I was so pleased to just find out that Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 featuring Ted Russell’s photographs of Bob Dylan during his first years in New York City was just named the Gold Winner for Best Coffee Table Book from Foreword Reviews’ IndieFab 2015 Book of the Year Awards. It also received a Silver Award for Performing Arts & Music book. What an honor it has been for me to collaborate with Ted Russell in producing that book. Congratulations Ted Russell and to the publisher Rizzoli.
Exhibitions of Ted Russell’s photographs are being scheduled for later this year in Havana, Cuba and New York City.
Sri Narasimha Avatara. Pencil, Pen, Acrylic and Pastels on Board, 66 x 46 cm.
The Museum of Sacred Art in Durbuy, Belgium recently opened a comprehensive exhibition of the original manuscript paintings and drawings for Illuminations From the Bhagavad-Gita. The Museum of Sacred Art acquired the entire collection of paintings and drawings that were created over a period of six years by Kim Waters for the book co-authored with Chris Murray.
Kim Waters recently traveled to Durbuy near Brussels for the opening of the exhibition. It was by all accounts a festive atmosphere at the opening.
The Museum of Sacred Art also published a beautiful catalog of the exhibition that includes photographs, memorabilia, and other ephemera with an essay by Steven J. Rosen that details the making of Illuminations From the Bhagavad-Gita.
Kiosk at the entrance to the Museum of Sacred Art for the Illuminations From the Bhagavad-Gita exhibition.
Martin Gurvich, Director, Museum of Sacred Art, Indian classical bamboo flute master Hariprasad Chaurasia, Kim Waters, Kirtan singer Vaiyasaki Das, and his wife Kishori
Exhibition installation view.
Exhibition installation view.
Artist Kim Waters at the opening reception with Krishna devotees.
Krishna, the Cow heard Boy of Vrindavan. Pencil, Pen, Acrylic and Pastels on Board, 66 x 46 cm.
The Savannah Morning News recently published a story on Alfred Wertheimer’s exhibition at the Telfair Museum Elvis at 21. The writer Allison Hersh referred to Wertheimer’s photographs as “elegant compositions.” Here is that story. Exhibition curator Chris Murray gave an illustrated talk about Wertheimer’s photographs at the museum which can be viewed below the article.
Elvis through the lens: An American icon at 21
By Allison Hersh
With his sleek black coif, seductive voice and supple hips, Elvis Presley shimmied to the forefront of American culture in 1956.
That February, he stormed the U.S. music charts with his hit single “Heartbreak Hotel.” Just one month later, his self-titled debut album went gold. That fall, he made his debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” winning the hearts of countless Americans, and graced the silver screen in the movie “Love Me Tender.”
In 1956, the King was just 21 years old when he met Alfred Wertheimer, a young photojournalist, in New York. For the next year, Wertheimer shadowed Elvis, chronicling his explosion on the American cultural landscape. Shooting the iconic singer in moody black and white, the freelance photographer captured Elvis onstage and in quiet moments, documenting his transformation from an aspiring singer to bona fide star.
“Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer,” a new exhibit at the Jepson Center, offers insight into one of the rock ‘n’ roll’s most enduring figures, glimpsed through the lens on the cusp of global fame. Defined by elegant compositions and intimate scenes, this solo exhibition offers unguarded access to the singer in public performances and in private scenes, shining light on a major talent at a pivotal point in his career.
“Wertheimer’s beautifully composed photographs provide not only a fascinating glimpse of Elvis at a crucial turning point of his career, but also provide a window into everyday American life in 1956,” said COurtney McNeil, Telfair Museums’ chief curator of collections and exhibitions. “The details of the restaurants, concert halls, automobiles and even the clothing seen in these photographs tells us so much about our country at this moment in time.”
Just as Elvis stood on the brink of stardom, America also found itself at a cultural crossroads, transitioning from the buttoned-up, buzz-cut patriotism of the World War II era to the more freewheeling 1960s.
“These photos depict Elvis at home with his shirt off and backstage, a little nervous, getting ready to go onstage,” said exhibition organizer Chris Murray, the founder and director of Govinda Gallery, who worked closely with Wertheimer. “We see him using a garden hose to fill his swimming pool. Here we find Elvis on the brink, in his day-to-day life, before he became an international superstar.”
The exhibit of the Jepson Center coincides with the 60th anniversary of the iconic performer’s first concert in Savannah, which took place at the former Savannah Sports Arena on June 25, 1956. Wearing his signature blue suede shoes, Elvis sang “Heartbreak Hotel” the top single of the year, for thousands of enthusiastic Savannah fans.
“Elvis has been such an enduring figure because he became a great American myth,” said Murray. “he created a persona that touched a nerve at the moment when popular culture was changing. In this exhibit, he goes from an artist to an icon.”
“Elvis at 21” includes more then three dozen photographs printed from the original 1956 negatives under Wertheimer’s supervision and marks the first exhibition of this body of work since the photographers death in 2014.
