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Wednesday, 28 September 2011


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To me, Dylan seems Kind of Bloop'd.

It's not just Dylan--artists and musicians steal from each other all the time. Remember the brouhaha about George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"? Turned out he stole the melody from the Chiffons' "He's So Fine."

And as has been pointed out elsewhere (on Cracked.com of all places),the famous signature riff of Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" was lifted from an obscure jazz composition.

And of course, Led Zepplin ripped off a bunch of blues tunes so blatantly they finally got sued over it...

So I guess plagiarism, like imitation, may sometimes be the sincerest from of flattery....

"The Gallery originally said that the paintings provided "firsthand depictions of people, street scenes, architecture and landscape" observed by the singer during his travels in Asia."

Well then, the people at that gallery must be pretty stupid, or believe that Bob Dylan is much older than he really is....Who could look at those images and think they were the first hand impressions of anyone under the age of 90?

Did DYLAN say they were originals or the MUSEUM?

The answer to this post's title is, um, blowing in the wind.

Seriously, this looks like the Jeff Koons plagiarism case all over again. I am sorry to say this.

It's just SHOWBIZ.

Sorry to say, but I always saw him as a very good bullshitter. An artist, no doubt about that, but too hipped creative-wise. Some sort of Readers Digest of art.

Seriously... at what point in visiting Asia would Bob Dylan have seen any of these scenes? They're from another generation.

Unless Dylan is a vampire...

Given how often Dylan songs have been credited to "trad.", there's a kind of poetic balancing of karma here.

Mmm, my previous comment is too strong. But what I always saw about him is some hint of style over substance, and some lack of own feelings. Someone who often creates art that talks about roughness and authenticity that he didn't really experience first hand. The consummated protest singer (well, now I see your post kinda goes for that same point Mike)
The kind of guy who purportedly looks like a drug addict because it lends credibility to the character. More of a disguised tourist than a local, so to speak.

I am not offended by the fact that someone took pictures and made them into paintings (that's what most Sunday painters practice with), but what I find astonishingly stupid is the writeup of the Gagosian gallery.

To actually believe that these are firsthand accounts, play with words by saying that "the vibrancy of colours" is inspired by real street experience while admitting that some pictures may be influenced by previous work, that is incredibly ignorant from a major gallery.

Heck, these people must employ armies of art history MA and PhD people, who should have at least some instinct for picture analysis, and be aware of dubious artist claims.

Everybody knows that Dylan is a serial liar, a borrower, and eternally confident in the righteousness of his acts. He lifted songs off Woody Guthrie, he bulshitted journalists over and over, and never told the same story twice. But that's what made him fascinating, not what makes his claims true.

The Gagosian made the mistake to believe him, something nobody has done since the sixties anymore.

Oh, and crappy painting technique, seriously!

Addendum: guess who wrote the catalogue for this exhibit of highly original pictures?

Richard Prince.

Remember the Marlboro man?

I think we're about to hit a postmodern Singularity of appropriation...


So Bob isn't going to mind when I photograph his sheet music and lyrics and sell them? Clearly, my photography is inspired by Mr. Dylan, and yes there may be some "superficial" similarities, but the medium is COMPLETELY different!

Dylan must be hangin' with Richard Prince. Perhaps we can use photos of Bob to create crappy cultural icons...

It is interesting to see people respond that Dylan is interpreting these photos. He copied them. Firsthand my a**. It is fine if he wants to spend his time copying great photos, but please don't say you did when you didn't. It is not setting a good example Mr. Dylan.

But he *did* write "Blowin' in the Wind"!


Plagiarism or not, they are still mediocre paintings. The only reason the gallery is showing them is because it is Bob Dylan. It reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting that I saw years ago of a priest holding a dying man in the Congo, which was ripped off from a photograph which appeared in a newspaper a few years earlier. Either way it's still crap.

Wow, my respect for Joni Mitchell just went WAY up! (See Featured Comment by Dwain Barefield) He did write some good songs, but I've NEVER liked any of Dylan's performances.

Just wanted to mention cracked.com when I noticed the comment by Paul Luscher. :) Anyway, here's some links to the relevant articles on Cracked.

Plagiarism in music.

Plagiarism in literature. Just scanned it but it kinda seems the case against Eliot is thin. Yes, Waste Land is chock full of acknowledged and unacknowledged lines by other people but it's still a masterpiece. It's not like Eliot pulled a Prince.

BTW, taking photos as templates for paintings is nothing new. Nor really objectionable. Of course, we can talk about the worth of such paintings, but still... Anyway, the value of these paintings is in the name of Bob Dylan, not in the paintings themselves, no?

It's sad that a thief is few times nominated for Nobel award.Anyway Nobel award is a joke since....

My word, Bob Dylan is a hack, judging from those photos and paintings, and deserves to be exposed as such. Publicly...

I heard that Jerry Lewis' clown paintings fetch a fair Euro in France... but it must be about the quality of the art, no?

I heard that Jerry Lewis' clown paintings fetch a fair Euro in France... but it must be about the quality of the art, no?

