and present them in a format which will satisfy even the demanding reader.
You could take the view that, judged against the best books on the musician, these Bob Dylan comic books are relatively weak – presenting a slightly juvenile, dumbed-down version of the Dylan story. But judged on their own terms, as cheap pulp non-fiction extolling a cult figure revered by a cult audience, they work well.
Bob Dylan comic books: the words
The comics’ texts give you a reasonable summary of a (then) 30-year career, covering many key aspects of the musician’s life and achievements.
The device of inserting “Chronolog” sidebars on each page enriches the Dylan narrative – they contextualise his creativity through a (US-centric) diary of what else was happening at the time.
The text of the comic books isn’t the strongest, however. The dialogue doesn’t always flow like natural speech. And there’s the odd factual error – Dylan’s 1962 trip to London to record Madhouse on Castle Street was for a BBC TV show (not a radio show, as claimed).
Spelling errors occasionally pop out – “wierd”, “recieved”, “disguarded”, “course-ground”… .
Bob Dylan comic books: the pictures
The best illustrations in the three books are impressive. I enjoyed the quartet of startled folkies realising that they’d stumbled into a rock show at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
Overall, though, the illustrations are a mixed bag. Bob Dylan can often seem to be a different person from page to page. And you occasionally need the text to work out that you’re looking at The Beatles… Mick Jagger… The Band… .
The art doesn’t match the excellence of the three comic books reviewed here a few weeks ago.
But comic books in general have moved onwards and upwards since 1992. Series like Rock N’ Roll Comics were necessarily produced at a great lick, to tight deadlines. More modern comic book creators can lavish more attention and take longer over their work. Hence, the books cost more to produce. And are more expensive.
The cover artwork of the three Bob Dylan comics is variable. The first cover of the trio (#50), head and shoulders of Dylan looking arrogant, smoking, with a background of him walking the streets, somewhat wistfully, is my favourite. Number 51 is the weakest. Number 52 is an attractive reworking of the album cover of Under The Red Sky.
This rarely seen trio of Bob Dylan comic books is both desirable and collectable.
It’s complemented by issues in the series covering several key rock bands, notably The Rolling Stones (#6), Led Zeppelin (#13), The Doors (#26 and 27) and The Grateful Dead.
If you know of similar Bob Dylan comic books from other publishers, please share your expert knowledge with readers of ROCK ART EDITIONS – Leave a reply at the top of this post. Thanks in advance,
Copyright: Rock N’ Roll Comics covers #50, #51 and #52 © Revolutionary Comics 1992; photos © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art: Face Value portrait “contemptible” – Brian Sewell, top English critic
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 22 September 2015
Bob Dylan art gets the thumbs down: his Skip Sharpe portrait is “Contemptible. Just rubbish”. It should not have been exhibited by the National Portrait Gallery, according to critic Brian Sewell, in his Pop Goes The Easel, a scathing survey of rock musicians who paint.
Q magazine published Sewell’s damning piece in November 2013, to coincide with the Bob Dylan Face Value show at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Bob Dylan art “just rubbish”, Macca paintings “childish rubbish”
The critic goes on to lambast other rock-musicians-turned-painters. He dismisses artwork by Beatles bassist Paul McCartney as “childish rubbish”. Edwyn Collins’ artwork shows promise… when judged as the work of a 14-year old! Daniel Johnston’s Captain America is “… just awful. Utter, utter rubbish”.
Funny, that. I enjoyed the Bob Dylan art in the Face Value exhibition, a small gallery of distinctive portraits, held in 2013. The portraits are representative Bob Dylan art – they successfully capture Dylan’s penetrating, sceptical, questioning worldview. My only criticism was that the show didn’t have enough pictures.
Bob Dylan art: judge for yourself – catalogue still available
You can judge for yourself the Bob Dylan art dismissed by Sewell. Bob Dylan Face Value, a handsome, collectable catalogue, published by the National Portrait Gallery, London, is still widely available.
I was also impressed by Paul McCartney: Paintings, the 1999 and 2000 catalogues of the Beatle’s artwork: I’m not keen on Macca’s music, but I do like his painting.
Brian Sewell is a celebrated London-based art critic known for his lively journalism and entertaining TV appearances. He tends not to, er, sit on the fence.
The dismissive tone in his Q article was echoed in the recent assessment of some rocker-painters by Guardian critic Jonathan Jones, covered here last week. (Bob Dylan got off lightly.)
I’m collecting critical commentaries – positive and negative – on Bob Dylan art and work by other rock musicians who paint, to discuss on ROCK | ART | EDITIONS. If you come across any critiques, please Leave a reply, at the top of this article. Thanks, in advance.
ROCK ART EDITIONS published an earlier version of this post in October 2014. It’s republished here to commemorate Brian Sewell, art critic of the London Evening Standard. He’s the best-known English critic, particularly among those who share his rejection of much contemporary art. Brian Sewell died last weekend, aged 84.
Copyright: images © Bob Dylan and © National Portrait Gallery, London, as indicated in captions. Brian Sewell quotations © Q magazine. Text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan mural: bravo Minneapolis!
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 8 September 2015
A wonderful new Bob Dylan mural has just been unveiled: bravo Minneapolis!
The enormous Bob Dylan mural, realised in a just couple of weeks, is now the world’s largest, most impressive piece of Bob Dylan-related art. It also becomes the planet’s most prominent, most exciting piece of public rock art.
The new Bob Dylan mural is a fine work. Its composition, portraying three different Bob Dylans, sensibly resists the temptation to show Dylan only in his mid-1960s pomp. It reflects the fact that Bob Dylan has been a major creative force for over half a century. Good call.
Its enormous scale, vibrant colour palette and mixture of realistic portraiture and abstract embellishment make it a pleasure to look at.
Its prominent location lends the Bob Dylan mural an appropriate grandeur. You wouldn’t miss it while pounding the city streets. According to StarTribune, the Minneapolis daily newspaper, you can see the new Bob Dylan mural on the corner of 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue.
Fans of rock art – and Bob Dylan – are indebted to artist Eduardo Kobra and his team for delivering such a striking piece. And to Goldman Sachs, owners of the wall, and Hennepin Theatre Trust, who managed the project.
The lovely photo (above) by Tom Sweeney captures the piece in its virgin state and places it in context, its urban setting in Minneapolis. The StarTribune has a gallery of photos of the Bob Dylan mural in various stages of completion. It’s a telling, historic sequence of pictures. They would make the centrepiece of a fine collectable book celebrating the magnificent artwork.
Bob Dylan mural – the world’s premier public rock artwork?
But is the new Bob Dylan mural really the world’s premier public rock artwork?
Well, I can’t think of a better piece. Can you?
Public rock art is a newish medium. So there’s not much competition. Not yet. Rock musicians are being celebrated in public artwork, as more towns and cities around the world start chasing the tourist dollar. The new Bob Dylan mural could persuade many other communities to celebrate their local musical heroes.
In London, the pieces of street rock art I’m familiar with include: Amy Winehouse statue in Camden; Billy Fury mural in nearby West Hampstead; Smiths mural on the South Bank; and numerous blue plaques such as that commemorating Bob Marley’s brief stay in Bloomsbury.
If you know of other public artworks in your part of the world, please Leave a reply, above, and I’ll be pleased to cover them in ROCK ART EDITIONS. Thanks in advance.
Copyright: artwork © Eduardo Kobra 2015; photograph © StarTribune/Tom Sweeney 2015; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan comic books: three must-buys
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 18 August 2015
You could have almost predicted the arrival of Bob Dylan comic books: the growing popularity of Bob Dylan art and the boom in comic books made them virtually inevitable.
I’ve recently stumbled across – and snapped up – three must-buys. All three of these Bob Dylan comic books are worth the serious attention of rock art fans.
Bob Dylan comic books #1: Bob Dylan 1961/1963, by Pablo
On a recent trip to Paris, I came across Bob Dylan 1961/1963, by Pablo, a strikingly beautiful little artefact. It has 15 of Pablo’s expressive charcoal sketches of Bob Dylan, all inspired by song titles, plus a couple of artist-enhanced colour photos.
The drawings are accompanied by a biographical text, in both French and English. And you get two CDs – the first two Bob Dylan albums, plus bonus extras: The Freewheelin’, for example, has six tracks from the well-known Cynthia Gooding radio show.
Pablo is a multi-faceted artist who has previously contributed similar work, on Mozart and Serge Gainsbourg, for publisher BDMUSIC, who have been publishing for a couple of decades in this attractive, innovative format – hardback comic book, plus CDs. They usually cover jazz and blues musicians. This Bob Dylan comic book is the first title I’ve seen featuring a rock musician.
BDMUSIC’s Bob Dylan comic book, on sale last week in Gibert Joseph, my favourite Paris retailer, as well as FNAC, is priced at 20 euros.