“While the images of Elvis’s performances are wonderful and full of an amazing energy, the works that really draw me are in the quieter moments: Elvis reading fan mail alone in a hotel room, relaxing at his family’s Memphis home while playing with his newest recordings for his high school sweetheart, or reading a newspaper at the train station,” said McNeil. “He is just 21 years old in these works, and his youth in these photographs is almost startling.”
On his first trip to New York City, Elvis met Wertheimer, a freelance photographer hired to shoot publicity photos of the rising star for RCA records.
“I asked Alfred why he decided to follow Elvis after the RCA shoot, and he said it was because he made the girls cry,” Murray said. “He thought it was a phenomenon. He said it was almost like a religious experience. That’s what caught his eye and made him curious about this young man.”
Organized by Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C. “Elvis at 21” serves as a remarkable document of a more innocent time, when the legendary singer was still young and full of promise, long before prescription drug abuse and overindulgence took their toll on the aging star.
“The photos would prove to be the last time any photographer had such close and intimate access to Elvis,” McNeil explained. “We are extremely honored to be able to share with Savannah this unique photographic record of such an iconic figure in American pop culture.”
I went to see Ziggy Marley last night at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD. Ziggy and his band were terrific with his two backup singers/dancers providing a lot of energy at the front of the stage. The music hall was packed with a very appreciative crowd.
After the show we had an opportunity to visit Ziggy backstage. He exuded a beautiful warmth and a charming vibration. I had the opportunity to give Ziggy a copy of Knockout: The Art of Boxing, the boxing book I edited featuring Ken Regan’s photographs with Muhammad Ali on the cover. Ziggy is a fan of boxing and soccer, and I gave him the book in memory of Muhammad Ali.
I’ll never forget the first exhibition I organized in Havana, Cuba La Revolucion del Rock and Roll in 2002. The invitation card featured on the inside Kate Simon’s portrait of Bob Marley. A photo from that session of Kate Simon’s was used on the cover of Marley’s album Kaya. There was a great group of Cuban rastas who would gather at Parque Central in Havana each day. I gave them invitations to the exhibition which they treasured. Here are a few photos of some of the Cuban rastas.
Cuban rasta holding the invitation card for La Revolucion del Rock and Roll. Parque Central, 2002.
Cuban rastas at the Fototeca de Cuba exhibition.
Cuban rasta enjoying a portrait of Little Richard at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, 1963, by Siegfried Loch.
Along with Howard Bingham’s photographs of Ali, Govinda Gallery exhibited several other photographers who took terrific photographs of The Greatest. Govinda presented the first exhibition of legendary sports photographer Neil Leifer’s images of Muhammad Ali in 2004. It was a remarkable exhibition and Leifer attended the opening. The exhibition was met with great critical acclaim and Madonna got a few of Leifer’s photographs among other collectors.
It was a landmark moment when Govinda Gallery presented the first exhibition of Annie Leibovitz’s photographs beginning in 1984. That exhibition was also a launch for her first book “Annie Leibovitz: Photographs.” In that exhibition and book were Annie’s photograph of Ali, dressed in black, sprawled out on a red staircase in Chicago.
Harry Benson’s exhibition at Govinda Gallery in 1998 featured his unforgettable black and white photograph of Ali at the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach depicting Ali in the ring with the Beatles knocking all four of them out with one punch. Ali and the Beatles were the most popular figures of the 60s.
The great portrait photographer William Coupon’s photograph of Muhammad Ali in 1991 in New York City was part of his first exhibition at Govinda Gallery in 2005. Coupon photographed Ali in front of the classic backdrop that he used to photograph so many world figures, athletes, and creative artists of all kinds.
But our most enduring tribute to Ali was “Knockout” the coffee table book on boxing featuring Ken Regan’s photographs. I edited both the photographs and the text for that book. I still have the wonderful recordings I made of Ken Regan’s boxing stories when I interviewed him for “Knockout.” The book was published by Insight Editions, the publishing company I co-founded in 2002. “Knockout” is still available through Amazon and Insight Editions.
Knockout: The Art of Boxing by Ken Regan with Chris Murray (Insight Editions 2007)
For some years I have told a few close friends that I would like to be at Muhammad Ali’s funeral when he passed on. Wouldn’t you know it that the champ himself arranged that for me and millions of his fans and friends around the world.
I went to Louisville last Thursday night for Ali’s final drive through his hometown and I attended his memorial service on Friday, June 10. I was so glad I could be there.
I saw Muhammad Ali fight only once in person and that was against Jimmmy Young on April 30, 1976 at the Capital’s Center in Landover, MD. A couple of days before the boxing match I went to watch Ali train and talk to the press at the Sheraton Hotel just off the beltway. The best thing about the fight was that it went 15 rounds and I got to watch the greatest boxer of all time in action for the entire fight. Ali won the fight in a unanimous decision.
Muhammad Ali vs. Jimmy Young, Capital’s Center, Landover, MD April 1976.
As a boxer Ali reinvented the fight game bringing a new and dynamic dimension to boxing that had never been seen before. But what really made me admire more than any other athlete was his courage and conviction inside and outside the ring along with the most extraordinary charisma I have ever seen in a person. When Ali took the stand and refused to be inducted and fight in an unjust war far from home I, along with millions of other people, was strengthen by his conviction. I was active in the anti-war movement at the time and Ali’s courage against all odds was inspiring.
