the Backroom

Govinda Gallery, Liza Phillips, and The Centennial Celebration of The Phillips Collection

by Chris Murray on June 17, 2021  |  287 Comments »

This is the centennial year celebration of The Phillips Collection in Washington, the first museum of modern art in America. It was my great pleasure to welcome Marjorie Phillips, the co-founder of the Phillips collection, to Govinda Gallery on September 16, 1983, for the opening of her granddaughter Liza Phillips wonderful exhibition of her art at Govinda.

Marjorie Phillips and Liza Phillips, Govinda Gallery. Photo by Chris Murray

Mrs. Phillips was presented a copy of Illuminations From The Bhagavad-Gita by gallery director Chris Murray, which she is seen holding in the photo below. Illuminations co-author and artist Kim Waters is enjoying introducing David Murray to Mrs. Phillips. David Murray is now the administrative director of Govinda Gallery.

Kim Waters, David Murray and Marjorie Phillips, Govinda Gallery. Photo by Chris Murray
# 14, Liza Phillips, August, 1983

Congratulations Phillips Collection!

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Tom Meyer in “Art For The People” Installation In Beijing

by Chris Murray on June 16, 2021  |  5 Comments »
Can u Find Me, 2021, by Tom Meyer

The painting above by Tom Meyer is part of a major new art mural just installed at the U.S. Embassy in China. The theme of freedom of speech and expression is a most worthy one. Congratulations to Tom and all involved. Please enjoy the description of the mural below. Meyer’s Can u Find Me is center right. Zoom in.

U.S. Embassy in Beijing offers ‘Art for the People’
by Amirah Ismail

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing is redecorating — and making a powerful statement about freedom of expression.

Art for the People,” a new exhibition on the exterior walls of the U.S. Embassy in China, showcases 23 popular works of American street art, reproduced in partnership with the original artists. Their styles and subjects reflect the diversity of the United States, with pieces highlighting American pioneers such as Muhammad Ali and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as indigenous Native and Hispanic communities.

Painting murals on buildings and for special exhibits in city parks and museums is a growing trend across the United States and around the world. Vandalizing property with graffiti is still illegal, but many American cities have designated specific public places for street art. More businesses, neighborhoods, and local governments are commissioning artists to create outdoor art for the people.

These artists transform blank spaces into colorful displays, with permission from building owners and the freedom to share ideas and express themselves creatively.

The U.S. Embassy’s innovative art project illustrates these fundamental American values of freedom of speech and expression, as well as the ongoing U.S. commitment to public diplomacy and direct outreach to the people of China.

“We want a U.S.-China relationship that includes space for direct, honest, and robust public engagement,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “Art for the People represents the diversity of American society. It also embodies our deep commitment to genuine exchange with the Chinese people.”

The outdoor exhibition is open to the public and will be on display for six months. No entrance ticket or invitation is required; all you need are comfortable shoes for a stroll around the embassy.

Tom Meyer’s paintings are available through Govinda Gallery and Addison Ripley Gallery.

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People Magazine, Bob Dylan, Ted Russell and Govinda Gallery

by Patrick Pearse on May 25, 2021  |  51 Comments »

People Magazine celebrated Bob Dylan’s birthday this week with an in depth look at Ted Russell’s photographs of Dylan, including the first professional photographs taken of Dylan in November of 1961, just before the release of his first album. Writer Sam Gillette interviews Chris Murray about LIFE photographer Ted Russell and his now historic images of Dylan. Hats off to People for a great story honoring Dylan and Russell. Here it is!

By Sam Gillette | May 24, 2021 03:20 PM

Bob Dylan — the legendary singer-songwriter who won a Nobel Prize for his poeticism — turned 80 on Monday. In celebration of the artist’s 60 years on the folk-rock scene, PEOPLE has an exclusive look at rare photos of Dylan at the “genesis” of his career. Shot by photojournalist Ted Russell, the images include the earliest professional photographs ever taken of the young singer as he performed at Gerde’s Folk City and strummed his guitar in his Greenwich Village apartment in New York City in November 1961. Russell photographed Dylan again as he was seated next to James Baldwin at the NECLC’s Bill of Rights Dinner in November 1963, and while he was writing songs at his typewriter in his home in March 1964. By then Bob Dylan was “the voice of a generation,” says Chris Murray, who wrote the introduction to Russell’s photo book, Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964. “I can’t help but think about how Bob has endured,” says Murray in an interview with PEOPLE. “So many talented people, whether it be Jimi Hendrix or George Harrison or Kurt Cobain, were taken from us way too soon. But Bob has been a constant for us in the best sense of that word.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

A Surprising Discovery

It’s a rare thing to discover unpublished photographs of music icons, explains Murray, the owner of Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C. and a longtime champion of rock photography. So when Ted Russell called Murray in 2013, and asked if he could show him his box of rare Bob Dylan photographs, Murray immediately agreed. 