Bob Dylan comic books #2: Dylan Faces Book, by Smudja
On a previous Paris trip, I happened across another little gem, Dylan Faces Book by Smudja, published by Zanpano (2009) in a limited edition of 1,000.
Not strictly speaking a Bob Dylan comic book, Dylan Faces Book by Smudja is a series of about 150 portraits of the ever-changing icon, reproductions of the artist’s moody water colours.
The copy of Dylan Faces Book that I bought at Librairie Paralleles, near les Halles, for 22 euros, is the only copy I’ve ever seen.
Bob Dylan comic books #3: Bob Dylan Revisited
Artist Smudja also contributed to the third of my must-buy Bob Dylan comic books, Bob Dylan Revisited: 13 Graphic Interpretations of Bob Dylan’s Songs (WW Norton, 2009).
Smudja’s drawing, evoking the celebrated Savoy Hotel (London) video, adorns the front cover. He also contributes the chapter interpreting the song Hurricane.
The thirteen artists contributing to Bob Dylan Revisited exhibit a remarkably varied range of visual styles in their evocation of Dylan songs, from Blowin’ In The Wind to Not Dark Yet.
Bob Dylan Revisited is the richest, most ambitious of these three Bob Dylan comic books. The thirteen different artists’ styles are consistently outstanding. If I were forced, at gunpoint, to choose a favourite, I’d probably plump for Francois Avril’s Girl From The North Country.
Bob Dylan Revisited is also the most widely available of these three Bob Dylan comic books, thanks to the distribution reach of its US publisher WW Norton, who created the work by adapting an earlier French version.
I’ve occasionally seen Bob Dylan Revisited heavily discounted – surprising, considering its high quality. My photo, above, shows a window display copy at The Last Bookshop, the Oxford remainders outlet. When I visited – some time ago – they were selling from a big pile, at a giveaway £3 per copy.
The Pablo, Smudja and Norton books are all highly recommended.
Bob Dylan comic books? Or graphic novels? Or even bandes dessinees?
But I’m unsure of the best term to describe these types of book. Comic books? The most common, but these books aren’t comic! Graphic novels? Graphic certainly, but they’re hardly novels.
I’m comfortable with the French term, Bandes dessinees, but I’d welcome your guidance on the best English-language term to use to describe this desirable new category of Bob Dylan art.
Copyrights: text – © Gerald Smith, Rock Art Editions 2015; book covers – as indicated in captions. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art: Face Value portraits in US show have life, personality, individuality
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 23 June 2015.
Bob Dylan art, exhibited extensively in Europe since 2007, is now receiving increasing exposure in the USA.
The latest US exhibition is Bob Dylan: Face Value, showing at the Giffuni Gallery of The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio until 12 July.
Face Value is a small exhibition of Bob Dylan art, comprising 12 pastel on paper portraits. It was first shown at the National Portrait Gallery, London from August 2013 to January 2014.
The London Face Value show probably attracted the biggest audience so far for an exhibition of Bob Dylan art. The National Portrait Gallery, located in the very heart of tourist London is one of the most accessible galleries in the world. Free entry, a lengthy run and a fine catalogue helped ensure heavy footfall for this release of Bob Dylan art.
Face Value: mixed reviews for Bob Dylan art
It had mixed reviews, though. Waspish critic Brian Sewell (Q magazine, November 2103), dismissed the show: “Contemptible. Just rubbish. It is beyond my understanding that the National Portrait Gallery should exhibit such things.”
I saw it differently. Popping in several times, I enjoyed each viewing. The room of Bob Dylan portraits sat comfortably alongside priceless works by canonical artists like Rubens and Van Dyck, Warhol and Hockney. I warmed to the quality of the Bob Dylan art on display, particularly Dylan’s technique as a portraitist: he endows his subjects with life, personality, individuality.
If you’re a fan of Bob Dylan art and find yourself anywhere near Youngstown, Ohio this summer, I recommend that you call in to The Butler Institute of American Art to investigate this fine collection of portraits.
If you can’t make the show, consider buying the fine catalogue. It’s widely available, notably from the National Portrait Gallery in London.
(At the time of writing, http://www.butlerart.com/ was not linking; the Butler has a Facebook page.)
Copyright: images as indicated; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art: to buy or not to buy?
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 27 May 2015.
The launch of three signed limited edition prints from Bob Dylan The Brazil Series will be tempting some readers of ROCK ART EDITIONS to consider becoming owners of Bob Dylan art for the first time.
To buy or not to buy?
If you’re one of those who thinks carefully before parting with £1,000+, here’s a list of questions you might ask yourself before deciding.
First, you need to decide why you’d buy a limited edition print by Bob Dylan – are you an art lover, a Dylan fan/collector, or an investor?
Bob Dylan art for lovers of paintings
Would you be buying Bob Dylan art because you love paintings?
If so, you might ask yourself a supplementary question: why buy Bob Dylan art when you could buy a limited edition print by, say, Chagall, Miro or even Picasso for a similar price? Or when you could buy a couple of dozen high quality reproductions of masterpieces of Western art for under £1,000?
Bob Dylan art for fans/collectors
Would you be buying Bob Dylan art because you’re a fan or collector of all things Dylan?
If yes, would you rather buy a limited edition print of a Bob Dylan painting than, say, a rare pressing of the Freewheelin’ LP, or a mint copy from the original print run of one of the famous posters, or a limited edition photograph by, say, Daniel Kramer or Elliott Landy, or a first edition copy of Bob Dylan Writings And Drawings?
If you’d be buying a print simply to obtain Bob Dylan’s autograph, you’d certainly be saving yourself a lot of fruitless effort. Securing Dylan’s autograph by presenting him in person with a pen and piece of paper is well-nigh impossible. Dylan’s security cordon is commendably tight: you’d never get near enough to ask for his autograph.
But Dylan’s autograph is no longer rare – it’s circulating on many thousands of limited edition prints. Is £1,000+ a competitive price for a Dylan signature?
Which piece of Bob Dylan art would you buy? Fans/collectors can now choose from a wide selection. Bob Dylan art targeted at Everyman first became available in 2008, with several images in The Drawn Blank Series. Publishers Castle Galleries/Halcyon/Washington Green have added a new range of images from the same series every year since.
And now they’re also offering the first three prints from The Brazil Series – Ranchers, Boxing Gym and Favela Villa Broncos. More images from the Brazil Series will surely come. They’re all very different from the publisher’s Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank series.
Bob Dylan art for investors
You want to buy Bob Dylan art for investment? You read reports that Christie’s, New York just set a new auction record, selling Les Femmes d’Alger by Picasso for a gravity-defying $179m. So investing in art is a no-brainer, right?
If I was considering buying Bob Dylan art for investment, I’d ask myself a number of hard questions, including:
* which pieces of Bob Dylan art, from which of his ten series, should I buy?
* what return would I hope to make? Over what period?
* is there an after-market for limited edition prints by Bob Dylan?
* how, exactly, would I sell a piece or a portfolio of Bob Dylan art?
* how “limited” is a limited edition on offer?
* how likely is it that more versions of an image will be released?
* how much more Bob Dylan art will be offered for sale?
* will new releases dilute the value of my holding?
* rather than buying relatively low value Bob Dylan limited editions, should I buy Bob Dylan originals (at considerably higher prices) instead?
* are other types of Bob Dylan collectable more saleable?
* do other examples of rock art – eg Mick Jagger portraits by canonical artists like Andy Warhol and Richard Hamilton – have a better investment potential?
* would I be better off investing in limited edition prints by more celebrated 20thC artists – Matisse, Leger, Miro et al?
* how many pieces of Bob Dylan art would I need to make up a worthwhile investment portfolio?
* would I be better off investing in other, more conventional asset classes – property, shares, savings account… ?
* would I get more satisfaction from a holiday in California or the French Riviera, or from buying that new carbon fibre road bike I’ve been lusting after… ?
Bob Dylan art: to buy or not to buy?
These are some of the many questions that a novice buyer of Bob Dylan art might consider. You’ll have other questions – please share them with readers of ROCK ART EDITIONS by posting a comment via the Leave a Reply button at the top of this post.
In the end, of course, it’s a personal choice. Only you can decide whether or not you should buy Bob Dylan art. And whether that art should be a signed limited edition print from the new Bob Dylan The Brazil Series.
Your call. Good luck!
Details of the three new prints from Bob Dylan The Brazil Series: Castle Galleries.
Copyright: images as indicated; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art: the Brazil Series – three new signed, limited edition prints
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 18 May 2015.
Bob Dylan art is ever more accessible.
Castle Galleries, publishers of the Bob Dylan Drawn Blank Series, have just released three signed, limited edition prints from a new collection, Bob Dylan The Brazil Series.
The three images, Medium format in giclee on paper, are: Ranchers and Boxing Gym (both portrait, 15.5″ x 23.5″) and Favela Villa Broncos (landscape, 24″ x 18″). They are £1,110 each, unframed/£1,250 each, framed.
