the Backroom



The Smiths Exhibition in Los Angeles Opens this Week

by Chris Murray on May 1, 2017  |  1 Comment »

This Thursday the first exhibition in Los Angeles of Nalinee Darmrong’s photographs of The Smiths opens on Sunset Blvd at Mr Musichead Gallery. This is the first major exhibition of Nalinee’s images of the Smiths. Nalinee will be attending the opening to sign copies of her book The Smiths, recently published by Rizzoli.

All of our friends in L.A. are invited to the exhibition, co-organized by Govinda Gallery.

The Smiths Invitation

The Smiths The Queen is Dead

The Smiths Clickimin Centre

The Smiths flowers

All photos Copyright Nalinee Darmrong.

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Dylan Exhibitions Open in Havana and New York City

by Chris Murray on April 13, 2017  |  1 Comment »

Ted Russell’s exhibition of photos of Bob Dylan opens next Thursday evening, April 20th, at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City. This is the first exhibition in New York of Russell’s remarkable photos of Dylan’s first years in Greenwich Village. Russell will be at the opening to sign copies of his book, Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964. Steven Kasher Gallery is at 515 W 26th St and the opening is from 6-8 pm.

Bob Dylan coming up the stairs, Gerde's Folk City. Photograph by Ted Russell. Bob Dylan coming up the stairs, Gerde’s Folk City, 1961. Photograph by Ted Russell.

I just returned from Havana and the launch of Russell’s Dylan exhibition at Cuba’s national gallery of photography…Fototeca de Cuba. The exhibition opening was a great celebration of Bob Dylan and Ted Russell’s photographs. I will be posting a number of blogs from the exhibition in Cuba, but here are a few photos from opening night and a video of young Cuban dancers performing in front of Fototeca de Cuba.

Banner Balcony of Fototeca de Cuba with Ted Russell banner. Photograph by Carlotta Hester.

Visitors at Fototeca de Cuba Visitors at Fototeca de Cuba. Photograph by Carlotta Hester.

Exhibition installation at Fototeca de Cuba Exhibition installation photo at Fototeca de Cuba. Photograph by Carlotta Hester.

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Ireland’s Prime Minister Digs Bruce Springsteen

by Chris Murray on April 13, 2017  |  2 Comments »

Just before St. Patrick’s Day last month, I had the occasion to sit with Enda Kenny, the Prime Minister of Ireland, and his charming wife Fionnuala, at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, thanks to my friends Billy Martin and Joey Filosa. I gave the Prime Minister a copy of Days of Hope and Dreams: An Intimate Portrait of Bruce Springsteen, the book I edited featuring Frank Stefanko’s photographs of Springsteen with an introduction by Bruce himself. Stefanko’s images of Springsteen are well known from his photos on the covers of Bruce’s albums The River and Darkness on the Edge of Town, as well as on the cover of Bruce’s recently published autobiography, Born to Run.

 Chris Murray and Enda Kenny, Martin's Tavern, Georgetown. Photo by Carlotta Hester/Govinda Gallery Archive. Chris Murray and Enda Kenny, Martin’s Tavern, Georgetown. Photo by Carlotta Hester/Govinda Gallery Archive.

Prime Minister Kenny was delighted to have Frank’s book and told me that at Springsteen’s last concert in Dublin at Croke Park, which the Prime Minister attended, he was caught on film playing air guitar to one of Bruce’s songs, and that the video went viral.

Fionnuala Kenny and Carlotta Hester Fionnuala Kenny and Carlotta Hester, Martin’s Tavern, Georgetown. Photo by Chris Murray/Govinda Gallery Archive.

Frank Stefanko’s photos are available through Govinda Gallery.

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30th Anniversary of Andy Warhol’s Memorial Service

by Chris Murray on March 30, 2017  |  5 Comments »

Chris Murray and Chris Makos at the memorial mass for Andy Warhol, New York City, 1987. Peter Wise, Chris Makos and Chris Murray entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral, April 1st, 1987.
© Christophe von Hohenberg.

Thirty years ago today a memorial mass was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Andy Warhol, who had passed on just about one month before the service. I was invited to the memorial and went with my friends Chris Makos and Peter Wise. We sat behind Yoko Ono.

Bulletin Program for Andy Warhol memorial service.

Warhol was a major inspiration in my opening Govinda Gallery, and he had six exhibitions at Govinda. Andy and his circle of artists, photographers, writers, editors, collectors, art dealers and friends had much to do with Govinda Gallery’s success.

