the Backroom



Carlotta Hester Exhibition…Rapture

by Chris Murray on November 30, 2021  |  Comments Off on Carlotta Hester Exhibition…Rapture

Photographed by Max Hirshfeld

 

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Mick Rock, 1948-2021

by Chris Murray on November 19, 2021  |  Comments Off on Mick Rock, 1948-2021

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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Invitation to Carlotta Hester’s Exhibition of Paintings, “Rapture”

by Chris Murray on November 12, 2021  |  Comments Off on Invitation to Carlotta Hester’s Exhibition of Paintings, “Rapture”

You are invited to Carlotta Hester’s exhibition in Washington D.C. at Addison/Ripley Fine Art in Georgetown. This exhibition features her most recent work, and continues through January 22.

 

 

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Senator John Warner…A Great Man Of Service and a Fine Artist

by Chris Murray on November 9, 2021  |  Comments Off on Senator John Warner…A Great Man Of Service and a Fine Artist

Much has been written, and rightly so, about Senator John Warner since he passed on a few months ago. But not many people know that Senator Warner was also a talented and accomplished painter. I was fortunate to know John Warner as an artist, because of my friendship with his wife Jeanne. I had the opportunity to invite the Senator to exhibit his work at Govinda Gallery. John painted privately, and very much appreciated my offer. We never did have a chance to organize that exhibition, but his beautiful paintings will always remain in my minds eye.

In just a couple of months it will be the 50th anniversary of Senator Warner starting his tenure as the United States Secretary of the Navy in 1972. I post these photos in honor of a remarkable life of service to so many, as a person of great artistic talent, and as a friend. In these difficult times, political leaders would be well served to remember the generosity of spirit of John Warner.

Chris Murray with Senator John Warner at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Meyer. Photo by Carlotta Hester.

Senator Warner showing Chris Murray memorabilia and awards at his home in Virginia. Photo by Carlotta Hester.

Govinda Gallery Director Chris Murray enjoying paintings by John Warner at his home. Photo by Carlotta Hester.

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The Sunday Times Feature Story on Donovan and the Climate Summit

by Chris Murray on November 3, 2021  |  Comments Off on The Sunday Times Feature Story on Donovan and the Climate Summit

Donovan was born and grew up in Glasgow, where the world leaders are now gathered at the crucial climate summit. The Sunday Times in Scotland just published a terrific story on Donovan and his wife and muse Linda, who, for over four decades, have been raising consciousness regarding protecting and preserving Mother Nature. Much of that work is detailed in this story by Jean West. Donovan told me that being born in Glasgow he knew all too well about the Industrial ‘Revolution’ and the mess that has been made on our beautiful planet. His last album, aptly named Eco Song, is a compilation of his songs about the environment. Check out the video for the song, “Diggin the Future Now,” at the end of the article.

Bard of Atlantis brings his call for change to a new generation

As world leaders fly into Glasgow for Cop26, the Cork-based star Donovan heralds the second coming of the protest song as he gifts school children his new green youth opera

Jean West | Sunday October 31 2021

Donovan and his wife Linda’s work has led to Slow Down World, an eco-opera

In 1999 Stephen King wrote Hearts in Atlantis, an anthology about the baby-boomer generation and its failure to honour its ideals. His titular inspiration appeared to spring from Donovan’s song about that mystical land submerged by the sea.

Written in 1968, Atlantis mourns a disconnect from Mother Nature with urgency: “Wake-up, wake-up . . . As the elders of our time choose to remain blind/ Let us rejoice and sing/ And dance and ring in the new.” For King, Donovan’s lyrics were “a warning — as true and emotionally wrenching now as when first recorded”.

Today Donovan, whose psychedelic Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman and Jennifer Juniper became seminal Sixties hits, is rattling the same sabre with even more urgency. In lockdown, inspired by the children’s climate movement, he wrote Slow Down World — an original eco-themed opera for school pupils and college students. Today he is offering the libretto free for teachers to download on his website.

Donovan hopes the opera will one day grace stages in London and New York

The Celtic balladeer is so passionate about the public engaging with the energetic new work, composed with his grandson Sebastian Dean and inspired by the startling Fridays For Future school marches, that he is throwing in backing tracks and stage directions as a contribution to saving what he often calls Gaia — “the source of all life”.

