Category Archives: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan art: US exhibition of Face Value portraits – life, personality, individuality

Bob Dylan art - Face Value, London

Face Value London exhibition poster © National Portrait Gallery London 2013

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.

Bob Dylan art

Skip Sharpe portrait from Bob Dylan: Face Value © Bob Dylan/NPG London 2013

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.

Bob Dylan art: pastel portraits

Bob Dylan art: Face Value, 2013 exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London. photo © Gerald Smith 2013

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.

Bob Dylan art: Face Value portrait, Skip Sharpe

Bob Dylan art: Face Value catalogue © National Portrait Gallery 2013

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, was not linking; the Butler has a Facebook page.)

Bob Dylan art: to buy or not to buy?

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.

Bob Dylan art: Boxing Gym 2015

Boxing Gym, Bob Dylan The Brazil Series © Bob Dylan/Castle Galleries 2015

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?

Bob Dylan art

Man On A Bridge, Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series © Bob Dylan 2008

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… ?

Mick Jagger by And Warhol

Mick Jagger 1975 © Andy Warhol 1975

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

Bob Dylan art: The Brazil Series

Bob Dylan art – Favela Villa Broncos, The Brazil Series © Bob Dylan/Castle Galleries 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.

Bob Dylan art - The Brazil Series Copenhagen exhibition catalogue 2010

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

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

Bob Dylan art - Music from Big Pink by The Band - cover art by Bob Dylan 1968

Music from Big Pink, The Band – cover © Bob Dylan 1968

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.

Bob Dylan art - Sing Out! - cover art © Bob Dylan 1968

Sing Out! Oct-Nov 1968 – cover art © Bob Dylan 1968

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.)

Bob Dylan art - portrait of Sara Dylan, painting by Bob Dylan

Detail from Untitled (Sara), 1968, oil, by Bob Dylan

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.

Bob Dylan art Self Portrait

Self Portrait © Bob Dylan 1970

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.

Bob Dylan art - Writings & Drawings

Lay Lady Lay, one of fifteen sketches in Writings & Drawings © Bob Dylan 1972

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.

Bob Dylan art - Planet Waves - cover art by Bob Dylan 1974

Planet Waves – cover art © Bob Dylan 1974

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

Bob Dylan album cover, Shadows in the Night

Bob Dylan art, Paris Metro: Shadows In The Night promo © Gerald Smith 2015

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

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

The Drawn Blank Series 2010 release, Man On A Bridge

Man On A Bridge © Bob Dylan and Washington Green 2010

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

Bob Dylan art The Drawn Blank Series acrylic on canvas 2010

Two Sisters © Bob Dylan 2010, acrylic 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

Bob Dylan painting, Vineyard, Brazil Series,

Vineyard, The Brazil Series, © Bob Dylan 2010

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

Monk by Bob Dylan, The Asia Series, Gagosian

Monk, The Asia Series, © Bob Dylan 2011

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 catalogue 2012

Bob Dylan Revisionist Art © Bob Dylan and Gagosian Gallery 2012

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

Bob Dylan art - The Revisionist Art Series, Halcyon Gallery, London 2013

Exhibit in The Revisionist Art Series © Bob Dylan 2013

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

Bob Dylan art: New Orleans Series, Milan exhibition

Bob Dylan New Orleans Series exhibition, Milan © Bob Dylan and Palazzo Reale 2013

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

Bob Dylan sculpture in iron at Mood Swings exhibition, Halcyon Gallery, London 2013

Iron Works © Bob Dylan 2013

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

Bob Dylan art, Mood Swings, Gangster Doors, Mood Swings exhibition, Halcyon Gallery, London 2013

John Dillinger, Gangster Doors © Bob Dylan 2013

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

Bob Dylan art - Face Value, London

Face Value exhibition poster © Bob Dylan and National Portrait Gallery London 2013

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

You’ll find my reviews of The Drawn Blank Series 2008-14, the 2014 releases, and Side Tracks in the ROCK ART EDITIONS Archive.  I’ll be reviewing other Bob Dylan art series here soon.

You can ensure that you don’t miss any new reviews by registering to receive all new blog articles as they are posted, by email – please use the sign-up box in the right hand margin, above.

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New Bob Dylan lyrics book – The Lyrics Since 1962: deeply impressive, slightly perplexing

New Bob Dylan lyrics book in limited edition

Bob Dylan The Lyrics Since 1962, Simon & Schuster, 2014

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

Bob Dylan art

Woman in Red Lion Pub, Man On A Bridge, Train Tracks: stars of Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014

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

Bob Dylan art, Drawn Blank Series 2008-14, London W1

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.

Bob Dylan art

Bob Dylan The Drawn Blank Series, Chemnitz exhibition catalogue

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.

Bob Dylan art

Bob Dylan Drawn Blank Series: three Portfolios, 2008

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.

Bob Dylan art

Bob Dylan, Man On A Bridge 2008

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.

Caveat emptor!

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.

Bob Dylan art

Bob Dylan, Drawn Blank, Random House, 1994

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 2014 – a mixed bag

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

Woman in Red Lion Pub © Bob Dylan/Washington Green 2014

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.

Bob Dylan Art

Sunday Afternoon by Bob Dylan, © Bob Dylan/Washington Green 2014

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

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 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.

Bob Dylan lyrics collection

Bob Dylan Writings & Drawings, 1974

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 lyrics book, second collection

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.

Bob Dylan Lyrics 1962-2001, covering the albums up to "Love And Theft"

Bob Dylan Lyrics 1962-2001

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?