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A Collector’s Guide to Bob Gruen

Five things to know about the king of Rock and Roll photography

Works featured on offer in West Chelsea Contemporary’s current exhibition: PROVOCATEURS. MAR 13 – MAY 9


Bob Gruen Self Portrait circa 1977

He is the most well known and respected photographer in Rock and Roll.

Name your favorite American Rock and Roll Band and chances are the image that pops into your head was taken by Bob Gruen. By the mid 1970s, he was already regarded as one of the foremost documenters of the music scene; today we have him to credit with decades of iconic band photos and album covers– including John Lennon’s Walls & Bridges album (which according to Gruen involved shooting 12 rolls of film with John making different faces and wearing different eyeglasses).

Gruen’s 45-years-in-the-making portfolio includes portraits of major acts he toured with across the globe, from Bob Dylan to Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Kiss, and more, while also covering the emerging New Wave and Punk bands including The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and Blondie.

We are thrilled to present several iconic works by this American icon on display and for sale now in Provocateurs at West Chelsea Contemporary.

Read on below to discover five things every music-loving art collector should know about Bob Gruen.

  1. He is the mastermind behind the iconic John and Yoko portraits that captured the end of an era.

In the 120 large-scale photographers that make up Gruen’s John Lennon, The New York Years Exhibition Gruen captures the life of John Lennon and Yoko Ono during the 70s, providing an intimate look at New York City at a time of great change and cultural unrest, and at the height of Lennon’s shift from Beatles icon to father, partner and peace-leader.

Perhaps the most iconic of these photograph editions hangs at West Chelsea Contemporary – John Lennon sports a New York City t-shirt and sunglasses, embodying an effortless New York City cool that inspired many a fan and follower to flee to New York. This portrait is best known as the iconic image displayed at Lennon’s funeral.

2. Bob Gruen toured the world with punk, new wave and Rock and Roll acts like the Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Elton John, Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper.

Gruen credits Ike and Tina Turner with launching his career; He first witnessed the pair open for Sam & Dave at New York’s Felt Forum in 1969, and soon became their go-to act photographer, capturing photos of them at the Honka Monka nightclub in Queens in 1970.  His introduction to the music scene began in New York with other up-and-coming acts of the time, like Bob Dylan and the Patti Smith Group.

“I think taking pictures of my family was good training for rock ‘n’ roll bands, because I learned how to get six dysfunctional people looking good for a 60th of a second.”

Bob Gruen

3. Bob Gruen Calls this 1970 photograph of Tina Turner – now on view at West Chelsea Contemporary –“one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken”.

On taking his now-famous photo of Tina Turner:

“Tina was just amazing. I was sitting right in front, taking pictures. And at the end of the show, a strobe light flashes and Tina kind of dances off of multiple images in the strobe light. And I just had a few frames left in the camera, and I thought, I wonder what will happen if I take a one-second picture and get a few of these flashes in the same frame? And I took, like, four or five pictures and three or four of them are useless — and one of them is one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken. And it just captures Tina in five images that just captures the excitement and the energy that’s Tina Turner.”

In 2018, Bob Gruen teamed up with Gary Lichtenstein, master American silkscreen printer to reimagine this photograph as a limited edition of 25. The stunning new mixed media editions feature diamond dust on canvas, a shimmering ode to the dazzling star power of the Queen of Rock and Roll. We are proud to feature a limited edition of this piece at West Chelsea Contemporary, on view and for sale in our current show Provocateurs.

4. Bob Gruen’s work has been shown in galleries and art institutions worldwide .

Gruen’s work has been exhibited widely at a number of museums and galleries including the Musuem of Modern Art, NYC, National Art Gallery, Washington, DC, The Metropolitan Design Center in Buenos Aires, Museum of Image and Sound, Sao Paolo, Morrison Hotel Gallery NYC & LA.

Bob and a portrait of Lennon.

5. Gruen is an avid humanitarian.

Gruen has worked with many local and international charities to raise money in support of Why Hunger, Her Justice, Tibet House, Save the Music, Music Cares and Aperture Foundation among other foundations.

Works by Bob Gruen now on display and for sale at West Chelsea Contemporary in Provocateurs.

Reach out today to inquire or acquire.


FEATURED IN WCC’S SHOW – PROVOCATEURS:

THE CONNOR BROTHERS| DALI | FAIREY | GARNER | HAMBLETON HIRST | HOLZER | HOOPER | MALZTMAN| MAZZUCCO | PETERSON | PHOEBENEWYORK | RETNA | RISK | YOUNG | RUSCHA | SHRIGLEY | CIANCIULLI | TEAGUE | THOMAS | TRUJILLO | WARHOL | WATSON | WESSELMANN|YUSKAVAGE & more.

Follow @wcc.art to learn more.

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