Slow Down World is an inspired discourse between four young activists who meet after a climate strike and demand a radical new green curriculum. It dramatises last year’s reflective Eco-Song album, compiled by the singer and his campaigning muse and wife, Linda Lawrence. The 21-track recording pulls together the poetic lyricist’s ecological musings from over 50 years. The couple have dedicated the opera to Greta Thunberg and her followers.

From his home near Cork, Donovan, 75, explains: “When Greta began her career, Linda and I were surprised there were no songs for her or any other Sixties artists supporting her.”

He recalls his own support of Sixties civil and women’s rights, the environment and against nuclear arms: “But our street protest moved swiftly on to stage, radio, TV and film. We need to get the children’s climate movement ‘offa da street and on to da stage’.”

He believes his birthplace of Glasgow, as a hub of the industrial revolution, is part culprit for the global temperature rise. The “disaster” started with the industrial and technical revolutions — seen originally as saviours of humanity — leading to two world wars and the nuclear bomb. “The libretto is designed for youths to explore the deeper levels of why humans have created this mess and to help us save the world from ignorance and greed.”

Only now are we “digging” the true scale of things, and the arrival of Covid “has bonded humanity in one single purpose: to be aware and take care of each other”. He has hopes for Cop26 but pressure must remain after delegates leave. “This is Mother Nature’s wake-up call for humanity to review what social community is really about.”

His timing — as world leaders gather for the UN summit — is auspicious. When better to lobby for a Sixties-style protest movement to assist the ailing planet?

Donovan has long sought to raise human consciousness since meeting the transcendental meditator Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. His teenage charisma impressed the producers of Ready, Steady, Go while today his flowing white curls and gentle eloquence present something of a Merlin. But Donovan’s brand of wizardry extends beyond fanciful lyrics fused from Gaelic, Sanskrit, pop and beatnik cultures. His opera is threaded with hard-hitting tracks like Diggin’ the Future Now, referencing melting polar ice-caps, a burning Amazon and rising oceans and , which goes: “No teacher is teaching/ No plan is far reaching/ The hawks of greed are screeching/ Poisoning our day.”

Eventually, Donovan hopes, the opera will grace stages in London and New York, but for now school assembly halls are his target because any government “redesigning of education to save the earth will not be in place in time” to reintroduce “praise, honour and true natural-law teachings”.

Working with his grandson, a 29-year-old composer and singer, keeps the project for 16-18 year-olds contemporary. They hope a podcast will ensue.

Donovan, who famously taught Paul MacCartney the chords for songs like Blackbird – itself a civil rights melody – is also calling on Scottish youth theatres to breath life into the libretto for audiences across the country immediately after COP26. “This message cannot be forgotten – act today.”

The songwriter is on a bit of a green-themed roll just now. Tales of Aluna, an animated series developed with Linda, was showcased at the MipCom TV festival in Cannes.

Developed by an Australian production company, the 26 episode cartoon for six to eight-year-olds, about a little girl living in the last bit of Atlantis has strong educational content.

Donovan’s “Yellow Submarine,” it fables how a musician and his entourage crash onto a desert island cared for by Aluna and mystical Barabajagal. Sustainability issues are thrown up as little minds are encouraged to consider their actions. It is based on the love story between Donovan and Linda who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year.

With both projects Donovan is responding to Thunberg’s recently voiced fears for COP26: “We will hear many pledges that – if you really look into the details – are more or less meaningless….The COPs as they are now will not change anything unless there is big, massive pressure from the outside.”

The popstar adds: “Greta is now looking for the same urgency to be applied to Climate Change as happened with the pandemic. All nations – one focus. Prevention must be taught in schools.”

He adds: “I saw clearly as a child in wartorn Glasgow that modern humans have no respect for Mother Earth . It was my duty to sing out the warning of poisoning the planet from my very first recordings.”

Once dubbed the British Bob Dylan, Donovan made his mark on popular culture, and Dylan’s jealous jibes in D.A. Pennebaker’s famous documentary about the American folkie’s British tour hasn’t impacted his longevity. He graciously dismisses the incident as partly driven by the different drugs the twenty somethings were experimenting with at the time – Dylan with “amphetamines” and Donovan, “hashish”.

