July 23, 2024

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Take a Virtual Tour of Bob Dylan’s London Art Exhibit

3 min read

What’s Bob Dylan, one of the world’s most quixotic artists, to do in the midst of a ceaseless tour through America’s heartland, a few months after his “secret archive” of lyrical ephemera were bought for north of an estimated $15 million and housed at an Oklahoma museum for art and artifacts of the American West, and, oh yes—just weeks after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, remaining silent for weeks, leaving the press and literary establishment beguiled?

Stage an exhibition of his paintings, of course.

This Saturday, a major show of Dylan’s sketches, watercolors, and acrylic works of iconic Americana landscapes opens at London’s Halcyon Gallery. Called “The Beaten Path”—a name selected by the artist—the works show America as Dylan has seen it on tour: images of quintessential Americana, at once iconic and quotidian. Lonely stretches of highway, bridges, ice-cream stores, diners, even Katz’s Deli in Manhattan—they are as intimate as they are universal. “America is a fascination, and a central part of whole world,” says Halcyon C.E.O. Udi Sheleg. “Everybody who’s been to America . . . can find a lot of the scenes that speak to him look familiar, yet they look personal [to Dylan].”

Dylan has also penned an essay for the exhibition catalogue—his most extensive piece of prose since the publication of his memoir Chronicles: Volume One in 2004. Dylan, as always somehow as coy as he is simplistic, writes that “the idea was to create pictures that would not be misinterpreted or misunderstood by me or anybody else.”

Dylan has been working with Halcyon for nearly a decade, after the gallery reached out as Dylan was showing his “Drawn Blank Series” at Germany’s Kunstsammlungen Museum. “It was authentic, it was fresh, it was looking at objects or scenes in the eyes of who we knew was Bob Dylan,” Sheleg says. “So that element, of course, came into it immediately because there was an immediate intellectual interest in it.”

Since then, Sheleg and his creative team have watched Dylan’s work evolve at close hand; it was they who proposed that Dylan do American landscapes for an exhibition, as Dylan writes in his essay. “My observation is that he’s very inquisitive and very curious in person, and he’s very much about exploring,” Sheleg says. “He takes very quickly to what he likes and is interested in, and you don’t need to give him very much—you just need to suggest a direction or a subject matter, and he just goes. And the result is always surprising and delightful, for us, artistically.” Sheleg says that Dylan’s art can be found in the collections of various titans of Silicon Valley, the entertainment industry, and politics; one of his ironworks sits in the Clintons’ yard in Chappaqua, New York, as Bill recently tweeted.

Dylan has been working on the pieces for about two-and-a-half years, finishing them in the past few months, Sheleg says. As for the coincidence of the show’s opening and the Nobel win—Dylan finally “broke his silence,” a phrase whose rough-hewn feel he might particularly enjoy, in an interview with The Telegraph ostensibly tied to the exhibition—Sheleg is marvelously Dylanesque in his reply: “Indeed, indeed,” he says, laughing. “Isn’t that great?”


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