“Here was this gentleman who is in his mid-80s, and we sit down at the table, and he pulls out a box of old photos. Not gorgeous gallery prints, if you will. They’re just a box of photos. I looked in this box, and I said, ‘Oh my God,’ ” he says. “It’s not very often that you can find an archive of unpublished photos of America’s greatest songwriter that have never been seen.” 

With Murray’s help, Ted Russell’s photo book was published by Rizzoli the next year.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

An Unknown Folk Singer

In November 1961, Bob Dylan performed at Gerde’s Folk City. After the performance, Russell asked Dylan if he could photograph him in his apartment for a photo essay about “the struggles of an up-and-coming folk singer trying to make it in New York City,” which he planned to pitch to national magazines, according to the preface in Bob Dylan.

Russell’s pitch to The Saturday Evening Post editors was a bust. While the editors were initially “enthusiastic” about the story idea, they didn’t like Dylan’s music, Russell writes. 

‘They were all seated around a large oak conference table, waiting to hear the records, and as soon as I played the first one, they looked dismayed, and asked me if I was playing it at the correct speed,” he explains. “I tried at 33 rpm, and then 45 rpm, and they didn’t like either.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Beginning of a Long Career

The editors may have passed on the story, but now Russell’s early images of Bob Dylan are treasured by his fans and fans of rock photography. 

“These photos show the beginning of that incredible 60-year journey of songwriting and performing and recording and entertaining,” says Murray, whose favorite image is featured on the cover of the photo book. A young Bob Dylan smiles directly at the camera. “You see the whole future of Bob Dylan in that photo,” he continues.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

Just Bob Dylan

When Ted Russell photographed Bob Dylan in his apartment for the first time, the musician had just moved in with his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo. 

“[Ted] said to Bob, ‘Hey, pretend I’m not here. Just go on and do what you do as if I’m not here,’ ” Murray explains of the photo shoot. “Sure enough, Bob just strummed his guitar in his bed.” 

Murray loves the photograph (right) of Dylan smiling. He notes that next to Dylan is a box of items he hadn’t even unpacked yet. 

“There were no stylists, no hair and makeup people, like there would be today,” says Murray of Russell’s “fly on the wall approach.” “It was just Ted with his camera observing Bob and shooting him.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Tom Paine Award

Russell didn’t photograph Dylan again until November 1963, just a few days before President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Both Dylan and James Baldwin attended the NECLC’s Bill of Rights Dinner, where Dylan was given the Tom Paine Award. Russell was on assignment for LIFE magazine and photographed the two icons as they sat next to each other during the event.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

Two Icons Meet

“They clearly were enjoying each other’s company. There’s even one [photo] where Bob is at the lectern giving his thank you speech, and you see Baldwin looking up at him and smiling,” says Murray. “He clearly appreciated and was enjoying this young, idealistic singer, who by then had written ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ and ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’,’ some really important songs. Of course, Baldwin would have been very, very aware of that.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

No Direction Home

Years later, when director Martin Scorsese released his 2005 documentary about Bob Dylan’s life, No Direction Home, he featured a number of Russell’s photographs from that historic night. 

“It was a very significant event,” Murray explains.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Last Photo Shoot

Russell’s fourth — and last — photo shoot with Bob Dylan was also a LIFE assignment. In March 1964, Dylan was still living in the same Greenwich Village apartment. Russell photographed him at his typewriter, after his interview with a LIFE journalist. 

“By then, [Bob Dylan] was a big, big deal. Still a folk artist. Hadn’t gone electric yet. But his songwriting had changed everything,” says Murray, who shared this never-before-published photograph (right) from the shoot with PEOPLE.

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

A Songwriter at Work

“Bob turned around and started writing. He used a typewriter,” Murray continues. “I’ve never, ever seen any other photos of Bob Dylan writing, and he is our greatest musical songwriter.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

Capturing the Folk Music Scene

Beyond insight into the beginnings of Bob Dylan’s career, Russell’s photographs also capture the vivid folk music scene of New York City in the 1960s. 

“[Bob Dylan] came from Hibbing, Minnesota to go to Greenwich Village,” says Murray, “because everybody knew there was this scene going on there.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Sound of Social Justice

Bob Dylan is a longtime champion of humanitarian causes — and so is his music.

“People were interested in ideas like peace, social justice,” Murray says of Bob Dylan’s connection to the cultural movement of the 1960s. “While Ted was photographing Bob during those three years, Bob wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’ He wrote ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’. So those photos reveal the environment, if you will, in Greenwich Village. The photos of him in Gerde’s Folk City, where he’s performing and singing these songs, this was the heart of the folk music movement. Bob was part of it.”