The songwriter survived polio as a child and was raised on proletariat verse and wisdom from his socialist, poet father before transporting it on a magic carpet ride through rough sleeping and performance in Cornwall with exotically-named friend Gypsy Dave, past bigger stardom and screaming fans. His epic friendship with The Beatles, bonding over guitar styles, his own secret chord progressions and spiritual endeavour is legendary. George and Donovan were closest. Says the singer: “George would always say: “It’s always nice to see you Don – you never ask any questions.” He was a wit too: “He would say: “If I’d known I was going to be a Beatle, I’d have tried harder.””

Donovan recalls their trip to India to study Transcendental Meditation. He remembers John spying a paparazzi photographer on the roof whilst washing his hair and chasing him through the jungle: “John shouts: “You bugger, I’m after you” and, with his hair all soapy, starts chasing him through the jungle. He was swaggering like a Liverpool sailor.”

The band’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Something, Dear Prudence and Julia were, he says, influenced by his friendly tutoring.

Today Donovan lights up when relaying the love for his adored Linda. She had been in a relationship with “the Gaelic creator of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones,” Donovan’s friend, and they had a son, Joolz. He believes “karmic destiny” pulled them together after the musician’s death and he became the child’s stepfather.

He believes a similar Divine guidance has also informed recent times: “The worldwide arrival of Coronavirus has bonded humanity in one single purpose: to be aware and take care of each other.”

The pioneering peaceseeker hopes this will now extend to the climate emergency and that the warning shots from Atlantis will at last reach their timely target.

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Donovan & David Lynch Video, “I Am The Shaman”

by Chris Murray on October 26, 2021  |  Comments Off on Donovan & David Lynch Video, “I Am The Shaman”

David Lynch has produced and directed a video for Donovan’s recent release “I Am The Shaman.” Two masters of their art, Donovan with his song and David Lynch with his film, come together to present a most extraordinary collaboration. The dictionary describes a shaman with qualities such as magic, influence, trance, and healing. Donovan, with his words and music, shares those qualities.

Donovan’s Sapphographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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Charlie Watts 1941-2021

by Chris Murray on October 18, 2021  |  Comments Off on Charlie Watts 1941-2021

Charlie Watts and Shirley Shepherd, London, 1963.  By Eric Swayne.

I was moved when I heard Charlie Watts had passed on in August. The Rolling Stones have long been my favorite band. I was at their very first concert in New York City while in high school, an afternoon concert at Carnegie Hall on June 20th, 1964. I went on to edit a book of photographs called Rolling Stones 50×20 almost 50 years later (Insight Editions).  That book included many photographs of Charlie, taken by Gered Mankowitz, Gus Coral, Eric Swayne, Barry Feinstein, Baron Wolman, Bob Gruen, Michael Cooper, Claude Gassian, Mark Seliger and more.

Charlie Watts, De Lane Lea Studios, London, 1963. By Gus Coral.

I also featured original prints of Charlie in numerous exhibitions at Govinda Gallery, featuring well over 30 photographers who had taken pictures of him. The public loved those exhibitions.

Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, Muenster, Germany, 1965. By Bob Bonis.

To me, Charlie was very much the heart of The Rolling Stones, keeping that rock steady beat, and propelling the Stones along musically. His sweet smile and amazing personal style was enduring. The Rolling Stones will not be the same without him.

The Rolling Stones, Masons Yard, 1965. By Gered Mankowitz.

I have a personal story about Charlie, a pastime I will always remember with great affection. Over a dozen years ago, Charlie came to Govinda Gallery one evening with two friends, Caroline and Isobel, who worked with him while he toured with the Stones. Caroline and Isobel were also friends of mine, and had told Charlie about my gallery, and the remarkable historic home and studio of my friend, the artist John Dreyfuss, located directly across the street from Govinda Gallery. Charlie said he would like to see Halcyon House, the name of John’s home and studio.

Charlie arrived with Caroline and Isobel at Govinda that evening, and I took the opportunity to show him the collection of remarkable Jazz photographs I had acquired from exhibitions I had for photographers William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard and William Claxton, three of the greatest Jazz photographers of all time. Charlie truly enjoyed looking at and holding the original signed prints, and knew everything about each of the musical artists depicted in the photographs, the clubs they were photographed in, and more. He is an extraordinary jazz historian. He clearly appreciated the vintage nature of each photograph.

I remember especially his enjoying a photograph by Bill Gottlieb of Duke Ellington and one of his big bands. Charlie went on to name every single member of the band, and when he got to the bass player, Junior Raglin, he commented to me that he was the bass player who introduced the ‘walking bass’ to Jazz. I was totally blown away by Charlie’s expertise. It was an experience I treasure to this day. Charlie was so relaxed, so cool, and his company made me so happy. Here is that Jazz photograph…and I still have it.