Jane Holzer, St. Patrick's Cathedral, 1987. Warhol superstar ‘Baby Jane’ Holzer, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, April 1st, 1987. © Christophe von Hohenberg.

I met Andy several years before I opened Govinda in 1975 through my college chums Michael Netter, Bob Colacello and Glenn O’Brien who all worked for Andy.

Bob Colacello was the editor of Interview Magazine and with Bob and Interview photo editor Robert Hayes I began organizing and exhibiting many of the photographers featured in Interview including Chris Makos, Gerard Malanga, Greg Gorman, Michael Halsband, Peter Strongwater, Erica Lennard, Firooz Zahedi, Herb Ritts, David Seidner and many more.

When Andy visited Washington I would drive him around town, usually with Bob Colacello or Chris Makos, to parties, gallery openings, artist studios, collectors’ homes, museums and his hotel. Sometimes he would relax in the back room of Govinda Gallery, which this blog, The Back Room, is named after. Andy was the ‘patron saint’ of Govinda Gallery.

Chris Murray and Andy Warhol at Govinda Gallery, 1985. Chris Murray and Andy Warhol at Govinda Gallery, 1985. © J. Virgilio.

I loved Andy, and was fortunate to exhibit his art at Govinda. This post is a remembrance of one of the great artists of our time and of someone I was grateful to call a friend.

Chris Murray, Andy Warhol, and Chris Makos. Chris Murray, Andy Warhol, and Chris Makos, Morgan’s Hotel, NYC. © Govinda Gallery Archive.

I want to acknowledge some of Andy’s associates and friends who were supportive of the work I did at Govinda Gallery: Bob Colacello, Chris Makos, Vincent Fremont, Paige Powell, Fred Hughes, Sylvia Miles, Robert Hayes, Jane Holzer, Michael Netter, Candy Darling, Glenn O’Brien, Ron Feldman, Peter Wise, Benjamin Liu, Mark Balet, Gael Love, Gerard Malanga, Brigid Berlin, Tony Shafrazi, Jackie Curtis and Eric Emerson.

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Bob Dylan’s First Album Released Fifty-Five Years Ago

by Chris Murray on March 20, 2017  |  Comments Off on Bob Dylan’s First Album Released Fifty-Five Years Ago

Dylan playing harmonica Bob Dylan playing harmonica, New York City, 1961. © Ted Russell.

Fifty-five years ago on March 19th Bob Dylan’s first album was released, and yesterday I flew to Havana with Ted Russell’s photographs of Dylan for an exhibition at Cuba’s national photo gallery, Fototeca de Cuba. Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 opens in Havana on Friday evening, March 24th. The exhibition is organized in association with Govinda Gallery.

Bob Dylan and Mark Spoelstra Bob Dylan with Mark Spoelstra in the basement at Gerde’s Folk City, 1961. © Ted Russell.

Russell photographed Dylan in his first apartment in New York City in 1961 and in performance at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, before the release of his first album. These photographs from the exhibition depict the young folk singer at the start of a most remarkable career.

Bob Dylan adjusting his cap Bob Dylan adjusting his cap onstage, Gerde’s Folk City, 1961. © Ted Russell.

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James Baldwin and Bob Dylan

by Chris Murray on March 9, 2017  |  3 Comments »

James Baldwin writing James Baldwin writing, Istanbul, Turkey, 1966. © Sedat Pakay.

These two remarkable photographs taken in the ’60s of two of America’s great writers are inspiring. Ted Russell’s photograph of Bob Dylan is featured in his upcoming exhibition in Havana at Fototeca de Cuba, Cuba’s national gallery of photography, opening March 24th. Sedat Pakay’s photo of James Baldwin is in the Academy Award-nominated film for Best Documentary Feature, I Am Not Your Negro.

Bob Dylan writing Bob Dylan writing, 161 W 4th St., New York City, 1964. © Ted Russell.

Dylan and Baldwin were together in 1963 in New York City when Dylan was being presented with the Tom Paine Award at the Emergency Civil Liberties Union’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner. Here is a photo of them together at the dinner taken by Ted Russell. One of Russell’s photographs of Dylan and Baldwin is featured in the new documentary film.

James Baldwin and Bob Dylan at the James Baldwin and Bob Dylan at the Emergency Civil Liberties Union’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner, 1963. © Ted Russell.

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Bob Dylan Exhibition in Cuba Organized by Govinda Gallery and Presented by Fototeca de Cuba

by Chris Murray on February 27, 2017  |  2 Comments »

Bob Dylan catching a taxi in Greenwich Village, 1964. © Ted Russell. “Positively 4th Street,” 1964. © Ted Russell.

