Bob Dylan’s Unoriginal Paintings

- - Art, copyright

Seems that the Gagosian Gallery of Cariou v. Prince fame can’t stay away from artists using photography to make their art. This time it’s Bob Dylan who takes photographs, repaints them and then claims they are “firsthand depictions of people, street scenes, architecture and landscape.” How about secondhand Bob:

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There Are 49 Comments On This Article.

    • Gagosian marketing plan involving controversial theft of imagery to promote untalented painter = WIN

  1. the cinemascapist

    @ Siddharth… that is what he does best… constantly contradictory without feeling the need to explain. His name should be alongside the same definition as the Honey Badger.

  2. That Cartier-Bresson photo which Dylan ripped off is great.
    Sorry I can’t say the same about Dylan’s painting.
    He is Hermes the thief. Not the best side of Hermes but what are you gonna do?

  3. Dave Bradley

    Holy crap! How could Dylan possibly have thought he would’nt be found out? It couldn’t be more obvious. At least he has good taste and recognizes great composition and the decisive moment in the photos from which he steals.

  4. Boo on Bob. For shame.

    Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper for the collectors to just send a [not-legally-obtained] photograph or magazine clipping over to China and commission a painted copy? I mean really, what’s the difference…?

  5. This is hilarious yet sad. I love Dylan’s music yet I find this quite disturbing. I have to speculate a bit here and say that he really didn’t give a thought to the appropriation of the photographs. He probably thought hey I bought the the zine so I can use the photograph. right?

    I do have to wonder what the reaction is for Gliden, Kessel , and others? Wait Bresson, Kessel and others are dead, hmmm makes you wonder. I do hate to add this part, you I hope those who are still alive would pursue Bob,and challenge him on the out right misappropriation of others work, not to, sets a bad precedent.

  6. Danny Hurley

    Bob talks about his work, yet never mentions that he borrows from others photos. It’s quite dis-ingenuous. I just finished doing a cover of one of his music videos, don’t feel if I need his permission now, as long as I call it Art. Bet His lawyers would feel different.

      • Danny Hurley

        Thanks mike, I know, and I’m ready. In fact I plan on sending it to him and hope he will do a cameo. It’s for self promo, and will not be published or profited from.

    • le cinemasagiste

      what are you talking about? he say’s exactly that in the interview…

      “I paint mostly from real life. It has to start with that. Real people, real street scenes, behind-the-curtain scenes, live models, paintings, PHOTOGRAPHS, staged setups, architecture, grids, graphic design. Whatever it takes to make it work. “

      • Danny Hurley

        He never mentions that the photographs were taken by others, a pretty important omission, IMO. Live Models? Whose models? His? Did he stage the set-ups or did he copy photos from others set-ups?
        BTW I see nothing wrong with painting others work, just own up to it, give em some credit.

        • le cinemasagiste

          it’s Dylan man… watch any of his interviews and try to find anything coherent in them. In that same article when asked if he follows Contemporary art he said that he thinks Mini Golf courses are great art.

    • Mate, learn to read!!. Have you read the Elderfield article???
      He may need to learn to paint… other people need lessons in literacy!!

  7. cinemascapist

    People need to chill out. The fanatic whining is exactly what they are expecting, He never claimed to be a painter and it’s no coincidence that the gallery (or maybe Dylan himself) chose Richard Prince to write the text for the exhibit catalog. Mr. Prince and Señor Dylan are probably lapping up drinks somewhere and laughing their asses off right now.

    • the only coherent comments around here, i must say. And remember, they call it Art MARKET for a reason, is not just a name.

  8. sometimes it seems like… the art market, at least elements of it, make the 08-09 real estate market look like a most sound business and investment.

    Pondering how these days could make art / gallery market sense, make sense to a gallery operator… while I am chewing gum, blowing a ……bubble!? o -;

  9. According to ARTFixDaily Dylan’s work has been previously shown in Chemintz, Germany (2007), the Statens Museum in Copenhagen (2008), and the Halcyon Gallery in London (2010) where price tags for most pieces ranged from 150,000-700,000 US dollars. This would be “Drawn Blank” the authentic work he sketched on tour decades ago and then riffed off of his 1990 line drawings recently with paint.

    As far as THIS?
    The times they are a changin’
    – but maybe not –
    he’s just doin “wahetever it takes to make it work”
    – one of the pieces in the show is a photorealistic painting of a LIFE magazine cover from 1966.

    As far as the copyright holders of the photographs, perhaps Bob has a deal to pay a percentage. That would be the honorable thing. I’ve had painters copy my images, they ask, I’m flattered. But if they sold for half a million?