Portrait of Duke Ellington, Junior Raglin, Tricky Sam Nanton, Juan Tizol, Barney Bigard, Ben Webster, Otto Toby Hardwick, Harry Carney, Rex William Stewart, and Sonny Greer, Howard Theatre, Washington D.C., 1938. By Bill Gottlieb.

After a fine time at Govinda Gallery, we all went over to John Dreyfuss’ home and studio. Charlie loved seeing the historic Halcyon House and enjoyed John’s studio and his art. It was impressive. We thanked John, and then got into Charlie’s limousine and went up Wisconsin Avenue through Georgetown to Enzio’s, a family-style Italian restaurant and had a great meal together. Charlie treated us to dinner, we had a fine time and some great conversation. We then said good night. I have always admired Charlie as a great musical artist, and now he was in my heart forever. Thanks to Caroline and Isobel for bringing Charlie to Govinda Gallery. And God bless Charlie Watts.

The Rolling Stones, Saint Lazarus Church, Mexico City, 1995. By Fernando Aceves.

Charlie Watts, A Bigger Bang Tour, Angel Stadium, Anaheim, 2005. By Fernando Aceves.

Last evening I was thinking of my dear friend and photographer extraordinaire Gered Mankowitz, whose photographs of The Rolling Stones are the definitive document of the original lineup… the greatest lineup, of The Rolling Stones. I invited Gered to contribute some words about Charlie for this tribute. This morning I was thrilled to have Gered respond to my invitation with some heart felt words about Charlie, his “older brother”, and an exclusive photograph I had never seen before. Please enjoy this special addition to my post honoring Charlie Watts. Thank you Gered.

“I was 19 years old when I toured the USA with the Stones in the Fall of 1965, and Charlie was like an older brother to me. Rock solid, gentle, charming and modest he was a steadying influence for several weeks of Rock & Roll madness and I have felt close to him ever since in spite of only seeing him infrequently during the past 50 years or so. Charlie took me to a couple of jazz clubs in New York city and introduced me to the extraordinarily cool and mysterious world of the Half Note and the Hickory House – great moments that I have never forgotten. We were also together the evening of the infamous North-East Coast blackout on November 9th 1965 having been out shopping that afternoon. It turned out to be the largest blackout in history at the time, lasting for several hours and trapping around 800,000 people in elevators across the North-East – for us it just seemed like another surreal moment during this crazy period in time!” – Gered Mankowitz

Charlie Watts at Home in Lewis, Sussex, The Summer of 1966. By Gered Mankowitz

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Govinda Gallery, Liza Phillips, and The Centennial Celebration of The Phillips Collection

by Chris Murray on June 17, 2021  |  Comments Off on Govinda Gallery, Liza Phillips, and The Centennial Celebration of The Phillips Collection

This is the centennial year celebration of The Phillips Collection in Washington, the first museum of modern art in America. It was my great pleasure to welcome Marjorie Phillips, the co-founder of the Phillips collection, to Govinda Gallery on September 16, 1983, for the opening of her granddaughter Liza Phillips wonderful exhibition of her art at Govinda.

Marjorie Phillips and Liza Phillips, Govinda Gallery. Photo by Chris Murray

Mrs. Phillips was presented a copy of Illuminations From The Bhagavad-Gita by gallery director Chris Murray, which she is seen holding in the photo below. Illuminations co-author and artist Kim Waters is enjoying introducing David Murray to Mrs. Phillips. David Murray is now the administrative director of Govinda Gallery.

Kim Waters, David Murray and Marjorie Phillips, Govinda Gallery. Photo by Chris Murray
# 14, Liza Phillips, August, 1983

Congratulations Phillips Collection!

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Tom Meyer in “Art For The People” Installation In Beijing

by Chris Murray on June 16, 2021  |  Comments Off on Tom Meyer in “Art For The People” Installation In Beijing
Can u Find Me, 2021, by Tom Meyer

The painting above by Tom Meyer is part of a major new art mural just installed at the U.S. Embassy in China. The theme of freedom of speech and expression is a most worthy one. Congratulations to Tom and all involved. Please enjoy the description of the mural below. Meyer’s Can u Find Me is center right. Zoom in.