They’re also available as a portfolio of three prints (£2,950). All four products are signed and come in numbered limited editions of 295.
Bob Dylan art: The Brazil Series – background
Following The Drawn Blank Series, Bob Dylan art changed direction, with a very different looking collection, The Brazil Series. The Brazil pictures are bolder, more sombre examples of Bob Dylan art – more socially engaged, more concerned with groups of people.
Clearly conceived as a collection, The Brazil Series of paintings (acrylics on canvas) and drawings (pencil on paper) was exhibited at Museum for Kunst, Kopenhagen, National Gallery of Denmark, September 2010-February 2011.
The catalogue for Bob Dylan The Brazil Series has nearly 50 images – 80% were displayed in the Copenhagen exhibition. The hardback catalogue – highly recommended – has been popping up for some time in remainder shops: I spotted a pile in Oxford’s The Last Bookshop, discounted to £3 each, last October.
You can see where The Brazil Series fits within the growing body of Bob Dylan art in this ROCK ART EDITIONS guide to his first ten series.
The Brazil Series prints are available online from Castle Galleries, selected outlets in its High St chain (eg Cardiff and Cambridge) and some independent art retailers such as Hawthorn Gallery, in Stalybridge, Cheshire.
Coming soon on ROCK ART EDITIONS: Bob Dylan art: The Brazil Series – to buy or not to buy?
Copyright: images Bob Dylan and Castle Galleries, Museum for Kunst, Kopenhagen/Prestel; text Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art: the early work
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 27 April 2015.
Bob Dylan art has a high profile these days.
It’s because Bob Dylan has been busy as a painter and sculptor. He’s been more active as a visual artist than a recording artist ever since 2007’s The Drawn Blank Series exhibition in Chemnitz.
Bob Dylan was painting and drawing long before his artwork was presented in The Drawn Blank Series and the subsequent release of many other, different collections – surveyed here on ROCK ART EDITIONS in January. He was producing art even before Drawn Blank (1994), the book of drawings which provided the raw material for the Chemnitz paintings.
Here’s an outline of early Bob Dylan art, before Drawn Blank.
Music from Big Pink – Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank #1
Bob Dylan art had its first public outing with the album cover for Music from Big Pink (July 1968), the debut album by The Band, written around the time of the Basement Tapes sessions.
Opinions differ on the quality of the painting on Music from Big Pink. Some regard it as a childish daub. Others see a witty, playful document of the substance-enhanced Basement Tapes sessions. Dylan’s introduction into the picture of a woolly mammoth – uncommon in upstate New York in the 1960s – adds a Surrealist touch to his otherwise naif style.
Sing Out! magazine cover – Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank #2
The cover of the Oct/Nov 1968 issue of Sing Out!, the folk music magazine, was the second widely circulated reproduction of a piece of Bob Dylan art.
It’s clearly from the same hand as the cover of Music from Big Pink.
Untitled (Sara) – Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank #3
The original paintings of the covers of Music from Big Pink and Sing Out! will be valuable. Who knows where they are hanging? (Reproductions abound, of course, in countless Baby Boomer vinyl/CD/magazine collections.)
Some idea of the value of the originals of the two covers can be derived from the recent sale of Untitled (Sara), 1968, a portrait of Bob Dylan’s then wife. The framed oil on canvas was auctioned by Christie’s, London on 16 December 2014 with an estimated value of £50-70,000.
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank #4
The portrait of Sara, like the cover artwork for Music from Big Pink and Sing Out!, escaped the attention of most Bob Dylan fans at the time. But Dylan aficionados could hardly miss the self-portrait adorning the cover of the Self Portrait album (1970).
Most buyers of Self Portrait echoed the contemporary critical dismissal of the music on the album – “What is this sh*t?”. Those who gave any thought to the Bob Dylan art on the album sleeve were probably just as scathing about it as they were of the vinyl inside.
Self Portrait is now regarded rather more favourably. I expect a similar reappraisal of the self-portrait on the cover – though the new self-portrait on Another Self Portrait (2013) is destined to be rather more popular.
Writings & Drawings – Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank #5
Buyers of Writings & Drawings (1973) focussed on the writings – lyrics, including many then-unreleased songs and Dylan prose/poetry taken from LP artwork – and virtually ignored the drawings. Fair enough – Bob Dylan’s USP is his peerless use of language, not his proficiency as a draughtsman.
Revisiting Writings & Drawings decades after first publication, I found its fifteen drawings rather more compelling, especially in the updated version, Bob Dylan Lyrics 1962-1985, where all the drawings are placed alongside the songs they illustrate.
If you haven’t looked at these drawings for a while, I’d urge you spend ten minutes exploring them – if you know your Dylan, you’ll recognise the wit, the style and the worldview.
These drawings are probably under-appreciated. If I were Bob Dylan Inc., I’d be tempted to publish signed, limited edition prints of the fifteen pieces – they’re an unexploited revenue steam.
Album covers – Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank #6
Relatively little Bob Dylan art has been employed on his album covers – in sharp contrast to the discography of Joni Mitchell, Dylan’s nearest musician-artist peer.
The cover of Planet Waves (1974) is a striking monochrome image in what would become Bob Dylan’s signature Expressionist style. The CD artwork for Infidels (1983) and Empire Burlesque (1985) also includes Dylan drawings. Anyone familiar with Drawn Blank will recognise them.
Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank: conclusions
Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank consists of a few rarely-seen high-value originals and many reproductions which are are widely available at low cost.
There’s probably a market gap here, just waiting to be filled. I’d wager that well-executed limited editions of pre-Drawn Blank images would attract Bob Dylan art collectors and investors.
Your views on Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank
If you’re aware of other Bob Dylan art before Drawn Blank that I’ve missed here, please let me know: I’ll be delving deeper in future posts on ROCK ART EDITIONS and will welcome your contribution.
I’m also very interested to know what you think of Bob Dylan art – before and after Drawn Blank. Is it another window into the soul of a creative polymath? A waste of time? A harmless diversion? Please share your views via the “Leave a reply” link at the top of this post.
Copyright: text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS, 2015; images © Bob Dylan and publishers, dates as specified. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art hits Main St: Shadows in the Night promo is unmissable
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 6 February 2015. Copyright: text and image – ROCK ART EDITIONS. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art – images by and featuring Dylan – has been readily viewable on the web since the internet first became part of our lives.
Bob Dylan art has now hit Main Street, too.
The promo for Shadows in the Night, the new Dylan album, is virtually unmissable. City dwellers can now enjoy Bob Dylan art at street level, as part of the daily routine.
I spent last Saturday in Paris. The promo for Shadows in the Night was ubiquitous – it seemed to be everywhere. Posters, newspaper and magazine covers, in-store display/album play, radio play… . You just couldn’t avoid Dylan in the Left Bank/Montparnasse quartiers of Paris last Saturday.
Even after being reminded by Bob Dylan Inc for the entire afternoon that their man has new product to shift, I was still stunned by the Bob Dylan art exhibition awaiting me as I travelled on the Metro (aka Underground… subway…) back to my hotel.
Bob Dylan art exhibition: Duroc Metro station, Paris
The subterranean corridor linking lines 10 and 13 of Metro station Duroc had been transformed into a gallery of Bob Dylan art. As you’ll see from my photograph, above, the entire wall of one side of the tunnel was taken up by five – yes, five – large posters, side by side, of the Shadows in the Night album cover.
The album cover artwork, designed by Geoff Gans, impressive in CD size, looks even better in large-format poster size. The front cover portrait by John Shearer has Bob Dylan in an appropriately pensive moment; the blue and black colours reinforce the mood. I wonder, though, why Dylan appears caged, trapped behind bars, in a black space.
As for interpreting the CD’s intriguing back cover photograph, maybe I’ll get a clue after spending some quality time listening more carefully to the album.
I was puzzled by the promo text on the Paris posters, though: “Nouvel album: Sortie le 3 fevrier” (“… released on 3 February”, ie the following Tuesday, the same day as the US release date). Puzzled because the album had clearly been released by Saturday – I’d just been enjoying the displays and listening to the entirety of Shadows in the Night in Gibert Joseph and FNAC, the two major Paris music retailers.
Record industry embargoes on new music product are strictly enforced in England. Maybe things are more relaxed in France and other markets?
The Paris Metro posters are a tiny fragment of Bob Dylan art in public places – a fragment that I just happen to have noticed. But there are countless other examples of Bob Dylan art out there – posters promoting Shadows in the Night, portraits of Bob Dylan on magazine covers and newspaper front pages… .
Have you come across any examples of Bob Dylan art on a Main Street where you live? Please share them by Leaving a Reply, preferably with a link to an image, at the top of this post.
Bob Dylan art is everywhere: thanks in advance for sharing it.
