Bob Dylan, who gave us classic songs such as Like a Rolling Stone, The Times They Are A-Changin’, may be hoping his fortunes would change after being accused of dishonesty and plagiarism after her opened his Asia Series art exhibition in New York City last week.
The exhibition was announced a few weeks ago by the Gagosian Gallery, with the gallery saying the collection of paintings and other art were “a visual journal” of Dylan’s travels “in Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea,” with “firsthand depictions of people, street scenes, architecture and landscape.”
However since opening on the 20th September many visitors have noticed similaries between the purported original work and photographic images taken by famous photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dmitri Kessel and Léon Busy.
Michael Gray, owner of the Bob Dylan Encyclopaedia, said in a blog post after touring the exhibition that “the most striking thing is that Dylan has not merely used a photograph to inspire a painting: he has taken the photographer’s shot composition and copied it exactly. He hasn’t painted the group from any kind of different angle, or changed what he puts along the top edge, or either side edge, or the bottom edge of the picture. He’s replicated everything as closely as possible.”
He continued, “that may be a (very self-enriching) game he’s playing with his followers, but it’s not a very imaginative approach to painting. It may not be plagiarism but it’s surely copying rather a lot.”
On Monday the gallery quickly issued a press release stating “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.”
Have a look at these examples below taken by the New York Times and make up your own mind. Dylan’s paintings are on the left and the original photographs on the right.