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Controversy Grows Over Bob Dylan's Paintings at the Gagosian

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The first ever exhibition of Bob Dylan’s paintings in New York City is under scrutiny over the source materials behind his works in the show.

“Bob Dylan: The Asia Series,” which is taking place at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue through October 22, is billed in the gallery’s press release as “a visual reflection on [Dylan’s] travels in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Korea, people, street scenes, architecture, and landscapes.”

Yet, due to the investigative efforts of obsessive Dylan fans, it’s come to light that many of his paintings were not based on Dylan’s own experiences. Rather, several appear to have been copied almost entirely from existing photographs that depict scenes and subjects in East Asia.

In a thread on the Dylan fan page and discussion forum Expecting Rain, fans have been digging up the original photos they believe Dylan used as source material for several paintings. The subjects depicted range from sneering Yakuza gangsters, to men crowded around a cockfight ring, to youths squatting around a Japanese game of “Go.”

Of the 18 canvasses presented at the gallery, six appear on a Flickr photostream created by a user with the handle Okinawa Soba, who uploads galleries of old photographs from Japan and China.

In a recent post, Okinawa Soba wrote that despite the Gagosian’s claim that the paintings were inspired by Bob Dylan’s travels, “[I] can assure you that at least a good handful are actually 'visual paint-overs' of old photos sitting in a box right here in my house … And quite a few others were copy-painted directly from images still under copyright, with absolutely no credit given to the photographers whose photographs he copied.”

On his Flickr page, Okinawa Soba stated the photos on his stream are all public domain. He did not specify which of the other Dylan paintings were made from photographs still under copyright.

Another three of the paintings on display at the Gagosian appear to be painted from photos in the archival collections of Magnum Photos.

According to an executive at Magnum, those photographs were licensed for use by Dylan, though he would not say when or for how much, making it unclear whether they were cleared for use from the start, or after accusations of plagiarism began to surface.

In a statement, the Gagosian Gallery defended Dylan and its description of the exhibit, saying, “While the composition of some of Bob Dylan’s paintings is based on a variety of sources, including archival, historic images, the paintings’ vibrancy and freshness come from the colors and textures found in everyday scenes he observed during his travels.”

The gallery declined to provide any images from the show for WNYC's article. The paintings based on the images in the slideshow below can be seen on the Gagosian Gallery Web site.

Johanna Parker, a moderator for the Expecting Rain, said that Dylan’s approach to painting is consistent with his artistic process.

“There are many cases where it's been found that Mr. Dylan borrowed for his art throughout his career," she said. "This is not something that only started to happen during the last decade or so. It's just easier these days to find out."

Parker pointed to a 1962 Dylan song called “Song to Woody,” which uses a Woody Guthrie melody, and his album Empire Burlesque, which included several unattributed lines from the film noir classic “The Maltese Falcon.”

“I consider Mr. Dylan a well-read man who chooses the subjects for his art carefully,” said Parker. “I am not sure why he doesn't credit his sources. Sometimes I think he is playing with his admirers and critics and tests both their loyalty and their investigative skills. I think he copies with a wink and a smile at his audience. He knows he will be found out.”

Bob Dylan’s press representative did not get back to WNYC with a comment on this story.

A Magnum Photo that fans argue Bob Dylan used as source material for one of his paintings on view now at the Gagosian.
Jacob Aue Sobol/Magnum Photos
A Magnum Photo that fans argue Bob Dylan used as source material for one of his paintings on view now at the Gagosian.
Another Magnum Photo of two Yakuza men that Dylan allegedly copied for a work in his
Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos
Another Magnum Photo of two Yakuza men that Dylan allegedly copied for a work in his "Asia Series" show.
A painting based on this photograph from the Magnum Photos archives also appears in the Gagosian exhibition.
Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos
A painting based on this photograph from the Magnum Photos archives also appears in the Gagosian exhibition.
Dylan's version of this painting is called
Okinawa Soba/Flickr
Dylan's version of this painting is called "Shanghai." The original photo fans believe it is based on has the name of a different Chinese city: Canton.
This picture from Okinawa Soba's Flickr photosream also appears to be source material for one of Dylan's paintings in the exhibit.
Okinawa Soba/Flickr
This picture from Okinawa Soba's Flickr photosream also appears to be source material for one of Dylan's paintings in the exhibit.
As does this photo from the Okinawa Soba Flickr photostream.
Okinawa Soba/Flickr
As does this photo from the Okinawa Soba Flickr photostream.
Another photo from Okinawa Soba photostream that appears to have been used as source material for one of Dylan's paintings.
Okinawa Soba/Flickr
Another photo from Okinawa Soba photostream that appears to have been used as source material for one of Dylan's paintings.