Credit: Ted Russell/Courtesy Govinda Gallery

The Last Photograph

The last photo Russell took of Dylan is of the artist walking down the street before he grabbed a cab. 

“I’m getting goosebumps. When you think of the cover photo of that young lad who looks like a kid or a cherub, he’s got the sweetest look, to the one when Bob is coming down the street, that’s November ’61 to November ’64,” says Murray. “What an amount of creativity in those few years. That folk music scene nurtured all of that, and New York nurtured it. Bob said, when he came to New York, ‘I knew this was the place I was meant to be.’ “

The Photo Book

Russell’s iconic photographs of Bob Dylan are featured in his book, Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964.

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Bob Dylan…Happy Birthday!

by Chris Murray on May 24, 2021  |  1 Comment »

It is a wonderful thing that Bob Dylan and his remarkable creative energy has been with us and endured for a long time. We are blessed! Govinda Gallery has exhibited many of the finest and most compelling photographs taken of Dylan throughout his career, by many of my favorite photographers. In Celebration of Bob’s birthday here is a selection of some of them.

Ted Russell
Daniel Kramer
Dick Waterman
Barry Feinstein
Ken Regan
Baron Wolman
Jim Marshall
Mark Seliger
Herb Greene
Danny Clinch
Elliot Landy
Bob Gruen

These photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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Chris Makos, Paul Solberg, Sean Strub, and Milford, Pennsylvania

by Chris Murray on May 12, 2021  |  4,189 Comments »
Chris Makos’ Jaguar with his MANRAY license plate

Last weekend, I drove to Milford, Pennsylvania to see my longtime friend, photographer Chris Makos. I first showed Makos’ photographs at Govinda Gallery in May of 1981, in an exhibition simply titled Christopher Makos, Photographs. I went on to organize eight more exhibitions of Makos’ work at Govinda Gallery in Georgetown, as well as in the Art Bank Gallery in Minneapolis. Makos’ work introduced me to contemporary photography. I went on to publish silk screen portfolios of his photographs titled Icons and Man Ray. I also exhibited his paintings. It has been a remarkable 40-year association.

Govinda Gallery invitation for Chris Makos’ World Tour exhibition in 1983
Man Ray silk screen by Christopher Makos (1990)
Andy Warhol silk screen from Icons series by Christopher Makos (1990)

Makos for many years had a regular feature in Interview magazine titled In, which published his images of artists, dancers, models, musicians, collectors, celebrities, and more, photographed on locations around the world. Makos had me accompany him as his art dealer on several trips, among them to Dallas, Texas; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and Houston, Texas, along with his stylist, makeup person, and hair assistant for his photoshoots. They were remarkable and creative trips.

Chris Makos’ In column from February 1986
Chris Makos (left) and Chris Murray (in driver’s seat), Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, 1985
Paul Solberg (left), Chris Makos (center), Chris Murray (right)

My visit to Milford, Pennsylvania with the artist Carlotta Hester was also remarkable. We stayed at the Hotel Fauchere, a charming inn originally built in 1852 and beautifully restored by Sean Strub, the mayor of Milford. Makos’ art, along with Paul Solberg’s, is featured in the guest rooms as well as the public space of the hotel on Main Street.

Hotel Fauchere and its historic marker
Chris Murray enjoying The Pure Drop on the front porch of Hotel Fauchere
Hotel Fauchere bar with Andy Warhol and John Lennon photograph by Makos

It was a great visit and was topped off with a lively garden party thrown in Carlotta Hester’s and my honor at Mayor Strub’s home. Among the guests were the dynamic John Brendt, the author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (the all-time best-seller on The New York Times best-seller list); novelist Richard Morais, who wrote the best-seller The Hundred Foot Journey, which was made into a film starring Helen Mirren; and the charming artist and art teacher Susie Lyddon.

Carlotta Hester and the author John Brendt
Susie Lyddon and Carlotta Hester
Govinda Gallery director Chris Murray, author John Brendt, and Milford mayor and activist Sean Strub

I had the opportunity to present Milford Mayor Sean Strub a copy of Carlotta Hester’s book The Pure Drop, featuring her drawings of traditional Irish musical artists. Sean reminded me that we had first met when he was a student at Georgetown University and would enjoy visiting Govinda Gallery.

It was a brilliant weekend and a visit to Milford, and its stunning state parks and the Hotel Fauchere are well worth it. Chris Makos told me that the party at Mayor Strub’s home and the gathering of artists and writers was now going to be an annual event.

I’m looking forward to Chris Makos’ upcoming book featuring many of his unpublished photographs of Andy Warhol. We will feature that book when it is published.

Christopher Makos’ photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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Happy Birthday Donovan…and Robert Johnson!

by Chris Murray on May 10, 2021  |