  10. -I argument:
    1.) Art is free* (from freedom).
    2.) The Market seem to be more than free* (from liberalism) maybe ultra-liberal-all-it-takes for money.

    So, where´s the surprise on Art Market being so shameless?
    Bob Dylan paints others pics and don´t credit? Big deal, just another player on decorative culture. And is not the first or the only one.

  11. At the very beginning, Cartier Bresson considered photography as a good way to take notes of things and scenes he could draw or paint later on… which he never did… Probably because in the meantime, his photographs happened to find their own ways, live their own lives,… In other words, obviously became pieces of art. – remember, in the 50ies, photography was not considered an art form-.
    It’s really sad to see Bob Dylan “overpaintings”… I suppose he carefully chose the pictures he worked on, then, by painting over them, denied their artistic dimension. What for?

  12. the cinemascapist

    after thinking about this exhibit a bit more and because I am a Dylansciple, I would say that I would very much be interested in viewing this exhibit. I would argue with Rob’s headline of “unoriginal paintings” based on the following quote from the Gagosian Gallery…

    ““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.”

    I would probably enjoy looking at these recreations (or exact copies) of well-known BLACK & WHITE photographs to examine how Dylan decided to use color where none existed in the original sources. That changes everything and makes them quite original (IMO).

    • they aren’t all copied from black and white photos though, so your point is invalid. he has added nothing to many of the photos he has copied and taken the palette directly from many of the coloured photos.

      there is nothing original about what he has done, he is just another Todd of the art world.

      • le cinemasagiste

        Many of them are from B&W, that is validated… and who’s to say that the statement about “the paintings’ vibrancy and freshness come from the colors and textures found in everyday scenes he observed during his travels.” is untrue? I actually like to think that Dylan used the Artsy Speak Bullock Generator ( for this show just to add another level of humor to this joke.

        p.s. Todd never had his exhibit so widely discussed (worldwide) and it wasn’t nearly as controversial.

        • the cinemascapist

          oh lord, now Dylan is a frontrunner for the Nobel Prize in Literature… he is going to get a lot of heat for that one.

  13. Donnor Party

    Putting aside the issue of originality, these are piss poor. They are like some shit could buy in Tijuana, or the Master Work that comes out of a Sophmore BFA show.

    Old Bob is dilusional.

  14. Haha. Haters.
    Art is a copy of copy of copy of copy. And he is making an excellent point here. Use what you can. Go to Gagosian. Sell your art. Fuck everyone else.
    Especially with having the name like this.
    This is modern pop art. If you don’t get it then you should stick to shooting weddings.

    • I will stick to shooting weddings. It’s honest work for gratefull clients, and it is as creative as you make it. Is there something wrong with that?

      Or do I not matter unless i live off wealthy patrons who are bored of the stock market decide to put their money in something more fun than the dollar…?

  15. Okay, so I fired off an e-mail to the Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson in France. I started out as a painter, and I have painted from photographs (usually my own), though if anyone in any of my college classes ever did such a blatant copy or projection paint-over, that would’ve likely got the offender thrown out of class. It’s really tacky and in poor taste. Anyway, here’s what I wrote to Foundation HCB:

    “I recently noticed that the Gagosian Gallery in New York City is displaying several recent paintings by musician Bob Dylan. One of the paintings on display is a copy of a Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph taken in China in 1948.

    I am formally trained as a painter, though I now make my living as a commercial photographer. I know HCB use to sketch, though I’m not quite sure what he would think of the Dylan paintings. Perhaps you could clarify whether images are available from the collection to artists, or whether this was done without your knowledge.”

    If I get some sort of reply on this, I’ll make sure to share it here. I’m not quite sure how they will take it. Quite likely Magnum Photos already informed them.

  16. i think, this is the normal process of learning to paint is to copy other people’s work. You learn composition and lighting techniques. The problem is, with famous people, these “learning” works become valuable themselves. Additionally, celebrities have rather large egos and live in a sort-of fantasy world they create themselves. The general thirst by the majority of us for authenticity really doesn’t mix well with the life-state of celebrity. I’m not making excuses for Dylan here, just trying to provide some insight into how this plagarism could occur.

  17. WOW I can’t believe he totally ripped off a / the photographers images. What kind of artist is he? Maybe he did just a little too many drugs during his hey day?

  18. Piltdownman

    This really is just pathetic, after all is said and done. Paint By Numbers by the great seer? It’s a sad money grab out on highway 51…