U.S. Embassy in Beijing offers ‘Art for the People’
by Amirah Ismail

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing is redecorating — and making a powerful statement about freedom of expression.

Art for the People,” a new exhibition on the exterior walls of the U.S. Embassy in China, showcases 23 popular works of American street art, reproduced in partnership with the original artists. Their styles and subjects reflect the diversity of the United States, with pieces highlighting American pioneers such as Muhammad Ali and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as indigenous Native and Hispanic communities.

Painting murals on buildings and for special exhibits in city parks and museums is a growing trend across the United States and around the world. Vandalizing property with graffiti is still illegal, but many American cities have designated specific public places for street art. More businesses, neighborhoods, and local governments are commissioning artists to create outdoor art for the people.

These artists transform blank spaces into colorful displays, with permission from building owners and the freedom to share ideas and express themselves creatively.

The U.S. Embassy’s innovative art project illustrates these fundamental American values of freedom of speech and expression, as well as the ongoing U.S. commitment to public diplomacy and direct outreach to the people of China.

“We want a U.S.-China relationship that includes space for direct, honest, and robust public engagement,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “Art for the People represents the diversity of American society. It also embodies our deep commitment to genuine exchange with the Chinese people.”

The outdoor exhibition is open to the public and will be on display for six months. No entrance ticket or invitation is required; all you need are comfortable shoes for a stroll around the embassy.

Tom Meyer’s paintings are available through Govinda Gallery and Addison Ripley Gallery.

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People Magazine, Bob Dylan, Ted Russell and Govinda Gallery

by Patrick Pearse on May 25, 2021  |  Comments Off on People Magazine, Bob Dylan, Ted Russell and Govinda Gallery

People Magazine celebrated Bob Dylan’s birthday this week with an in depth look at Ted Russell’s photographs of Dylan, including the first professional photographs taken of Dylan in November of 1961, just before the release of his first album. Writer Sam Gillette interviews Chris Murray about LIFE photographer Ted Russell and his now historic images of Dylan. Hats off to People for a great story honoring Dylan and Russell. Here it is!

By Sam Gillette | May 24, 2021 03:20 PM

Bob Dylan — the legendary singer-songwriter who won a Nobel Prize for his poeticism — turned 80 on Monday. In celebration of the artist’s 60 years on the folk-rock scene, PEOPLE has an exclusive look at rare photos of Dylan at the “genesis” of his career. Shot by photojournalist Ted Russell, the images include the earliest professional photographs ever taken of the young singer as he performed at Gerde’s Folk City and strummed his guitar in his Greenwich Village apartment in New York City in November 1961. Russell photographed Dylan again as he was seated next to James Baldwin at the NECLC’s Bill of Rights Dinner in November 1963, and while he was writing songs at his typewriter in his home in March 1964. By then Bob Dylan was “the voice of a generation,” says Chris Murray, who wrote the introduction to Russell’s photo book, Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964. “I can’t help but think about how Bob has endured,” says Murray in an interview with PEOPLE. “So many talented people, whether it be Jimi Hendrix or George Harrison or Kurt Cobain, were taken from us way too soon. But Bob has been a constant for us in the best sense of that word.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

A Surprising Discovery

It’s a rare thing to discover unpublished photographs of music icons, explains Murray, the owner of Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C. and a longtime champion of rock photography. So when Ted Russell called Murray in 2013, and asked if he could show him his box of rare Bob Dylan photographs, Murray immediately agreed. 

“Here was this gentleman who is in his mid-80s, and we sit down at the table, and he pulls out a box of old photos. Not gorgeous gallery prints, if you will. They’re just a box of photos. I looked in this box, and I said, ‘Oh my God,’ ” he says. “It’s not very often that you can find an archive of unpublished photos of America’s greatest songwriter that have never been seen.” 

With Murray’s help, Ted Russell’s photo book was published by Rizzoli the next year.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

An Unknown Folk Singer

In November 1961, Bob Dylan performed at Gerde’s Folk City. After the performance, Russell asked Dylan if he could photograph him in his apartment for a photo essay about “the struggles of an up-and-coming folk singer trying to make it in New York City,” which he planned to pitch to national magazines, according to the preface in Bob Dylan.

Russell’s pitch to The Saturday Evening Post editors was a bust. While the editors were initially “enthusiastic” about the story idea, they didn’t like Dylan’s music, Russell writes. 