Bob Dylan art: the first 10 series – introduction
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 14 January 2015. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art, released in ten series since 2007, is now a substantial body of work. Bob Dylan has recently been as busy producing visual art as he was recording albums in his mid-1960s heyday.
As his music output has diminished, Dylan has developed his visual art with trademark vigour – exactly what you’d expect from a creative artist with the energy levels and work ethic needed to undertake the Never Ending Tour.
Bob Dylan’s art is ambitious. It covers a variety of subject matter. And Dylan the artist is willing to tackle a wide range of different media.
Bob Dylan art is officially endorsed, with exhibitions of different work staged in four prestigious European public museums, in Germany, Denmark, Italy and England. Works for sale have been shown by two major commercial galleries, Gagosian in New York and Halcyon in London, as well as many smaller venues. The art world has embraced Bob Dylan.
The best-known Bob Dylan art is The Drawn Blank Series, which has seen several releases since 2007. Its signed, limited edition prints now adorn the walls of many thousands of collectors and investors.
New Bob Dylan art has come thick and fast since 2010, with the release of nine other series: Bob Dylan On Canvas, The Brazil Series, The Asia Series, Revisionist Art – Thirty Works, The Revisionist Art Series, Mood Swings (including Iron Works and Gangster Doors), The New Orleans Series and Face Value.
Here’s an introduction to this impressive array of Bob Dylan art.
Bob Dylan Art #1: The Drawn Blank Series
Bob Dylan art was launched with The Drawn Blank Series exhibition at Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Germany, in 2007. It was a collection of watercolours developed from the pencil sketches of Drawn Blank, his 1994 book.
Bob Dylan went on to create (and sign) limited edition prints of The Drawn Blank Series for publisher Washington Green, in a series of releases between 2008 and 2014. The graphics went on sale through Halcyon Gallery, London and the Castle Galleries chain, plus some independent UK art retailers and several US galleries.
ROCK ART EDITIONS recently reviewed the The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014 retrospective exhibition and the most recent, 2014 releases. The Drawn Blank Series is easily the best-known and most widely distributed series of Bob Dylan art.
Bob Dylan Art #2: Bob Dylan On Canvas
Halcyon Gallery has also exhibited original canvases on several occasions, notably in Bob Dylan On Canvas in February 2010. It contained 12 works, acrylics on canvas, including Two Sisters (pictured, left), two different versions of Train Tracks and one of Woman in Red Lion Pub, popular images from the limited edition prints, and some of my favourites from that series.
In addition, in 2013, Halcyon Gallery introduced a hybrid mini-series, Side Tracks, a collection of 325 prints of Train Tracks hand-embellished individually by the artist to create another set of unique artworks. (Side Tracks could be counted as another – an eleventh – series of Bob Dylan art.)
Bob Dylan Art #3: The Brazil Series
For his follow-up to The Drawn Blank Series, Bob Dylan, never one to stand still, produced a very different looking collection, The Brazil Series.
The Brazil pictures are bolder, more sombre, more socially engaged, more concerned with groups of people.
Clearly conceived as a collection, The Brazil Series of paintings (acrylics on canvas) and drawings (pencil on paper) were exhibited at Museum for Kunst, Kopenhagen, National Gallery of Denmark, September 2010-February 2011. The catalogue has nearly 50 images – 80% were displayed in the Copenhagen exhibition.
Bob Dylan Art #4: The Asia Series
The Asia Series of 18 acrylic and oil paintings on canvas were shown at Gagosian Gallery, New York in September/October 2011. The pictures, like The Brazil Series clearly conceived as a collection, reveal Bob Dylan exploring another, even more exotic, culture. My favourite images from The Asia Series include Monk (pictured) and The Bridge.
The Asia Series, like Chronicles, his outstanding book (“non-autobiography”), drew accusations of plagiarism. I’m an agnostic on such matters: I like the work, but haven’t devoted enough time to feel comfortable pontificating on its derivation. Readers with the time and inclination to research the issue will find plenty of discussion online.
Bob Dylan Art #5: Revisionist Art – Thirty Works by Bob Dylan
Revisionist Art – Thirty Works by Bob Dylan was exhibited at the prestigious Gagosian Gallery, New York, November 2012-January 2013. It consists of 30 pieces, jokey reworkings of old American magazine covers, many featuring female body parts, prominently.
The artworks of Revisionist Art, silkscreen on canvas, are a bridge too far for me. Ignorant of most of the cultural references, I’d need to educate myself in twentieth century American popular culture to get the in-jokes.
Bob Dylan Art #6: The Revisionist Art Series
Adjoining the Mood Swings show at Halcyon Gallery, London in 2013 (see below), several additional silkscreen prints, including the spoof cover of Life magazine, pictured here, featuring Humphrey Bogart and Woody Allen, were presented as the Revisionist Art Series.
As with the Gagosian Revisionist collection, above: this is not really my bag. Normally averse to the “my five years old daughter could do that” school of art criticism, I’m sorely tempted, in this case, to join that tedious conservative tendency. I just don’t get it… though I’m open to persuasion.
Bob Dylan Art #7: The New Orleans Series
The New Orleans Series of paintings, exhibited at Palazzo Reale, Milan in February/March 2013 looks like an interesting small collection of oils on canvas, mainly figurative.
But visiting Milan in early 2013 was a trip too far for me. I’d jump at the chance to see it in London, and would even find an excuse to see it in Paris or Berlin.
There is no printed catalogue, as far as I’m aware, so The New Orleans Series remains the least-known collection of Bob Dylan art. A pity because it looks intriguing.
Bob Dylan Art #8: Mood Swings – Iron Works
I was impressed, if a little confused, by the scale of Bob Dylan Mood Swings, staged in November 2013 at Halcyon Gallery, London.
The exhibition catalogue covered the iron sculptures, which I found interesting, if unengaging. I could see the skill, but the art escaped me.
I was confused by the curation. The three contiguous mini-exhibitions at the Halcyon Gallery – Gangster Doors, Revisionist Art Series, and Side Tracks – competed for attention with Bob Dylan’s iron creations.
Bob Dylan Art #9: Mood Swings – Gangster Doors
Gangster Doors was a series of six distressed car doors inspired by the exploits of folkloric US criminals like Al Capone and John Dillinger.
Shown alongside Bob Dylan Mood Swings – Iron Works, staged in November 2013 at Halcyon Gallery, London, it seemed almost incidental.
I generally admire Bob Dylan art, especially the paintings and drawings, and I’m particularly fond of some of the Drawn Blank, Brazil, Asia and New Orleans pieces. But Mood Swings – Gangster Doors, like Mood Swings – Iron Works, as well as Revisionist Art, leave me cold. I suspect that they might be very collectable, but they fail to excite.
Bob Dylan Art #10: Face Value
Face Value, a set of 12 pastel on paper portraits, occupied a small room of the National Portrait Gallery, London from August 2013 to January 2014.
The National Portrait Gallery, located in the very heart of tourist London, must be one of the most accessible in the world. It carries the prestige of a well-funded national collection. And entry is free.
I popped in several times and enjoyed each viewing, admiring Bob Dylan’s skills as a portraitist: he endows his subjects with life, personality, individuality.
I’d guess that the accessibility of the gallery, complemented by a lengthy run and a fine, widely-available catalogue, made Face Value the most popular Bob Dylan art exhibition so far.
Bob Dylan art: likes and dislikes
Of all the Bob Dylan art exhibited to the end of 2014, I favour the paintings – whether in water colours, gouache or acrylic. Many are engaging, stimulating, pleasing. It’s typical of contrarian Bob Dylan that, rejecting the Zeitgeist of abstraction and conceptual art, he opted to start showing his art in the guise of a traditional figurative painter.
His signature neo-Expressionist style, with its echoes of early twentieth century German and French painting, marks him as a singular talent. I can visualise Bob Dylan images hanging alongside canvases by Ecole de Paris masters like Georges Rouault and Chaim Soutine at the school’s unofficial HQ, the magnificent Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, on the Right Bank of the Seine, just upstream of Trocadero.
My painterly prejudices prevent me, however, from embracing Bob Dylan art in other media. Iron Works and the Gangster Doors – the two series on show in the Mood Swings show in London – didn’t engage me at all. Neither did the Revisionist Art – Thirty Works by Bob Dylan. My tastes are probably more conventional, more conservative than I realised: maybe I need to widen my horizons.
Overall, the Bob Dylan art presented in most of these ten series, is impressive. It’s an eloquent riposte to the naysayers – hardcore Dylan followers included – who denigrate the work. Perhaps it’s time they looked again. Bob Dylan is now much more than a giant of twentieth century music. He has established his credentials as a multi-disciplinary creative artist.
These ten series of Bob Dylan art in just eight years reveal him to be a prolific visual artist. Who knows how much more we can expect?
What do you think of Bob Dylan art?
Your comments are very welcome – please Leave a Reply via the link at the top of this post.