Bob Dylan is the subject of a compelling photography exhibition in Cuba at their national photo gallery, Fototeca de Cuba. Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964, featuring the photographs of Ted Russell, opens on Friday, March 24th in Havana. The exhibition will continue through April 24th. This groundbreaking exhibition is the first in Cuba to depict the legendary musical artist who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Ted Russell’s photographs document scenes from Dylan’s first year in New York City in 1961. When Russell began photographing Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village, the up-and-coming folk singer’s first album had not yet been released.

Bob Dylan performing at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village, 1961. © Ted Russell. Bob Dylan performing at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, 1961. © Ted Russell.

In 1963, Russell photographed Dylan at the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner, where he was being awarded the prestigious Tom Paine Award. Ted Russell photographed James Baldwin with Dylan at the dinner where, in his acceptance speech, Dylan acknowledged “all the young people” who were traveling to Cuba at that time.

Russell photographed Dylan in his apartment again in 1964, at which point Dylan had already transformed popular music with songs like Blowin’ in the Wind, Masters of War, and The Times They Are A-Changin.’ In a series of stunning images from that day, Russell photographed Dylan writing at his desk. After 50 years lying largely dormant in a file cabinet, this unique collection has been brought to light in Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 (Rizzoli 2015). The book includes texts by Ted Russell and Chris Murray, and a foreword by Donovan.

Chris Murray, exhibition curator and co-author of the accompanying book, writes: “This collection of photographs by Ted Russell is a unique document of Dylan’s first years as a musical artist in Greenwich Village. In the photographs, as in Dylan’s music, we can see his conviction and compassion, his humor, and his love of song. We are enriched by this portrait of the artist as a young man.”

Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo in their New York City apartment, 161 W 4th St. Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo in their New York City apartment, 161 W 4th St., 1961. © Ted Russell.

Launch: Friday, March 24th, 6-9 p.m.
Fototeca de Cuba, Mercaderes 307, Plaza Vieja, La Habana Vieja, Cuba.
Admission is free.

About Ted Russell, the photographer:
Ted Russell is an American photographer and photojournalist whose work has appeared on the covers of Life, Newsweek, Time, and New York magazines, to name only a few. Born in London, he worked in Fleet St, Brussels and Frankfurt before moving to New York. Drafted into the US Army, he served as unit photographer in the Korean War. After attending the University of California at Berkeley, he returned to New York and became a regular contributing photographer for Life for over 12 years, and he was later Cover Photo Editor of Newsweek for 11 years. Russell has won numerous awards, and his work has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

About Chris Murray, the curator:
Chris Murray is the founder and director of Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C., which represents many of the best fine art photographers and photojournalists in the world who have documented musical artists. Murray has organized over 250 exhibitions of many of the leading artists of our time, from Andy Warhol in the 1970s to Annie Leibovitz’s first exhibition in 1984. He is co-curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibition Elvis at 21 and is the author of over fifteen books on visual culture, including Alfred Wertheimer’s Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll (Taschen 2016); The Rolling Stones 50×20 (Insight Editions 2012) and Patti Smith: American Artist (Insight Editions 2006).

About Fototeca de Cuba, the gallery:
The mission of Fototeca de Cuba is to contribute, through systematic and specialized work, to the development and appreciation of Cuban photography, as a way of expressing Cuban national culture; to preserve, promote, exhibit and divulge the photographic heritage that the institution contains in its collection as well as the various manifestations of Cuban photography, attending to the simultaneity of its values in its documentary, testimonial, historical and artistic aspects; both in Cuba and internationally. Likewise, it has the mission of bringing the public closer through various communicative strategies, cultural promotion, etc. and showing the best values of international photography in Cuba, favoring the learning and appreciation of photography among photographers and the general public.

“Here’s something you simply can’t miss: a sublime Bob Dylan exhibition . . . it’s an enriching experience and one we can’t recommend highly enough.”
-Hot Press

Special thanks to Fototeca de Cuba for hosting this exhibition. Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 is part of an ongoing collaboration between Fototeca de Cuba and Govinda Gallery.

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Eric Burdon and The Animals at Montgomery College

by Chris Murray on February 20, 2017  |  1 Comment »

Eric Burdon Eric Burdon, 1970. © Barrie Wentzell.

I was excited to hear that Eric Burdon and The Animals are performing in the area at the Parilla Performing Arts Center on Monday, March 6th. My high school band The Malibooz covered all of The Animals’ great songs during the British Invasion. Burdon was my biggest influence as the singer in my band. He is one of the greatest rock & roll blues vocalists of all time.

