What a difference five or six days make. In a certain sense, at least. I visited the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York City last Saturday afternoon, with two companions, to view the exhibition of Bob Dylan’s “Asia Series,” which was described in a press release as “a visual journal of his travels in Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea.” I’m not an expert on the visual arts, nor someone who invests any significant amount of either passion or money into that area, but as I wrote when the exhibition was announced, I thought (as a long-time dedicated fan of Bob Dylan) that it would be real nice to have this opportunity to see some of his much-talked-about artwork up close and personal, the way it’s meant to be seen. Pictures on the internet or in a book only go so far. A painting is what it is based not only on the pure image but on qualities like texture and size which you can only appreciate when you’re right in front of it (I’m no expert but I’ve been in enough museums to at least know that much).
So we went to see Bob Dylan’s paintings last Saturday afternoon. I’ve been meaning to write a little on it ever since, but I didn’t really have much of significance to say; other than that, yes it really was nice to see some of his artwork up close and personal. So I was putting it off for an idle moment which wasn’t in a hurry to arrive.
In the last couple of days, however, a huge brou-ha-ha has developed over this exhibition, as explained in this Daily Mail story and countless others. The gist of it is that quite a few of these paintings are not of unique scenes that Mr. Dylan encountered during his concert tours in Asia, but are in fact based on old and classic photographs taken by some quite well-known photographers. (And not loosely-based either.) It seems perhaps to have set off the firestorm which previous allegations of plagiarism against Bob were merely kindling. But that remains to be seen. Certainly, it has to be deeply embarrassing for the gallery which characterized the work as something which it simply is not; i.e., a personal travelogue by Bob Dylan. Continue reading “The Asia Series” by Bob Dylan at the Gagosian Gallery in New York