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Lou Reed’s Archive Arrives At The Library For The Performing Arts

A limited-edition Lou Reed library card available at The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

A limited-edition Lou Reed library card available at The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Image by Jonathan Blanc/The New York Public Library

To browse the stacks at the New York Public Library is to take a walk on the mild side. But as of March 15, when The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center opened its Lou Reed Archive, that’s changed.

The archive comprises over 600 hours of live recordings, demos and interviews of the late Velvet Underground front man and “approximately 300 linear feet” of photographs, electronic and paper documents, the library wrote in a press release. The “matchless record” of the rocker’s life was welcomed to the library with an evening toast last Friday.

A limited-edition Lou Reed library card available at The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

A limited-edition Lou Reed library card available at The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Image by Jonathan Blanc/The New York Public Library

Visitors can view a display on Reed’s “New York,” tracking the 30-year-old album’s development from conception to production. The documents retained by the archive include Reed’s business papers, handwritten lyrics and correspondence, his collection of books and LPs, studio notes as well as touring schedules, receipts and ephemera like handbills and posters.

The archive also highlights Reed’s non-musical endeavors, including his poetry, photography and his notes on tai-chi. The material, which the library acquired in 2017 from Reed’s widow, Laurie Anderson, covers Reed’s journey to counterculture icon beginning with his high school band, The Shades, and ending with his swansong performance in 2013. It also reveals his relationships with Andy Warhol, Delmore Schwartz, John Zorn and Nobel Laureate and first President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel, the last of whom credited Reed’s music with his political ambitions.

On March 28 the archive will host a one-day listening room installation with rare and unreleased audio including demos, studio sessions and live performances. But those that want to take something of the experience home with them now have a rare opportunity to do so.

The library announced Friday it is offering members limited-edition library cards featuring Mick Rock’s 1972 photo of Reed taken for “Transformer.” Supplies are limited to 6,000 and are available at The Library for the Performing Arts’ circulation desk. While you’re there, you can also make use of the card, checking out volumes from a specially-curated reading list inspired by Reed’s career, interests and the culture he both belonged to and helped to create.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at [email protected]

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