Muhammad Ali was as clever as they come, had a great sense of humor, and was loved by so many people young and old, black and white, male and female. Ali came to represent the Brotherhood of Man.
My ticket for the Muhammad Ali memorial service.
The front and back covers of the program from Muhammad Ali’s memorial service June 10, 2016.
The inside of the program for Muhammad Ali’s memorial service.
Outside the Ali Center in Louisville June 10, 2016.
When Howard Bingham told me a couple of weeks before the start of his exhibition at Govinda Gallery that Ali was going to attend the opening and sign books with him, I could hardly believe it. I said to Howard, somewhat in shock, “You mean Muhammad is coming??” Bingham replied, ” Yeah, he is coming.” Bingham floored me with that great news.
When Ali pulled up in front of Govinda Gallery on 34th Street in Georgetown in a DC Yellow Cab the crowd outside was in awe of the champ’s arrival. He emerged from the taxi with a big smile on his face and the crowd parted with wonder in their eyes as he entered the gallery. He joined Howard Bingham at the table set up for signing Bingham’s new book. However before they started signing Ali performed some magic for the six Govinda Girls working at the gallery that evening on September 21, 1995. Everyone was loving Muhammad!
Ali and Bingham signed everything for everyone, and the champ once again knocked everyone out with his magnanimous personality. Howard Bingham’s exhibition was a huge success. When he sent the nearly 30 prints that clients had ordered during the exhibition they all arrived with Ali’s signature on them as well as photographer Bingham’s signature.
There have been many magical moments at Govinda Gallery, but that day with Ali and Howard Bingham was the ‘greatest of all time’ at Govinda.
I was a steadfast fan and very blessed to also be a friend of Muhammad Ali. I was fortunate to share a number of pastimes with Ali but it all began for me with Ali’s best friend for life photographer Howard Bingham.
One day in 1993 I received a call from Michael Stevens who was assisting his father, George Stevens, in producing “The National Sports Award,” to be held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. I had met Michael Stevens through my friend Anthony Shriver. Michael told me that Muhammad Ali, Wilma Rudolph, Arnold Palmer, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and Ted Williams were going to be honored at a series of events concluding with a gala show and presentation at the Kennedy Center.
The producers wanted to have portraits made of each of the honorees and asked if I could help. I called photographer extraordinaire Greg Gorman in Los Angeles and asked him if he would be interested in making portraits of the honorees. Greg had recently had a number of exhibitions at Govinda Gallery where we also launched a couple of his books. As a thank-you, Greg, myself, and his assistants would be invited to attend a dinner on the Mall the night before, a lunch at the White House with President and Mrs. Clinton and the honorees and special guests, as well as the show and awards at the Kennedy Center later that evening.
Greg agreed and flew out to Washington with his assistant Kevin Lynch as well as a stylist and makeup person.
It was June 19 when we set up a studio for the portrait sessions in the ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel where everyone was staying. It was amazing to meet Arnold Palmer, a great gentleman, along with the legendary Olympian Wilma Rudolph who was one of the most charming and gracious women I have ever met. When Muhammad Ali came to the makeshift studio for his portrait it was a thrilling moment. Suddenly I was shaking hands and smiling with someone I had loved and admired so much and for so long.
Ali was accompanied by Howard Bingham who’s book of photographs “Muhammad Ali: A Thirty-Year Journey” was being published. I could see why Bingham was Ali’s best friend. He was upbeat, quick to smile, and had a twinkle in his eye. I invited Bingham to have an exhibition and book signing at Govinda Gallery and to present it as the gallery’s 20th anniversary exhibition. He agreed and I was delighted to be able to look forward to present such a remarkable collection of photographs while honoring a longtime hero, Muhammad Ali, and to celebrate my gallery’s 20th anniversary all at the same time.
Howard Bingham and Muhammad Ali © Neil Leifer
Here are some pictures from the party on the mall that evening, and the White House lunch the next day which was June 20, 1993. Greg Gorman and I were each invited to bring one guest and I brought my 10-year-old son David. It was Father’s Day and he was the only kid there and received a lot of attention from Ali and President and Mrs. Clinton!
It was 33 years ago this month that Govinda Gallery hosted Mati Klarwein’s first solo exhibition in Washington, D.C., “Portraits” in May 1983 and “Not So Still Lives” in June 1987. Govinda Gallery also arranged numerous portrait commissions for Mati during the 80s and 90s. He was my favorite painter at Govinda Gallery.
I was in New York City last week and saw a copy of apartamento on the newsstand featuring a detail of Mati Klarwein’s painting “Artist and Model (1959)” I grabbed a copy and was thrilled to see a major spread on Mati, his art, and his home/studio in Mallorca where I visited him during two summers.
Mati’s work is known worldwide in no small part because of his legendary paintings being used by Miles Davis on the cover of Bitches Brew and by Carlos Santana on the cover of Abraxas, with both albums having sold tens of millions of copies.