Mick Rock, 1948-2021

by Chris Murray on November 19, 2021

I love Mick Rock. Plain and simple. He was a pillar of the Govinda Gallery history and scene. We were more than colleagues and friends…we were kindred spirits. He had a wicked sense of humor, and a voice and manner that one would never forget. He had talent that went on forever. And if Mick loved you, you were most fortunate to be able to know that love. It is no wonder he was loved by Syd Barrett, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Freddie Mercury, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and so many more.

Iggy Pop, Back Bend, 1972. Photo by Mick Rock.

The Saatchi Gallery Magazine, Art & Music, Issue 13, Spring 2011. Cover Photo by Mick Rock.

I had the distinct pleasure of hosting Mick Rock’s first exhibition at Govinda Gallery, “Mick Rock, A Photographic Record,” during the spring of 1999, an amazing retrospective of the photographic work he had produced up to that point. It was a show of high impact, and everyone at the opening was thrilled to meet Mick. I got along well with Mick right from the start for a lot of reasons, but he knew well my connection with Andy Warhol and his exhibitions at Govinda, and he had great respect for Andy as an artist. Mick thought of his work as art, and so did I.

Later that year I was invited by Tommy Hilfiger to attend the opening of The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “Rock Style.”  I had assisted Tommy in getting the book Rock Style published for the Met exhibition. Some of Mick’s photographs were included in Hilfiger’s book. Mick was there with his beautiful and longtime partner and wife, Pati. We roamed the exhibition together and had a hilarious, terrific time!

Mick Rock and Chris Murray at Met Costume Institute, 2013. Photo by Sueraya Shaheen.

During the spring of 2002 we launched Mick’s first limited edition book, Moonage Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust with an exhibition of the same name. Govinda Gallery was the exclusive U.S. distributor for Genesis Publications for 20 years, publishers of the finest quality limited edition signed books. Publisher Brian Roylance was my great friend since the 80s. With his book and Mick’s photographs, we produced a blockbuster event and exhibition. Mick was as big a star that night as the musical artists he documented.

Queen II Album Cover, London 1974. Photo by Mick Rock.

In the spring of 2004 I organized an exhibition in Liverpool at the Matthew Street Gallery called, “Killer Queen,” featuring Mick’s remarkable photographs of Queen. I travelled to Liverpool, along with Mick and his great pal Dean Holtermann. Mick and his work took the town by storm. And we had an absolute blast at the opening and otherwise. Enjoy this short video Dean made with us in Liverpool. Thanks Dean!

Freddie Mercury, 1974. Photo by Mick Rock.

I also had the pleasure of introducing Mick to David Adamson at Adamson Editions, the premier fine art pigment printer in the world. For Mick, I produced his two photos of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury as mind blowing large format pigment prints. Mick was knocked out by the quality and scale of those photographs. They were an essential part of the ground breaking museum tour, “Sound and Vision: Monumental Rock & Roll Photography,” which I curated and co-organized with The Columbus Museum, and that travelled to six major American museums. The Columbus selected Mick’s unforgettable photograph of David Bowie with a saxophone as the emblematic image of that museum tour for the banners, poster, invitation and billboard. Mick was delighted. Mick went on to introduce his friend and subject Lou Reed to Adamson who went on to print Lou’s photographs. One afternoon after working at Adamson Editions, Lou came by Govinda to see Mick’s exhibition there at the time. It was great to meet Lou and welcome him to the gallery, due to his friendship with Mick Rock.

Sound and Vision Emblematic Image used by Columbus Museum for Banners, Poster, Invitation and Billboard. Photo by Mick Rock.

 

Lou Reed with gallery director Chris Murray enjoying Mick Rock’s contact sheet images of Reed. Photo from Govinda Gallery Archive.

The last time I was with Mick was at a party I threw for him in Washington in November, 2019, not long before the pandemic arrived. Mick was giving a lecture and slide show along with photographer Henry Diltz at City Winery here in Washington. The after party I threw in their honor was at my friends Patricia, Fabio and Russell’s nightclub “Dive.” It was a late night, wild and fabulous time! Mick was in his element. The music on the sound system reflected the musical artists depicted in Mick’s photographs, and he was surrounded by fans. Mick rocked! We had a sweet embrace at the end of the night, with a few jokes regarding the evening, and made plans to see each other in NYC before long. Who knew the pandemic was on the way shortly after, and that it would ultimately take Mick from us.

Govinda Gallery Director Chris Murray and photographer Mick Rock in the green room at City Winery.

It was just before the summer I purchased the most recent print of Mick’s for the Govinda Gallery collection. It was of Miley Cyrus and became the cover of her most recent album Plastic Hearts.  It was the first recording that Miley considered to be a Rock & Roll album for her. Mick’s photographs had such a style that they defined rock in so many ways. Young musical artists came to Mick to photograph them for their musical identity. The photo of Miley demonstrates that so well. Mick was delighted I acquired that photo for my collection , and I am so glad I did.

“Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts,” New York City, 2020. Photograph by Mick Rock.

‘Out-take’ from Mick Rock’s photo shoot of Miley Cyrus, 2020.

In Mick’s last email to me, he wrote of the importance of a spiritual life, and how spiritual practices like yoga and meditation meant a lot to him. He knew I shared that interest. He then wrote this to me, “You were one of the very first entrepreneurs to see the potential in selling music photography as art, and our friendship has always been about more than just commerce. You are my friend, no doubt at all.”

Govinda Gallery Director Chris Murray with photographer Mick Rock and Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation. Photo from revamped.com.

Mick’s photographic legacy will be with us a long, long time…and his kindness, talent, love, and friendship will reside in my heart forever.

This personal tribute is dedicated to Mick’s beloved wife and daughter, Pati and Nathalie.

~Chris Murray

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