Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on art galleries and museums, forcing their extended closure for the better part of fourteen months.  As cities begin to emerge from lockdown and restrictions loosen, galleries are putting their best offerings forward and announcing exciting exhibitions to drive interest back to the art scene.

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum in Florida announced last week it would be hosting the first widespread display of Bob Dylan’s visual art in the United States.  The exhibition, titled Bob Dylan: Retrospecrum, features 120 paintings, drawings, and sculptures from the artist’s over 60 years of creating visual art.

The announcement of the exhibition comes not long after the release of the 50th Anniversary Collection, a 3-disc collection of previously unavailable studio performances from the 1970s which feature George Harrison.  It also happens to coincide with the musician’s 80th birthday on May 24th.

Artist to Poet

“To dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free silhouetted by the sea.” – Bob Dylan

Along with being named the greatest song-writer of all time, the 11-time Grammy winner won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016 and published a New York Times best-selling memoir Chronicles Vol. 1 in 2004.  Bob Dylan’s talents are multifaceted, but they also extend beyond the poetic.

As early as the late 1960s, Dylan has been producing visual art.  In 1970 Dylan released Self Portrait, labeled his weirdest album, featured a self-portrait for the cover art.  Dylan also drew the cover art for the 1974 release of Planet Waves.

Just as he has always been able to paint a vivid portrait of classic America with his lyrics, Dylan’s paintings capture the same folk and blues feel.  They are done from a street-level perspective, allowing the viewer to immerse themselves in the scene.  The landmarks are familiar and lack the glitz of downtown New York.  Instead, he focuses on the outer boroughs of New York, or scenes of diners, highways, and railway tracks from his endless tours.

(Pictured above) A part of Bob Dylan’s Beaten Path Series, this artwork is titled “Amusement Park Alleyway” @ woodshedartauctions

Dylan’s artwork runs parallel to his music, and as he says of his The Beaten Path Series, “The works were done from real life, literature, films, songs, poems and poetry and a certain outlook all scrambled together in one form or another.”

Dylan has stated that he paints to “fulfill the shortcomings of expression” that he finds in music, saying “if I could have expressed the same [things] in a song, I would have written a song instead.”

Lead Up to Retrospectrum

Dylan’s abilities as a visual artist went largely unnoticed until 2007 when The Drawn Blank Series was unveiled at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Germany 2007.  Dylan, more than anyone else, seems surprised at the interest in his paintings.

Speaking of the museum director Ingrid Mössinger, Dylan said, “I was fascinated to learn of Ingrid’s interest in my work, and it gave me the impetus to realize the vision I had for these drawings many years ago.  If not for this interest, I don’t know if I even would have revisited them.”

He voiced a similar sentiment when a Denmark gallery approached him in 2013.  “It was more than a little surprising when I was asked to create works for the National Gallery of Denmark,” Dylan said.

Since then, Dylan’s works have been featured in the Halcyon Gallery in London, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Palazzo Real in Milan.

Focus on the Show

The exhibition originally premiered in Shanghai in 2019 at the Modern Art Museum (MAM) and quickly became the most popular show of the year.  The Florida incarnation will be slightly smaller however will feature a never-before-seen painting series entitled American Pastoral.

Bob Dylan: Retrospectrum will run from November 30th, 2021 until April 2022 at the Frost Art Museum in partnership with Florida International University.  The University will host a symposium on Bob Dylan’s entire career and cultural influence simultaneous to the show’s opening during Miami Art Week.