Bob Dylan art: coming soon on ROCK ART EDITIONS
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New Bob Dylan lyrics book: The Lyrics Since 1962 – deeply impressive, slightly perplexing
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 19 December 2014. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
The new Bob Dylan lyrics book – Bob Dylan The Lyrics Since 1962 – is deeply impressive. It’s a real heavyweight, physically as well as metaphorically. Its sheer bulk took me by surprise when I received my copy two days ago.
The rich binding, the quality of the paper and the precision printing make Bob Dylan The Lyrics Since 1962 a fitting artefact to showcase some of the finest writing in the English language from the last hundred years.
The inclusion of album cover artwork, variant lyrics from live performance, and detailed annotations by Christopher Ricks enhance a product that would be a triumph even without them.
Negatives? Hard to find. I’ve yet to scrutinise the content, but, judging it as an object, my only (minor) criticism of the new Bob Dylan lyrics book is that the cover design is a bit weak, considering the majestic content.
Late delivery of new Bob Dylan lyrics book
I’m slightly perplexed, though, by the late delivery of Bob Dylan The Lyrics Since 1962. When I ordered on 10 October, Amazon UK told me to expect delivery by 13-15 November. Then on 15 November, they informed me that the book had been “unexpectedly delayed” and that I should expect delivery by 19 December (ie today).
I know that publishers Simon & Schuster supplied orders to distributors for the original October/November publication dates, both in the USA and in Britain. I wonder why they had to delay supplying orders like mine? Production or distribution problems, I’d guess.
At the time of writing, Bob Dylan The Lyrics Since 1962 is in very short supply – hardly surprising for a limited edition of only 3,000. Amazon dot com were advertising copies a few hours ago, at $179.40, heavily discounted from the newly raised price of $300. If it’s still for sale when you check, I’d suggest you order immediately.
No such luck from other possible suppliers – publishers Simon & Schuster, Amazon UK and Deutschland and Isis magazine were all out of stock of the new Bob Dylan lyrics book when I checked late on Thursday night (18 December).
If you’ve missed this highly prized special edition of Bob Dylan The Lyrics Since 1962, all is not lost – you’ll be able to buy the mass market edition, scheduled for 3 November 2015, though I’d wager that that publication date will be brought forward.
Bob Dylan art: worth collecting? A good investment? The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 24 November 2014. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Is Bob Dylan art worth collecting?
Yes. To be precise, some Bob Dylan art is worth collecting.
Is Bob Dylan art also a good investment? Yes, it can be – but you need to know exactly what you’re buying.
Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014
You get a fair idea which Bob Dylan art is worth collecting and/or a good investment at Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014, an impressive – and revealing – retrospective exhibition running at Castle Fine Art, 24 Bruton Street, London W1 until 29 November. It’s well worth a journey – you can spend a couple of enjoyable hours there.
Bob Dylan art: worth collecting?
Not all Drawn Blank prints were created equal. Bob Dylan paintings first appeared at an exhibition at Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz in 2007-2008. Chemnitz is a small city west of Dresden – a fairly remote place in the former DDR, hence an ideal venue for Bob Dylan to test the waters with his painting.
The 92 sketches in Drawn Blank, Dylan’s 1994 book, were transformed into 322 different gouache and watercolour images, from which the 170 works exhibited at Chemnitz were selected.
A few of these paintings were also used for Washington Green’s first (2008) release of limited edition prints, but most of the publisher’s images appear to be slightly different gouache and water colour tableaux developed from the 1994 drawings.
How many of the 300 or so works in The Drawn Blank Series you’d want to see on your wall is a subjective matter. There’s a few dozen pieces that I’d be happy to hang alongside those of more critically acclaimed artists featured in ROCK ART EDITIONS, such as Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol and Peter Blake.
I’d consider buying about another third of the prints. But I struggle to enthuse over the rest of the works in Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series.
As I argued in a recent post on ROCK ART EDITIONS, I find The Drawn Blank Series 2014 to be a mixed bag. I love three of the eight images released, including a new colour version of Woman In Red Lion Pub, a familiar favourite. The other five? They don’t do it for me.
Bob Dylan art: a good investment?
In addition to judging Bob Dylan art as a collector, potential investors will also assess the work for its potential future growth in value.
Let’s start by considering three star performers in the current Castle Fine Art exhibition. If, on release in 2008, you’d bought Medium (36″ x 28″) versions of Man On A Bridge, Woman in Red Lion Pub and Train Tracks (photograph above), at £1,995 each (unframed), you would already be looking at a substantial capital gain: they are valued in this exhibition at £12,850, £12,850 and £15,350 respectively – a total of over £41,000, for an outlay of under £6,000.
But remember – that’s the value of these three limited editions from the 2008 release in the Medium size. Other releases and sizes of the same images haven’t performed as well. For example, the Standard (ie smaller, 27.5″ x 22″) Man On A Bridge and Woman in Red Lion Pub from the 2011 release are priced at £3,750, with the 2012 Man release at £2,750.
And remember – these prices are quoted by a gallery allied to the publisher of The Drawn Blank Series, a gallery trying to sell the whole collection. So these exhibition prices should be regarded as indicative, rather than definitive. Establishing a more accurate open market value for these three prints would require an analysis of pricing and sales data from independent dealers, eBay and, notably, the major auction houses.
This trio of images – Man On A Bridge, Woman in Red Lion Pub and Train Tracks – are, arguably, the pick of the Drawn Blank crop. They are very desirable artefacts to own and hang on your wall, but you need to carefully consider their investment potential.
The Portfolios – in this case, packages of different versions of the same image – are probably not as good investments as the individual prints. For example, the Standard sized 2008 Portfolio of four versions of Train Tracks 2008 is now priced at £28,500, while the 2008 Portfolio of four Man On A Bridge prints is on sale here for £13,500, almost the same price as the Medium 2008 individual graphic.
Bob Dylan limited editions – how limited?
How limited is a Bob Dylan limited edition print?
Take the wonderful Man On a Bridge as an example, again. The original 2008 Medium print – the one which has soared in value – was produced in a limited edition of 295 – a very acceptable limit to the edition.
But those 295 aren’t the end of the story. The image has also been released in different colours, different sizes, different packages and different media between 2008 and 2014.
Only 295 of Medium size Man On a Bridge prints (the high value one) were released in 2008. But count the copies released in the different versions, add those sold in sets and complete collections, not to mention Artist’s Prints and Printer’s Prints, and you begin to realise that “limited edition” is an elastic concept.
A quick calculation indicates that there are over 3,000 officially released copies of Man On A Bridge in the wild right now. And who knows how many more releases the piece will see?
You could, of course, argue that an aggregate edition of a few thousand is no barrier to purchasing a Bob Dylan artefact as an investment. After all, the recent Bob Dylan The Lyrics Since 1962 was released in a limited edition of 3,000. That seemed to me like an unnecessarily small edition, probably a commercial miscalculation by publishers Simon and Schuster, and I ordered my copy without a second thought.
Despite a relentless programme of annual releases since 2008, only a proportion of the images shown at Chemnitz or, indeed, catalogued by Washington Green in their handsome 2008 monograph, have been released so far. Many owners will be hoping that the weaker prints offered for sale in 2014 might indicate that the well is running dry.
Artist and publisher are, of course, within their rights to keep releasing new Drawn Blank Series artwork for as long as there is unsatisfied demand from collectors and investors.
Bob Dylan art: original Drawn Blank Series paintings
In addition to the limited edition prints, within the reach of most potential buyers, many of the original paintings (from which the limited editions were printed) were put on sale from 2008.
You’d expect them to be mostly sold. Many are reportedly valued in the low hundreds of thousands of pounds. An acrylic Man On A Bridge, wearing a fetching brown-grey coat, on display at the Castle Fine Art exhibition, has a six-figure price tag.
And whether the 300+ originals prepared for Chemnitz have been – or will be – sold is unknown. They could double the number of original, high value Drawn Blank artworks in circulation.
Do your research, get safeguards
If you are tempted to buy a piece of Bob Dylan art from this series, your first step might be to work out exactly why you want to buy it: would you be buying as a fan? A collector? Or an investor?
Whatever your motive, you need to do some homework: information is available to help you reduce risk – in exhibition and sales catalogues, as well as online resources.
Once you’ve decided to buy a piece, you need to check that it’s genuine. You’ll insist on a certificate of authenticity, and reliable information on the artwork’s provenance. You’re obviously safest with an established outlet in the Castle Galleries chain, or one of the independent UK galleries supplied with stock by publishers Washington Green.
But, beyond these outlets, it’s a good bet that there will be fake Dylan prints doing the rounds already: thieves abound on the fringes of the art world and the Dylan Universe. They target mugs who don’t know what they’re buying.
Bob Dylan art: how good is it?
To summarise: some Bob Dylan art from The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014 is probably a good investment. But do your homework before you buy.
If you’re buying a print from Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series purely for pleasure, you’ll have a piece of Bob Dylan hanging on your wall, complete with signature – even if it drops in value.