‘They were all seated around a large oak conference table, waiting to hear the records, and as soon as I played the first one, they looked dismayed, and asked me if I was playing it at the correct speed,” he explains. “I tried at 33 rpm, and then 45 rpm, and they didn’t like either.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Beginning of a Long Career

The editors may have passed on the story, but now Russell’s early images of Bob Dylan are treasured by his fans and fans of rock photography. 

“These photos show the beginning of that incredible 60-year journey of songwriting and performing and recording and entertaining,” says Murray, whose favorite image is featured on the cover of the photo book. A young Bob Dylan smiles directly at the camera. “You see the whole future of Bob Dylan in that photo,” he continues.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

Just Bob Dylan

When Ted Russell photographed Bob Dylan in his apartment for the first time, the musician had just moved in with his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo. 

“[Ted] said to Bob, ‘Hey, pretend I’m not here. Just go on and do what you do as if I’m not here,’ ” Murray explains of the photo shoot. “Sure enough, Bob just strummed his guitar in his bed.” 

Murray loves the photograph (right) of Dylan smiling. He notes that next to Dylan is a box of items he hadn’t even unpacked yet. 

“There were no stylists, no hair and makeup people, like there would be today,” says Murray of Russell’s “fly on the wall approach.” “It was just Ted with his camera observing Bob and shooting him.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Tom Paine Award

Russell didn’t photograph Dylan again until November 1963, just a few days before President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Both Dylan and James Baldwin attended the NECLC’s Bill of Rights Dinner, where Dylan was given the Tom Paine Award. Russell was on assignment for LIFE magazine and photographed the two icons as they sat next to each other during the event.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

Two Icons Meet

“They clearly were enjoying each other’s company. There’s even one [photo] where Bob is at the lectern giving his thank you speech, and you see Baldwin looking up at him and smiling,” says Murray. “He clearly appreciated and was enjoying this young, idealistic singer, who by then had written ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ and ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’,’ some really important songs. Of course, Baldwin would have been very, very aware of that.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

No Direction Home

Years later, when director Martin Scorsese released his 2005 documentary about Bob Dylan’s life, No Direction Home, he featured a number of Russell’s photographs from that historic night. 

“It was a very significant event,” Murray explains.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Last Photo Shoot

Russell’s fourth — and last — photo shoot with Bob Dylan was also a LIFE assignment. In March 1964, Dylan was still living in the same Greenwich Village apartment. Russell photographed him at his typewriter, after his interview with a LIFE journalist. 

“By then, [Bob Dylan] was a big, big deal. Still a folk artist. Hadn’t gone electric yet. But his songwriting had changed everything,” says Murray, who shared this never-before-published photograph (right) from the shoot with PEOPLE.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

A Songwriter at Work

“Bob turned around and started writing. He used a typewriter,” Murray continues. “I’ve never, ever seen any other photos of Bob Dylan writing, and he is our greatest musical songwriter.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

Capturing the Folk Music Scene

Beyond insight into the beginnings of Bob Dylan’s career, Russell’s photographs also capture the vivid folk music scene of New York City in the 1960s. 

“[Bob Dylan] came from Hibbing, Minnesota to go to Greenwich Village,” says Murray, “because everybody knew there was this scene going on there.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Sound of Social Justice

Bob Dylan is a longtime champion of humanitarian causes — and so is his music.

“People were interested in ideas like peace, social justice,” Murray says of Bob Dylan’s connection to the cultural movement of the 1960s. “While Ted was photographing Bob during those three years, Bob wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’ He wrote ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’. So those photos reveal the environment, if you will, in Greenwich Village. The photos of him in Gerde’s Folk City, where he’s performing and singing these songs, this was the heart of the folk music movement. Bob was part of it.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Last Photograph

The last photo Russell took of Dylan is of the artist walking down the street before he grabbed a cab. 

“I’m getting goosebumps. When you think of the cover photo of that young lad who looks like a kid or a cherub, he’s got the sweetest look, to the one when Bob is coming down the street, that’s November ’61 to November ’64,” says Murray. “What an amount of creativity in those few years. That folk music scene nurtured all of that, and New York nurtured it. Bob said, when he came to New York, ‘I knew this was the place I was meant to be.’ “

The Photo Book

Russell’s iconic photographs of Bob Dylan are featured in his book, Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964.

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