The man is pretty out of it. Anyone who has seen him perform in the last 3 years can begrudgingly agree. Thus he is reduced to a money making vessel by his staff or controllers.
Sort of like how William Burroughs took up painting in his last years

Well, the hit song in the album "Another Side of Bob Dylan" was "It Ain't me Babe." Maybe he was telling us something.

There's a long and sleazy tradition of celebrity painters (enabled by the cynical marketing of 'art') leveraging their fame into a second and highly lucrative career selling mediocre paintings to impressionable collectors. Right off the top of my head I can think of Fess Parker, Kenny Rogers, Anthony Quinn, Jane Seymour and on and on...
A few of them may have created the occasional painting with some artistic merit, but Bob Dylan's work seems depressingly typical. Trace a photograph, tart it up with oil paint, laugh all the way to the bank.

Genuinely talented painters must be thinking murderous thoughts.

Wow, that is so shameful! Another case of rewarded plagiarism, and this time the thief is Bob Dylan. What the ...? My respect for the man just fell off a cliff. Even if the copyrights have expired on the originals (have they?), he could have credited the original artists as his source. But he didn't. Of course, it's no surprise Gagosian is showing his work. Gagosian is the gallery of at least one other prominent photography thief — Richard Prince. Hey Mr. Dylan ... go make your own damn photos. Shame, shame, shame.

I don't think George Harrison was willful in duplicating the tune, and in the end he settled. Indeed he bought the company. And wound up owning the copyright, so both tunes were his. Check out Wikipedia.

The referred Joni Mitchell article is an interesting read, btw.

Just to play devil's advocate for a minute, it is a gallery and not a museum. Their job is to sell paintings, not to promote artistic education, integrity, and expression. People like to buy celebrity-made art, what are they supposed to do, not take the cheque? Although it does looks like they didn't do their due diligence properly this time.

For a lot of people though, if Dylan made it, it must be important. We tend to confuse the artist with art. He wrote some terrific pieces of music a few decades ago, that hasn't changed, never meant he was a nice or even an honest guy. You could probably draft up a long list of women that great painters treated badly over the years, but we still look at their paintings.

Funny - the photographers shadow in the first picture is conveniently removed in the painting.

Is Bob Dylan a Plagiarist? Yep, always has been. That was kind of the point of the folk scene and oral tradition.

Can Bob Dylan paint from famous historical photographs? Of course. Can he then go and sell those? Be my guest. But... be honest about what they are!

The problem with this specific exhibit is the potential deception and lack of integrity. While the language from the exhibit never explicitly says that Dylan "stood in front of people while in Asia and painted them", it strongly implies it: "He often draws and paints while on tour..... A keen observer, Dylan is inspired by everyday phenomena... a visual reflection on his travels"

It seems like whoever pitched these paintings as original "firsthand depictions" was either trying to deceive the audience or never bothered to research the work. Either way, it puts a negative light on this gallery's ability to do serious business.

The text of the artist description appears to have been edited to remove the part about the paintings being based on his personal observations. Nice save Gagosian. What a sham!

Bob has always been as much an actor as an artist -- in fact, maybe that's his real art. From the time he left his fraternity at the University of Minnesota, until the time he became rich (time mostly spent in New York City) was a little more than two years. So when you read the lyrics of stuff like "Tangled Up in Blue," you just gotta laugh.

But, I do like his music. He borrows, appropriates, adapts, like all musicians, but his music is essentially original, and if he's faking the sincerity and authenticity, the "roots," you can ignore that when you're listening to it.

His drawing and painting has always sucked. I saw a book of it a few years ago (this has been going on for a while) and he's just bad at it. What can you say? Not that he's unique in that -- Henri Cartier Bresson gave up photography for drawing, and never got very good at it. Other not-good celebrity singer-painters: John Mellencamp and Tony Bennett.

I agree with the majority opinion here: this is pretty much a form of plagiarism. Or maybe it was like a hobby, and he or his agents got carried away with it, and decided to show it. Maybe it was just like a paint-by-numbers thing for him. But plagiarism aside, it's pretty bad.

Heavy influence is not always plagiarism: Manet took the composition for what is probably his most famous painting, "Dejeuner sur l'Herbe" from a sketch by Raphael, which he saw as a print by another artist who had reproduced the Raphael piece, and then later Picasso reworked the Manet...But every one of those things was greatly transformed, and was done with elegance and technique and relevance, all of which is missing in Bob's copies...


Hi Mike,

Like David in the first comment I also thought "kinda Bloop'd" but reading the link - based on original historical photographs - the Asian ones are Creative Commons/Public Domain, so he should really credit his sources.
The Q&A at the bottom of Okinawa Soba's Flickr page made me laugh!

best wishes phil

Just to say if you're into photos, Okinawa Soba's photostream will well repay a leisurely browse;

all the best phil

If a student did this they would be pursued by a team of lawyers demanding money and gaol time. When anyone famous does the same (especially in Hollywood) they say it's a "homage" which makes it all better.

"The Gagosian made the mistake to believe him..."

Yeah, and the San Francisco Giants organization believed Barry Bonds hat and shoe size got bigger in his early forties because he was working out with flax seed oil.