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Comments [22]

Robin Lester

I am sick to death of Dylan being called a plagiarist. All great art comes from something. His work effects me. That means he is an artist. He works hard and deserves the respect he is do for effecting millions of people like me. Those who claim that his work is theirs, need to jump off the train in Monsanto land because they aren't going to end up anywhere else.

Dec. 14 2013 09:01 PM
Max Newton

No surprises. Didn't he begin his fame of terror by ripping off Woody?
But, it's all right, Ma. Everybody must get stole...

Aug. 22 2013 08:07 PM
mrd916192

These blogs are quite incredible that have provided the best knowledge.<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-favorite/299907090123899?skip_nax_wizard=true">new songs</a>

Jul. 27 2013 04:32 AM
JM Place from Massachusetts

THIS IS NOT NEW TERRITORY, WE"VE BEEN HERE BEFORE...recently.

Andy Warhol's Flower Paintings
to NOV. 21 - DEC. 17, 1964: ANDY WARHOL'S FIRST SHOW AT CASTELLI'S

Andy Warhol's FLOWERS were based on a color photograph of hisbiscus blossoms taken by Patricia Caulfield which appeared in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography magazine. (AWM11). When Caulfield saw Warhol's Flowers, she brought a lawsuit against the artist and was offered two sets of Flowers portfolios as payment for use of her work, but she declined the offer and a cash settlement was arranged.

"Andy realized that he had to be very careful about appropriating for the fear of being sued again. He opted to start taking his own photographs. His entry into photography vis a vis his creation of silkscreen paintings was done out of necessity." -Gerard Malanga: (AWP116)

Check out this website: www.warholstars.org/chron/lnx/flowrs64.html

Apr. 07 2012 11:47 AM
jellybean

Dis is da bean. Dat man's a fake an a hoe. He trick'd da whole country an he got dat money an married a playboy model and bought a mansion wishin he could shoot his fans. You can't copy stuff Bob lessun you got someways of findin' good stuff dat's hard to find and copying dat! He said the devil hepped him do it. Aint none of his fans true blue collar people. He jest took all the fancy talkin folks on a ride. Now dey sad but dem should be glad for the truth comin out and showin dem ther nakedness.

Nov. 26 2011 04:50 PM
One World from USA Newbury, Ma.

Hello,
Thanks for watching OneWorldVideoSong. The song “ Craig's List” is getting inquires that ask “ Did Bob Dylan write that song?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPqCKG1IGT4

This is what ABC TV asked when they were producing the TV show “ The Next Best Thing.” They own the worldwide rights to another song of a similar style “ Darkness over Baghdad”

One World Video ( www.OneWorldVideo.com) is helping to finance artists. We cannot comment on any relationship to Bob Dylan's music. We are fans. That is for sure!

Thank you.
Production resources

Nov. 18 2011 04:17 PM
Genetics

Sam Wallwork
http://i.imgur.com/4lFqh.jpg

Nov. 12 2011 07:17 AM
Mornington Howler from nyC

Great Read thank you so much, we can all hopefully sleep better now :)

Sam Wallwork
http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6147/6198612593_de10b42c76.jpg

Sam Wallwork
khttp://farm7.static.flickr.com/6157/6200551687_d92e587cc9.jpg

Thanlks again mac man haha

Nov. 12 2011 06:52 AM
RICHARD HUNTINGTON from Buffalo, NY

Using source material--other paintings, photographs,postcards,etc.--as a springboard for an original work is an honored and legitimate procedure in artists from Picasso to Jeff Koons and beyond. But, alas, Bob Dylan possesses no interpretive skills. Instead he falls back on the approach of the rank amateur, slavishly copying the source whole, as though this idiot faithfulness will somehow transform itself into creative will.