And make no mistake: the Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014 exhibition underlines Bob Dylan’s credentials as an artist to be taken seriously. His portraits and cityscapes are particularly engaging. Like Dylan songs, the paintings are clearly the work of an acute observer. Many of these pictures reinforce Dylan’s standing as a non-pareil poet of the everyday, one who detects multiple meanings in the mundane.
Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014 reveals a body of work with a singular vision, expressed in a unique style. To my mind, the best work in this collection positions Bob Dylan alongside the German Expressionists.
Am I biased? Certainly: Bob Dylan and visual art are two of my central life interests. To see them combined, as in the best work in Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series 2018-2014, leaves me truly smitten.
Seven years ago, there was very little Bob Dylan art around – the drawings in the 1994 book, earlier sketches in Writings and Drawings and its mid-1980s update, and a modicum of album cover artwork. The world now seems awash with Dylan artwork.
For this, collectors and investors are indebted to Ingrid Mossinger of Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, who realised that the sketches in Drawn Blank (1994) could be transformed into an impressive, extensive collection of paintings.
And to publishers Washington Green who saw the commercial opportunity presented at the Chemnitz exhibition, and made Bob Dylan art accessible to most citizens of the developed world.
Washington Green have an excellent online catalogue of Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014.
All images © Bob Dylan/Washington Green 2014, except Chemnitz catalogue © Prestel 2007, and Drawn Blank © Random House 1994.
Disclaimer: if you are considering buying art from The Drawn Blank Series, please see the disclaimer on the About ROCK ART EDITIONS page.
Bob Dylan art: The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014 – a mixed bag
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 10 November 2014. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art just keeps on rolling off the production line. Yesterday saw the launch of Bob Dylan – The Drawn Blank Series 2014, eight new prints developed from sketches first published in Drawn Blank, Dylan’s largely ignored, but oh-so-desirable, slim 1994 book.
The eight limited edition graphics just released are on sale at outlets in the Castle Galleries chain in the UK.
Bob Dylan art – The Drawn Blank Series 2014: smaller prints
The eight new prints are available individually and in a range of boxed sets. Six have been released in a “Standard” (53.5cm x 40cm) size.
My personal favourite is Woman in Red Lion Pub, a memorable image. Dylan exhibits enviable technique here – how on Earth did he make this woman – a broad-beamed, middle-aged barfly with greasy hair – so alluring?
Its blue colour palette is a delight, though I prefer the 2008 version, where Woman is wearing a canary yellow dress. The earlier print’s brighter colour and larger size emphasise the subject’s perpetual struggle with her weight (and poor dress sense).
The other striking Standard image is the evocative Sunday Afternoon: you just feel you’ve been there. Cityscape also appeals to me.
I’d expect this trio to sell well.
The other three Standard prints are less appealing. The weakest image, Slide, suggests that publishers Washington Green might be near to exhausting the rich seam of images from Drawn Blank.
The Standard-sized prints are published in editions of 295, at £1500 each, unframed.
Bob Dylan art – The Drawn Blank Series 2014: larger prints
There are two “Medium” (75cm x 56cm) prints in the new releases. Train Tracks has been one of the key images since the launch of The Drawn Blank Series in 2008. It has been released in a variety of colours. I find the new image, in vivid scarlet, unconvincing.
Sunflowers, the other Medium print, is disappointing: it doesn’t say “sunflowers” to me.
Medium-sized prints are published in editions of 295, at £2750 each, unframed.
Bob Dylan art – The Drawn Blank Series 2014: box sets for investors
Astute publishers, Washington Green are well aware that Bob Dylan – The Drawn Blank Series appeals to investors as well as Dylan collectors and hardcore fans.
And so you can buy box set collections of the new images – the Medium pair at £4950, the Standard six at £8,500, and the Complete Collection (all eight prints) for £12950.
Bob Dylan art – The Drawn Blank Series: 2014 v 2008
The 2008 releases in Bob Dylan – The Drawn Blank Series were spectacular. The key images, Woman in Red Lion Pub, Man on a Bridge, and Train Tracks, established Bob Dylan as a painter with a distinctive vision, an artist to be taken seriously. He had created some beautiful, engaging pieces.
There are some fine artworks in the new, 2014 releases, too, but I find it difficult to generate the enthusiasm I felt six years ago. To my taste, The Drawn Blank Series 2014 is a mixed bag.
New lyrics book, deluxe Basement Tapes, Drawn Blank 2008-2014…
It’s exciting times for rock art collectors/investors partial to Bob Dylan artworks and artefacts.
First we had the publication of Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962, a prized limited edition book. Then, earlier this week, saw the release of The Basement Tapes Complete, a deluxe box set with an exclusive 120 page hardback book. Yesterday’s publication of Bob Dylan – The Drawn Blank Series 2014, introduced eight new limited edition prints.
And, from next week, you’ll be able to assess the new artwork alongside The Drawn Blank Series prints released in annual batches since 2008.
Castle Galleries’ flagship outlet, Castle Fine Art (24 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London W1), is staging an eagerly-awaited retrospective exhibition, Bob Dylan – The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014 from next Thursday, 13 November, until 29 November.
It should be a definitive show for Bob Dylan collectors and investors. I’ll be reviewing it here, so make sure you check back late next week – and bookmark ROCK | ART | EDITIONS.
Diligent Dylan collectors and investors need to stay alert these days. ROCK | ART | EDITIONS is tracking and assessing new product, but if you know of something I’m missing, please share your information and insights – “Leave a Reply” by clicking on the link at the top of the post.
Washington Green, publishers of Bob Dylan – The Drawn Blank Series, document their Bob Dylan art in a comprehensive catalogue.
New book of Bob Dylan lyrics: how the earlier collections compare
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 30 October 2014. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
The new Bob Dylan lyrics book, Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962, was today – only hours after it went on sale – rising in value.
This morning, with amazon.com apparently out of stock, re-sellers were asking up to $500 for a copy of the book from the limited edition of 3,000, launched yesterday at $200.
One early buyer complained that the edition of 3,000 does not, as I speculated here last Saturday, have a slipcase – contrary to at least one of the promotional images.
The new Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962 is clearly desirable, but how does it compare with previous collections of Bob Dylan lyrics? Does it replace them or complement them? And how desirable are the earlier collections?
Bob Dylan lyrics: three previous collections
There have been three previous collections of Bob Dylan lyrics: Bob Dylan Writings And Drawings; Lyrics 1962-1985 by Bob Dylan; and Bob Dylan Lyrics 1962-2001.
The Bob Dylan lyrics collections have a complex publishing history. There are many different versions of all three collections – different editions, different bindings (hardback and paperback), different printings within each, different covers and designs, and different publishers in different countries.
The examples from these collections, shown below, are books I’ve bought in London. There will probably have been different versions on sale where you live.
Bob Dylan Writings And Drawings
On publication in 1973, Bob Dylan Writings And Drawings was a revelation. The first generation of Dylan devotees revered it as a holy text.
The Bob Dylan drawings were largely ignored at the time. With hindsight, you can now see the emergence of the draughtsman who would later develop into the artist behind the Drawn Blank book and its lucrative offspring, the Drawn Blank Series of limited edition prints.
My copy of Bob Dylan Writings And Drawings (photograph) was first published by Granada in London in 1974, and was reprinted at least four times up to 1980.
It had been first published as a hardback in 1973, in the US by Alfred A Knopf, and in England by Jonathan Cape. The hardback version also seems to have been reprinted at least four times.
The paperback has little sale value: I replaced an original, battered copy with that in the photograph at the Oxfam second-hand bookshop in Oxford a couple of years ago, for £2.99. The hardback versions are more collectable – decent used copies retail for about £50.
Lyrics 1962-1985 by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan Writings And Drawings was brought up to date (and re-titled) in 1985 by a handsome Alfred A Knopf hardback and then by this large-format paperback (Jonathan Cape, London, 1987). It added subsequent album releases, up to Empire Burlesque.
I also have a small format paperback version, published by HarperCollins in 1994.
The Knopf hardback, available second hand for about £50, is desirable, the two paperbacks less so – that pictured cost me less than £5.
Bob Dylan Lyrics 1962-2001
Bob Dylan Lyrics 1962-2001 (published in 2004) takes the story up to “Love And Theft”. It dispenses with the drawings but adds artwork taken from album covers. I bought this hardback copy for £5.99 at a Virgin Records “fire sale”; it now costs up to £50, second hand.
You can still buy the subsequent paperback version (Simon & Schuster, 2006) for about £15. Its content looks identical to that of the 2004 hardback – the only obvious difference is the slightly smaller format.
It has the most engaging cover of any of the versions of Bob Dylan lyrics: not the most collectable version but, to my eyes, the most attractive.
Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962: replacement or complement?