Albert Einstein once said: "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

Do we know that the description is based on what he told them? When we all do our local shows, we get to write our own artist statement which gets published verbatim, but I was surprised when some local rag published a review and despite my best efforts to supply them with everything they would need, the reviewer made up stuff to embellish what I had written. I had anticipated this and asked to review her final copy. I got a rather haughty "no", and a reference to her "credentials". (insert facepalm emoticon)

I've never been a fan of Dylan, though I acknowledge through his long career many have. His recent performance on the grammy's was so bad it was laughable.

It does take a modicum of talent to copy something as intricate as those pictures. I know I couldn't do it, but he should have at least given credit where credit is due.

Back in 1978 when I was a neophyte court reporter in federal court for the Southern District of New York, I reported the trial wherein Alex Haley, the great celebrated author of Roots, was sued for plagiarism by Margaret Walker Alexander, author of Manchild in the Promised Land. Haley lifted whole passages and paragraphs from her book for Roots. He was found liable but his reputation was already cemented at that point so was never tarnished as it should have been.

When Bob Dylan released his album 'Self Portrait' in 1970, Greil Marcus of Rolling Stone Magazine reviewed it with the opening line "What is this s&i7?".

The question still applies.

"Don't think twice, it's all right" - Bob Dylan

It has been pretty much obvious from the start that Dylan uses older material, some of it traditional, but even that was written by someone. "With God on Our Side" from Times they are a Changing is a reworking of the Irish republican "Patriot Game" with both words and melody quite similar. "Girl from the North Country" is, similarly, a reworking of "Scarborough Fair". This doesn't much bother me, though I'm surprised to discover (via Wikipedia) that Dylan actually contests it in relation to "Patriot Game"! But anyhow, this sort of reinvention of folk material is no more "plagiarism" than the use of a folk melody by a classical composer, say.

The paintings strike me as a different case. He's an amateur painter, and one of the things he's done is to copy some photos. If I were trying to teach myself to paint I might do the same thing, only no-one would think it worth exhibiting my copies because I'm not famous.

Why did he copy them so exactly when it wouldn't be that much more work to add, subtract, or rearrange elements and make them into clearly derivative works?

Perhaps it's simply that he's not as good a painter as he would like to be. I have dabbled in oil painting myself. I am hopeless at painting from memory or real life but not too bad at copying photographs.

The interesting thing here is indeed what's Dylan's point? These paintings aren't great, it's more of the stuff that one usually sees at the lower end of the market, amateurs selling their work etc. So they really don't improve Dylan's reputation as an artist, more to the contrary. He could make some money out of them but does he need to? Does selling paintings like this even make any serious money?

I hope to goodness no one ever appropriates Bob Dylan's singing voice. It is like a cat being tortured.

Little Bobby Zimmerman.... still takin' it, still fakin' it. Joni Mitchell is correct, everything about Dylan is a deception.

Like the title of one good Dylan biography says "Just a Song and Dance Man".

This is really odd. Why would someone of his stature copy such easily traceable source material and then publicly display them as original art? The Cartier-Bresson photograph is not exactly an obscure photograph he found in a flea market. He's either losing it or is beyond caring at this point.

An artist's work should be judged by the work not by the artist's name. If someone showed me a crap photo by Ansel Adams I wouldn't say "Ansel Adams? Wonderful!" I'd say "Not up tohis usual standard"

I love the early songs of Bob Dylan. I don't love Bob Dylan, I've never even met the man!

The fact that this man, or any other, produced some of the iconic work of the 20th Century doesn't mean that everything else is of the same quality.

I admit, I like some of Dylan songs (Wonder Boys soundtrack), but it makes me wonder how much is his inspiration. Then again, as a scientist, I constantly see the theft of intellectual property, including my own. It's a dog-eat-dog world folks.

All is smoke and mirrors in the art world, the clever thing is not to get caught.

My father, who grew up in Minneapolis, always said that he knew people Bob owed money to. Minor stuff, like helping him out with some grocery money or a few bucks to cover his rent, but when he became successful all that sort of got ... forgotten. I have no idea how true it is (for all I know my dad has Bob confused with some other musician) but I've always harbored some doubts about the man's character since then. I've not really seen or heard anything since then to contradict those doubts.

Not that a lot of people will probably care, but it appears it was Madison autochrome scholar and collector Mark Jacobs who alerted the NYTimes to the Leon Busy image copied by Dylan . . . he was uncredited of course. That's the Times for you.

Not to pile on, but several years ago I met a couple of veterans of the early folk scene in New York, and they had plenty of things to say about Dylan - none of it flattering, from a character standpoint. And having seen Dylan more than once in concert (I'm a slow learner), I can only say that he should pay the audience for sitting through the farrago of unintelligible garbage he spews from the stage. So I can't really say that this surprises me.
Incidentally, I saw Joan Baez in concert a year or so ago, and she did a prolonged, hilarious parody of Dylan and his singing style. Think there's some bad blood on those tracks?

I haven't really had any respect for him since he said he "had never been an activist" to excuse being in China. Ridiculous.

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