The Schmooze

Are Bob Dylan’s Asia Paintings Stunningly Unoriginal?

The Bob Dylan fan world has been abuzz recently about the musician’s exhibit of paintings at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, and whether those paintings are copied from historic photographs.

In a discussion on the Dylan fan site Expecting Rain, similarities have been noted between paintings in the show and pictures by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Léon Busy and Dmitri Kessel. One commenter called Okinawa Soba hase even suggested that Dylan used his Flickr gallery to find these images, since at least five or six of the photographs used for the 18 paintings in the show are featured there.

While Dylan has likely not broken any copyright laws, fans and critics question whether the imitations diminish the importance of the artworks, or if they are another iteration of Dylan’s career-long shell game of influences and personas. One critique comes from Soba, who writes that “while Dylan had broken no laws, he seems to have violated a common ‘social ethic’ that for most of us in the graphics world involves giving credit for sources of inspiration, or direct credit for material upon which a ‘derivative work’ is based.”

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Are Bob Dylan’s Asia Paintings Stunningly Unoriginal?

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