Oct. 22 2011 12:26 PM
MDS from maine

Wow, some of the comments here are pure ignorance.

Some of you need to read US Copyright Law.

And Bob, you're finished in my book. I guess the joke's on me.

Oct. 18 2011 05:06 PM
tom from ny from Buffalo, NY

It is not plagiarism when you work from well known images. It is re-imagining.

People do not know the first thing about artistic influences. All songs begin with previous songs, all paintings with previous images, all novels with previous stories.

T. S. Eliot famously said bad artists borrow and great artists steal. Bob Dylan is a great artist, whose appropriations enrich us.

Oct. 11 2011 11:19 AM
Edward Stern from paris

Of course they are plagiarized and because its Bob Dylan no one cares. the art world buys fame not art. its about Gagosian selling the painting for as much as he can. then the collectors selling them in auctions later on. all because of the name on the painting not the quality of the work. The high end art world that Gagosian inhabits is about moving large sums of money around. kind of a money laundering scheme.

Oct. 08 2011 12:15 PM
Victor Stabin

Dylan can always fall back on his day job.
victorstabin.com

Oct. 05 2011 01:22 PM
Andy from Bristol, England

I have read many articles and comments form readers, with regard to Dylan at the Gagosian, and it is obvious that there is little understanding of art history by most. Do some digging and you will soon realise that this is just the way it has always been. Dylan's work is exceptional and will be worth tens of millions in years to come, get used to it!

Oct. 02 2011 05:26 PM
John Carey from Freehold, NJ

You'd think a famous name being given a blue chip artworld entree might have elicited some self consciousness. But obviously no second thoughts went into the nature of this show. The show consists of crappy copies (not variations) of famous photos. Not even decent copies. There's no way to spin it.

Oct. 01 2011 02:31 PM
MJ from USA

The article leaves out the fact the painting entitled "Opium" was based on an autochrome by Leon Busy taken in July or August of 1915 in Hanoi and is copyrighted by the Musee Albert Kahn in Paris. In addition, two other images appeared in Life Magazine which are also still under copyright protection.

Oct. 01 2011 01:36 PM
mouse from NY

Bob [Dylan] is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I.” — Joni Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2010

Oct. 01 2011 09:05 AM
JWIII

"According to an executive at Magnum, those photographs were licensed for use by Dylan, though he would not say when or for how much, making it unclear whether they were cleared for use from the start, or after accusations of plagiarism began to surface."

Given that Mr. Dylan licensed photos from Magnum for the cover of his latest album, I think it would be fair to speculate that their use was cleared from the start.

Palin/Dylan 2012....who cares what the Ruling Class Critics and their followers say about them? If you were never in, you can't be out.

Sep. 30 2011 03:19 AM
Johanna Parker

Sorry, he does mention Magnum.... please delete my comment below....

Sep. 30 2011 02:39 AM
Johanna Parker

What Mr Bishop fails to mention in his article is that I told him very first thing in my email to him, is that at least for the images used from the collection of Magnum Photos (paintings "Trade" and "Cockfight"), copyrights have been cleared with the agency. If Mr Dylan's people do this in one case, they would be stupid not to cover the other images as well, and they aren't.

Sep. 30 2011 02:37 AM
SKV from NYC

Parker can try spinning it, but this is plagiarism plain and simple. The Gagosian should be ashamed of itself. Dylan is obviously beneath shame; his whole career is based on appropriating others' creative work.

Sep. 29 2011 04:44 PM
RC from ny

Answer

http://jamesdamiano.yolasite.com/

Sep. 29 2011 01:14 PM

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