Hiroshi Sugimoto’s No Cash Deal With U2

- - Photographers


Bono confessed that he loved Sugimoto’s seascape photographs and began quizzing the artist about the work.

“He started taking notes as I talked,” Sugimoto recalled. Those notes became the foundation for the new album’s title track. Last year, during a visit to Dublin, Sugimoto heard the first demo tape, and a few months later was told by Bono that U2 wanted to use the Boden Sea image on the album jacket.

“I said, ‘Are you sure? If you use it you won’t be able to put anything on top of it, not even the U2 name,” the artist remembered.

He was surprised when Bono strongly agreed. Rolling Stone is now calling the text-free jacket “an early front runner for album cover of the year.” (The cover also features an equal sign, but it is attached to the plastic wrapper, so it disappears once opened it.) Then came talk of money.

“I gave myself just a second to think about it,” Sugimoto recalled, “and I said ‘How about a Stone Age deal — no cash?’ ”

Bono agreed on an “artist-to-artist” barter whereby Sugimoto could use the “No Line on the Horizon” song in any project he wanted in the future. Sugimoto says he still hasn’t made up his mind about how to use the song — which he says he likes, but liked even better in its “more hard rock” demo stage.

— From a story over on The Japan Times Online sent to me by Ellis Vener.

There Are 38 Comments On This Article.

  1. I kept waiting to read the part where the lawyers stepped in and did their thing. It’s refreshing to see a story where there is no talk of litigation!!

  2. I admire the confidence Sugimoto displayed in defending the visual integrity of his work. I’m surprised he wanted a hard rockin song — his images portray such quiet.

  3. Cash Strapped

    Here’s a little backstory about Sugimoto and his dealer Larry Gagosian. Seems tough times have hit Sugimoto too — his print prices have plumeted from $450,000 all the way down to $360,000. (But remember, he only gets 50% of that, so get out the violin).


  4. Mary J Adams

    How refreshing to see a bartering amoung artists of this caliber. As an artist myself, I have always been in favor of the bartering system. I believe that it shows that money is not always the most important thing & shows mutual respect.

  5. I’ve always liked Sugimoto’s pictures (especially his architectural work); see his prints in person if you get the chance!

    What good is a song to him? Is he going to stream it on his webpage? :P

  6. john mcd.

    Keeping it real? What ever does that mean?

    The parties concerned here are all used to dealing with fees and contracts commensurate with the value they create. Maybe Sugimoto is a big fan of the group and doesn’t really need the money. I can understand that. So I wonder what Sugimoto has in mind. Could be interesting, but it might have made more business sense to just agree a fair fee.

  7. john mcd.

    Anyone who likes Sugimoto’s work should also check out italian photographer Mimmo Jodice.

  8. I’m sure TR has the same kind of deal with hot women and their body parts….it’s nothing new when you’re flying at the altitude I’m sure.

  9. I thought about this after reading the story several days ago and realized what a great opportunity was missed. Maybe these guys are flying in a rarefied atmosphere but that’s exactly the type of people who can herald in change. “What if” Sugimoto had requested $1 million to create a fund that could be used to raise awareness of copyright issues or some such cause? He has/had Bono in a position to become a spokesperson for said cause and with proper planning people might actually start to take note which in turn would help a greater number of people than just the two parties involved. Its something to think about . . .

    • @h.linton,
      Yeah, what if. What if someone asked Bono to be a spokesperson for something he didn’t really want to be a spokesperson for. What kind of a spokesperson is that?
      What if Sugimoto decided to ask for 1 million dollars for a fund to save one legged panda’s.
      You can “what if” all day,the point is that these two great figures have reached an agreement based upon artistic integrity, collaborative visions, and although it may not immediately benefit all of us it sets a precedent that we can try and match. Tackle your own causes, don’t rely on someone else’s coat tails.

  10. I would be open to similar barters. The trouble is that the Tax Man will want to place values on these deals. It still begs the question of whether deals at the top can work when trickled down to a lower scale.

  11. As far a Bono being a spokesperson for copyright change – good luck with that. Seeing as his label (Island at the time) just about sued the band Negativeland out of existence for copyright infringement. Only to use the same sampling techniques on the Zoo TV tour.

    So forgive me if I don’t think of U2 as being particularly original. And album cover of the year? I wonder what Taylor Deupree had to pay to use the same photo? And then there’s the Brothomstates’ 2001 Warp album Caro. When will it end.

    Sorry for the negativity. I truly do look forward to what Sugimoto does with the music. And I appreciate Bono’s altruistic side, I just don’t think copyright issues are a good fit for him.


  12. This is a very interesting story about collaboration. It’s nice to see that there is a true respect between U2 and Sugimoto.