For fans seeking the most complete book of lyrics, Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962 clearly replaces all three earlier collections. It includes the lyrics of albums since “Love And Theft”, plus – big bonus – lyrics from The Bootleg Series, published for the first time.
And I’m looking forward to reading the Christopher Ricks annotations – another bonus. Ricks is one of the most acute Dylan commentators.
Most fans looking for the most complete collection of Bob Dylan lyrics will probably wait until the October 2015 publication of the $50 “mass market” edition of Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962.
For collectors, who enjoy assembling artefacts in sets, Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962 nicely complements earlier collections. It’s priced within the reach of most Dylan collectors and will find a place alongside the three earlier collections of Bob Dylan lyrics.
For investors, Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962 is the only lyrics collection with scope for significant growth in value, though few true investors will be interested in an asset priced at a mere $200.
Hardcore investors will have considered only the limited edition of 50, priced at $5,000. And some will have considered buying rather more than one copy.
Are you a Dylan fan? A collector? Or an investor? Why do you buy collections of Bob Dylan lyrics?
New Bob Dylan lyrics book – The Lyrics Since 1962: a must-buy
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog on 27 October 2014. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan lyrics stand out as one of the cultural high peaks of the last half century. The three different collections published since 1973 are testament to an extraordinary talent.
Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962
Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962, the new, fourth, collection, is a must-buy limited edition for rock art collectors and investors. It’s published by Simon & Schuster in the USA next Tuesday, 28 October 2014. Amazon UK advise me to expect delivery of my order after Thursday 6 November.
Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962 is important for readers of ROCK | ART | EDITIONS because it’s likely to become a sought-after rarity very quickly. It’s published as a limited edition of 3,000, priced at $200 – £120 to English buyers, though Amazon UK discounted it to about £80.
According to the publishers, Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962 runs to “1,034 pages, featuring full-color original album art throughout. It is the first comprehensive, rigorously annotated, and definitive collection of Bob Dylan’s lyrics to be published… traces the evolution of Dylan’s artistry by documenting and comparing his original compositions to the recorded songs… including the subtle changes he’s made throughout years of live performances.”
Simon & Schuster continue: “This is an extraordinary work – truly a collector’s item.” I don’t usually endorse new product hype, but I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment.
But you’re probably too late to buy a copy from Amazon: neither their UK nor US sites is still advertising it. They’ll sell you a Kindle version, with the same content, but digital editions are of little interest to collectors and investors.
ISIS, the premier Bob Dylan fanzine and the leading dedicated supplier of Dylan product, is out of stock, too: the ISIS shop was reporting yesterday: “Sorry! Sold Out.”
Other retailers? You’ll need to hurry: good luck! It’s small consolation, but it won’t be long before some of the first buyers are selling them online “brand new… unopened…” – at a substantial premium.
I can’t make out from the promotion whether the photograph above is of the edition of 3,000. I suspect that it might show the deluxe version, described below, and that the standard edition will not be slip-cased.
Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962: Special Edition
A deluxe version, Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962: Special Edition Signed by Bob Dylan, is even more collectable, though obviously it’s a higher risk as an investment.
Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962: Special Edition Signed by Bob Dylan is published in a limited edition of only 50, priced at $5000 per copy. It’s promoted on a dedicated website.
I’d guess that dedicated Dylan collectors and serious rock art investors will have already snapped up the 50 copies.
For the mass market, Simon & Schuster indicate that they plan to publish another hardback version of Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962, in October 2015, at $50. It will satisfy those who buy books for their content rather than their collectability as artefacts – over 99% of Bob Dylan fans.
There have been three previous collections of Bob Dylan lyrics. They’ll be covered in a separate ROCK | ART | EDITIONS post next week.
Bob Dylan Inc?
The hugely welcome new Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962 is the latest in a long line of product innovations by what some fans derisively call Bob Dylan Inc.
It’s true that the Dylan “organisation” is active – and outstanding – at monetising the musician’s creativity. Facing the collapse of the market for recorded music head on, Bob Dylan Inc has cleverly diversified its product lines – into books of lyrics, The Bootleg Series, deluxe collectable CD boxes, limited edition prints, ceaseless touring, and the rest.
It has successfully extended the Dylan brand, and moved it into high price bands. Bob Dylan might be the creative genius at the centre of everything, but Bob Dylan Inc also demonstrates something akin to commercial genius.
Some fans decry all this activity. I admire it: everyone’s a winner! Dylan continues to flex his creative muscles, and gets a just reward for his abundant talent. Hard-core fans can choose to enjoy a never-ending stream of impressive, enjoyable new product.
Most Dylan fans I know buy almost any new Dylan product, sight unseen. They will have already ordered their copy of Bob Dylan – The Lyrics Since 1962.
If you’re a Bob Dylan collector/investor, make sure you bookmark ROCK | ART | EDITIONS and come back next week for a related post, on the desirability of the three previous collections of Bob Dylan lyrics published since 1973.
© ROCK ART EDITIONS 2014
Bob Dylan art “contemptible”, Paul McCartney’s “childish”: Q magazine on rockers who paint
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog in 2014. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Bob Dylan art On The Face Of It: Skip Sharpe is “Contemptible. Just rubbish”. The portrait should not have been exhibited by the National Portrait Gallery, according to critic Brian Sewell, in his Pop Goes The Easel, a scathing survey of rock musicians who paint.
Sewell’s damning piece was published in Q magazine, November 2013, to coincide with the Bob Dylan Face Value show at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
The critic goes on to lambast other rock-musicians-turned-painters. Artwork by Beatles bassist Paul McCartney is dismissed as “childish rubbish”. Edwyn Collins’ artwork shows promise… when judged as the work of a 14-year old! Daniel Johnston’s Captain America is “… just awful. Utter, utter rubbish”.
Funny, that. I enjoyed the Bob Dylan Face Value exhibition, a small gallery of distinctive portraits. They successfully capture Dylan’s penetrating, sceptical, questioning worldview. My only criticism was that the show didn’t have enough pictures.
You can judge Face Value for yourself – the handsome, collectable catalogue, published by the National Portrait Gallery, London, is still widely available. I was also impressed by Paul McCartney: Paintings, the 1999 and 2000 catalogues of the Beatle’s artwork: I’m not keen on Macca’s music, but I do like his painting.
Brian Sewell is a celebrated London-based art critic known for his lively journalism and entertaining TV appearances. He tends not to, er, sit on the fence.
The dismissive tone in his Q article was echoed in the recent assessment of some rocker-painters by Guardian critic Jonathan Jones, covered here last week. (Bob Dylan got off lightly.)
I’m collecting critical commentaries – positive and negative – on rock musicians who paint, to discuss on ROCK | ART | EDITIONS. If you come across any critiques, please email me.
Bob Dylan art good. Ronnie Wood art not so good…
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog in 2014. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
A recent review of rock musicians who paint gives Bob Dylan the thumbs up. Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood isn’t so lucky.
According to Jonathan Jones’s article in The Guardian newspaper (posted on 8 September 2014), Bob Dylan art has “a basic toughness and competence to it – some of his intelligence shines through… (his art) enriches his achievement as a myth maker.”
But “There is no point at all to Ronnie Wood’s art…”, according to Jones.
ROCK | ART | EDITIONS favourite Joni Mitchell has “a style as an artist… paintings that are worth a second look. Perhaps a third… is making art that really matters to her.” Paul Simonon (The Clash) also gets Jones’s seal of approval.
Not so Marilyn Manson (the painting reviewed is “…stupid and incompetent”) or Paul Stanley of Kiss (his sample painting is “dreck… rubbish”).
There’s no mention in the Guardian article of Miles Davis or Leonard Cohen, both highly regarded here, or even Don Van Vliet (aka Capt Beefheart), seen by many as the most accomplished rock muso painter.
Art critic Jonathan Jones certainly knows far more about art than me, so I find his views well worth considering – and I recommend you to read his article. Whether you share Jones’s views is, of course, entirely up to you.
How to judge rock art
I don’t believe there are any objective criteria for assessing a painting – or any other creative work, for that matter.
Being a successful musician doesn’t mean you’ll become the next Rembrandt if you pick up a paintbrush. But it probably means that your chances are slightly higher than the Average (less creative) Joe.
And a few top rockers are demonstrably multi-talented. You want to discuss Bob Dylan’s creativity across different media? How long have you got? Bob Dylan art? I love (much of) it.
Everyone judges a painting (or a piece of music) differently. I suspect that our initial response is emotional and that we then impose intellectual criteria as a secondary process, to validate emotional preferences.
When I start to think about a painting (… music… film… novel…) I usually ask:
* does the work evoke an emotional response?
* does it say anything worthwhile? of interest to me?
* is the execution good enough to let the above shine through?
Artists covered on ROCK | ART | EDITIONS
Judged by these criteria, most rock musicians covered in ROCK | ART | EDITIONS succeed as visual artists. So, I’ll continue to favour painters like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simonon. Ronnie Wood – and even Marilyn Manson and Paul Stanley – will also be included.
