Bob Dylan once traded an original Warhol work for a couch. A significant work as well.. Elvis with Gun. It is said he tossed darts at it too. Maybe he has been painting ever since to make up for it. His paintings are pleasant, almost mundane fauvist landscape work for the most part. It is colorful and painterly I suppose, but then to some so is the work of Tony Bennett, John Cougar, Miles Davis, Ronnie Wood, Sly Stallone and other artists who cross to canvas from the entertainment world. Go Go smiles a great deal, but if he sneers, he would certainly sneer at them.
Is Dylan a "serious" painter? Yes. That is, he paints consistently, with determination, at scheduled times likely...and thank Lord he does. Most rock stars tend to spend their time with drugs instead. He studied art way back, in the 1970s, taking serious painting lessons from Norman Raeben. He is no primitive. Dylan reached 70 because he paints, and he paints because he can.
Larry Gagosian is with no doubt the premier contemporary art dealer in America. The real art world that is, not what most of us think of as art. Gagosian plays in a very small world very few understand, the insular and inbred world of high-priced modern art. It is a world just as high-paced as when Go Go started...a shrinking market and economy only makes the most expensive art more attractive to a certain clientele to whom money (and some might say taste) matters little. The richest of the rich. The art market may be hurting, but at his level I'm not sure it matters much. Plus, a crowd never hurts, and if the folks who will drop in to see Dylan's paintings might be more comfortable visiting the John Lennon Imagine memorial in Central Park, so be it. They'll go on Saturday in a hoard and it will be over soon.
Great art has passed through Go Go's hands, both on the secondary market and new work. His stable includes Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Damien Hirst...so why is he going to show the work of Bob Dylan. A mere "celebrity" artist?
Well, for one thing, Art to Gagosian is money.. His origins, after all, were selling posters to college students, a task no harder than selling pizza, but profitable. The New York Times didn't err when giving the title "Pulling Art Sales out of Thinning Air" to a profile of the dealer and in ways he has always been a trickster. So are his artists. Bob will fit right in. Plus, Larry has always sold to the common man as well...in addition to the million dollar paintings, his artists frequently produce "limited" edition prints and such...novelty books, objects...things the small fry can purchase to feel a part of the scene. I expect there to be plenty of "things" for sale in addition to the art.
The show, which will open September 20, is titled "The Asia Series" and is scheduled for the Madison Avenue location. The Gagosian "shop" is located steps away.
Although working in a different medium, Dylan is closest thing we have to a Picasso today. His 50 year career has had dramatic shifts and periods as distinct as Pablo. That his paintings fail to meet the conceptual standards of his new peers at Gagosian's gallery can be forgiven. Any art gallery should be proud to have his work to show. But I expect Go-Go will have a "This way to the Egress" sign aimed right at his shop.
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