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.