It was 50 years ago this year that Eric re-invented the band as Eric Burdon and The Animals. He dedicated their first album, Winds of Change, to George Harrison, whose interest in Krishna consciousness following a visit to India the previous year Burdon cited as an inspiration.

The back cover of Eric Burdon and The Animals album Winds of Change. The back cover of Eric Burdon and The Animals album Winds of Change.

I last saw Eric Burdon and The Animals perform in Amsterdam at the Paradiso in the summer 2013. It was an awesome concert, and here is a link from the Back Room to a post about that show. It will be exciting to see Eric Burdon and The Animals at Montgomery College.

Eric Burdon Eric Burdon. © Marianna Burdon.

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Rolling Stone Magazine’s 50th Anniversary, Donovan, John Lennon and Annie Leibovitz

by Chris Murray on January 23, 2017  |  2 Comments »

The 50th Anniversary issue of Rolling Stone magazine, featuring Emma Stone. The current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, with Mark Seliger’s portrait of Emma Stone on the cover.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Rolling Stone magazine. Like so many people, Rolling Stone has been an essential publication for me. Rolling Stone has also been a major influence on my work as a curator, author and art dealer. Rolling Stone, along with the jackets for vinyl recordings, “album covers,” is what visually inspired me to champion significant photographs documenting rock & roll, blues, soul music and jazz. There is no other publication that has so consistently presented much of the best music photography of our time.

Meryl Streep, 1981. © Annie Leibovitz. Meryl Streep, 1981. This image was on the cover of Annie’s first book, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs (Pantheon, 1983). © Annie Leibovitz.

It was my good fortune to host Annie Leibovitz‘s first exhibition of her photographs, which was also a launch for her first book. The exhibition and book featured work from the several years that Annie had just spent as chief photographer for Rolling Stone. I bought my first photo of Annie’s in 1984 on the day we hung her exhibition together. It was her now-legendary photo of a naked John Lennon holding on to his wife, Yoko Ono. When I told Annie I was buying that photo, she told me that John had been murdered the same day she took it. Realizing it was a most significant image, I decided to find other photographs of that quality that were related to musical artists and the culture around them.

Since that time, I also had first exhibitions for Baron Wolman, who was the first chief photographer for Rolling Stone, as well as the great photographer Mark Seliger, who became Rolling Stone‘s chief photographer after Annie left.

Inaugural issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, 1967. Inaugural issue of Rolling Stone magazine, 1967.

Donovan, Los Angeles, 1969. © Baron Wolman. Donovan, Los Angeles, 1969. © Baron Wolman.

Govinda Gallery has been representing Donovan and his visual art with exhibitions of his extraordinary Sapphographs in Washington, Athens and Dublin. Donovan is the first Rolling Stone interview and it was published in the inaugural issue of Rolling Stone with his friend John Lennon on the cover. In the current issue of Rolling Stone, Andy Green writes a wonderful two-page story about Rolling Stone‘s origins and Jann Wenner‘s creative collaboration with music critic extraordinaire Ralph J. Gleason. In the story in the current issue, Green writes, “At the center was a two-page Rolling Stone interview with Donovan in which he talked about Bert Jansch, the hippie movement, and George Harrison’s recent trip to Haight-Ashbury.”

Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone's offices in San Francisco, 1969. © Baron Wolman. Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone‘s offices in San Francisco, 1969. © Baron Wolman.

My thanks to Jann Wenner who founded and published Rolling Stone and to all the great photographers who contribute to Rolling Stone with their wonderful images.

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Joan Baez and Tupac Shakur

by Chris Murray on December 26, 2016  |  1 Comment »

I was very glad to hear that Joan Baez and Tupac Shakur were selected for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for 2017. Those two musical artists are linked together more than a casual observer might realize.

barrie-wentzell_joan-baez Joan Baez, 1965. © Barrie Wentzell.

Joan Baez’s career has been extraordinary. She has one of the great voices of American song. She was also an outstanding advocate for social justice and human rights. She supported the careers and was a friend to numerous musical artists, including Bob Dylan and Donovan.

danny-clinch_tupac-shakur Tupac Shakur, 1993. © Danny Clinch.

Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, like Joan Baez was a committed activist and a member of the Black Panther Party. Tupac’s song Dear Mama is one of the most soulful love songs to a mother I have ever heard. His poetic lyricism and his unique vocal style have made him the first solo rapper to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

I love these photographs of Joan Baez by Barrie Wentzell and Tupac Shakur by Danny Clinch. Their photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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