Did Bob Dylan Plagiarize His Art?


Kudos to Bob Dylan, who has once again given us an excuse to break out that old chestnut, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” You may have heard about the new show of Dylan’s paintings at New York’s Gagosian Gallery. Titled The Asia Series, the exhibition was supposed to be the music legend’s “visual journal” of his time in China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea — but now, ArtsBeat reports that art experts and Dylanologists are pointing out the striking similarities between Dylan’s paintings and the work of such photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Dmitri Kessel. You can find plenty of examples of what they’re talking about here.

Although referencing older pieces is a staple of postmodern art, and Gagosian is now saying that the paintings are inspired by his travels but “based on a variety of sources, including archival, historic images,” we have to wonder whether Dylan (who’s been accused in the past of lifting lyrics) is entirely in the clear — especially since he’s made such a big deal of how personal The Asia Series is and won’t comment on the controversy. So, what do you think, readers? Is Dylan a plagiarizing charlatan, a consummate pomo artist, or something in between?