I suspect you won’t be shy in letting me know if you think this is a misjudgment!
Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison: three key limited edition books
First published on the ROCK ART EDITIONS blog in 2014. Copyright: text – ROCK ART EDITIONS; images – rights owners as indicated. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
A Bob Dylan book costing £450. A Rolling Stones book in a box set priced at $750. And a new book of Van Morrison lyrics retailing at £500.
What on earth is happening?
Well, the ever-innovative world of rock art is maturing, and limited edition books are taking their place alongside limited edition prints and photographs as key targets for collectors.
Here are three tempting new(ish) limited edition books by top rock musicians.
#1 Bob Dylan – Drawn Blank
There have been several catalogues of the releases of Bob Dylan’s Drawn Blank prints.
The latest, Bob Dylan – The Drawn Blank Series Catalogue (2013), comes in two versions: a standard version, priced at £45; and Bob Dylan – The Drawn Blank Series Catalogue Deluxe Edition, housed in a boxed package, including two limited edition pencil sketch lithographs, in a limited edition of 999, priced at £450.
Available from publishers Halcyon Gallery
#2 Rolling Stones – The Brussels Affair Box, Collector’s Edition
A Brussels Affair (1973), long a key Rolling Stones audio bootleg, has been brought in-house for official release by the Rolling Stones Archive.
The magnificent album is available as an MP3 download, retailing for a giveaway $7.
The considerate folk at Rolling Stones Archive have catered for serious Rolling Stones collectors by also releasing a deluxe package, with the music presented on two CDs and as a triple set of 180gm vinyl LPs.
The highlight of the package for me, though, is the striking cased book documenting the 1973 tour, with text by Nick Kent and photographs by Michael Putland, numbered and signed by them… and Mick Jagger.
The box also has a lithograph of the 1973 tour poster (and a custom-made watch!)
The Brussels Affair Box – Collector’s Edition comes in a limited edition of 1,727, priced at $750.
Available from the Stones Archive
#3 Van Morrison – Lit Up Inside
And on 2 October Faber are to release the selected lyrics of Van Morrison, as a trade hardback, a Limited Edition of 250 (£150) and a Deluxe Edition of 50 (£500).
Lit Up Inside is a double first. It marks the first publication of Van Morrison lyrics. And it’s the first venture into limited edition publishing in the rock market by Faber, the legendary London publisher best known for its long association with TS Eliot.
Available from Faber
These are innovative limited edition books from a trio of top rock acts … very tempting.
Bob Dylan images: three to savour
Bob Dylan is both subject and source of top quality rock art: I come across numerous Bob Dylan images – of and by him – every week.
Here are three recent striking examples – a photograph, a poster and a dedicated exhibition.
Bob Dylan images #1: Richard Avedon photograph
This delicious 1965 photograph is the star attraction of Richard Avedon People, a new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, 2 August-17 November 2014.
Bob Dylan images #2: Blowin in the Mind poster
There are innumerable Bob Dylan posters in circulation. This is one of my favourites – Blowin in the Mind, Mr Tombourine Man by Martin Sharp, Big O Posters, 1967.
It was displayed – and salivated over – at a splendid small exhibition, The Great Refusal, Protesting 1948-84, at the Hayward Gallery, London, last November.
Why is the poster so potent? Because it transports you immediately to a time and place – the Summer of Love, California.
Thankfully, Bob Dylan wasn’t really part of that scene. The poster perpetuates a myth. It doesn’t matter, though, this is art, not documentary.
Bob Dylan images #3: Face Value, National Portrait Gallery, London
Bob Dylan: Face Value was a lovely one-room exhibition of a dozen sombre pastel portraits by the musician at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2013. Proof, if any were needed, that Bob Dylan artwork has now been accepted into the artistic canon.
If you missed the exhibition, you can still buy the catalogue, Bob Dylan: Face Value (£25), from the National Portrait Gallery.
Side Tracks, new Bob Dylan limited edition, just released
Halcyon Gallery, London W1 have just published Side Tracks by Bob Dylan, the latest release in The Drawn Blank Series.
Each copy of Side Tracks (full title: Side Tracks – 17 October 1964 – Detroit, Michigan) in the limited edition of 327 is individually hand-finished and signed by Bob Dylan. Measuring 122 x 91cm, the piece is priced at £25,000.
Different versions of the original image, formerly entitled Train Tracks, have been published in several limited editions since 2008.
Train Tacks is the signature image of The Drawn Blank Series, based on pencil drawings by Bob Dylan published in his book of the same name in 1994.
According to Halcyon:
“Produced exclusively for Halcyon Gallery, Sidetracks is a running series of 327 unique prints, each hand embellished by the artist. In each version, he uses the same coloured reproduction as his starting point, but the colour and texture vary depending on the brushstrokes, with each image a more nuanced version of the last.”
For Rock Art Editions, The Drawn Blank Series by Bob Dylan is key rock art. I’ll soon be dissecting it here in some detail.
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And your comments on the art of Bob Dylan will be welcomed.
Rare Bob Dylan photographs in small limited edition
Collectors of rock art featuring Bob Dylan will be interested in a strikingly intimate rare portrait of Dylan in his mid-1960s pomp. It’s available in a new limited edition of 15 by French photographer Tony Frank, from www.artsper.com
The large print (60 x 80cm) is priced at €3700, unframed.
Tony Frank, a new name to me, is a freelance who photographed for French poprock magazines before joining Agence Sygma-Corbis.
He’s best known for his collections on pop icons such as Johnny Hallyday and Serge Gainsbourg, artists with massive traction in France, but limited appeal outside l’Hexagone.
Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and John Lennon portraits in David Bailey exhibition
Portraits of Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and John Lennon are the rock art highlights of a career-spanning exhibition of the work of David Bailey running at London’s National Portrait Gallery until 1 June.
Bailey’s Stardust features over 250 works by the celebrated English photographer. It includes a whole room devoted to shots of the Rolling Stones.
According to the Gallery, “Bailey photographed the Rolling Stones for a number of album and single covers and made candid portraits of the group backstage on tour, as well as formal portraits of Jagger with friends and family.”
Fellow members of the LDUFCM (Lord, Deliver Us From Celebrities Movement) will be relieved that the exhibition goes well beyond the celeb focus suggested by its title, covering, for example, Bailey’s photography of native people in Australia, Sudan, India and Papua New Guinea, as well as the badlands of London’s East End.
Key Bob Dylan photographs: exhibition at Portsmouth Guildhall
There are many collections of photographs documenting the life and times of Bob Dylan.
Few are as important as those shot by Barry Feinstein in 1966, when Dylan used his European tour to introduce his new, grown-up music, splitting his fanbase in the process.
Barry Feinstein photographed that epic tour. His classic images were collected in a must-have book, Real Moments, published in 2008, and have been exhibited in various locations over the last five years. Now it’s the turn of Portsmouth Guildhall, on England’s south coast.
The Guildhall has a special place in the hearts of English Dylan fans: in September 2000, the lovely small venue hosted two of Dylan’s best concerts of the last quarter century, immortalised on a 4CDR bootleg, Great Expectations.
I know they were superlative concerts because I spent both standing at the stage, virtually underneath Dylan’s microphone.
Here’s the official publicity:
REAL MOMENTS: BOB DYLAN BY BARRY FEINSTEIN
Saturday 22 Feb 2014 – Thursday 03 Apr 2014
£3 entry/£2 when bought with concert tickets. £8 family of x4
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS EXHIBITION WILL OPEN ON SATURDAY 22nd FEBRUARY.
Access All Areas: The Portsmouth Music Experience presents Real Moments – A Bob Dylan photographic exhibition by Barry Feinstein.
Barry Feinstein was a photographer, camera man and art director who created many of the entertainment industry’s most compelling and memorable images. His work has appeared in countless publications including Life, Look, Time, Esquire, Newsweek, GQ, Rolling Stone, Mojo and the New York Times. Most famous for his album cover artwork, Barry is responsible for over 500 cover shoots including the classic All Things Must Pass by George Harrison, Peal by Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton’s first solo album, Ringo by Ringo Starr, the Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan, and the iconic fisheye image of the Byrds on Mr Tambourine Man.
Barry was the exclusive photographer on Bob Dylan’s European Tour in 1966 and again for his North American Tour of 1974. The photographs in this exhibition appeared in his book, Real Moments published by Omnibus Press. An exhibition was held at the National Portrait Gallery in London and was extended due to the popularity of the display. Barry’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art, The Columbus Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Cite de la Musique in Paris, The Hunter Museum, The Annenberg Centre for photography and the National Portrait Galleries of England and Scotland.
Before entering the music industry, Barry photographed leading Hollywood and political figures of his day from JFK to Nixon and Marlon Brando to Judy Garland. During his lengthy career he received over 30 US and international art director and photojournalism awards.
– See more at: www.portsmouthguildhall.org.uk/