Bob Dylan’s been on endless touring schedule since June, 1988, and in all that time he’s only stopped in China once, for two performances in 2011.
But the rock icon and Nobel laureate may be headed back in 2017, indirectly anyway.
London’s Halcyon Gallery, the leading purveyor of his visual art, is planning to open a branch in Shanghai early next year.
“The Chinese market is growing. It’s a very strong market for Chinese art, both traditional and contemporary, and we feel that there is a place there for the best of Western art,” said Udi Sheleg, founder of Halcyon Art international.
Halcyon, which debuted its latest Dylan exhibition entitled “The Beaten Path” in London on November 5, plans to bring the exhibit to its Shanghai branch in late 2017.
The gallery will be located in Pudong on the river bank in a new cultural zone being developed by the local government in partnership with the Hong Kong-based Halcyon Art International.
If the exhibit’s London reception is any indication, the Shanghai version should be a smash.
It opened on the heels of the Swedish Academy bestowing the Nobel Prize in literature upon Dylan, whose slow response to the announcement drew further media chatter. The gallery also managed to elicit a rare Dylan-penned essay commenting on his art, which Rolling Stone noted was “his most in-depth writing since his 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume One.”
According to Dylan, the paintings, which explore the swathes of America disconnected from the corporate world, “are up to the moment realism – archaic, most static, but quivering in appearance.”
Paul Green, President and co-founder of Halcyon Gallery, sees it as an utterly American exhibition.
“I think we’ve all been in love with America at some point, taking the Route 66 trip. It’s all important for any of us, captures a moment. Whether we’re British or European or American,” he said.
But how will an exhibit that thrives on American nostalgia play to a Chinese audience?
“There is a general interest and fascination among China’s growing middle class in Western icons and the pillars of Western culture,” says Sheleg.
“I think there are many, many people in China that know of Dylan and appreciate and admire his songs, his poetic ability, and this group of people is growing,” he added.
Then there are questions of whether the government will object to displaying the art of a man known for his political anthems.
When Dylan played his 2011 concerts in China, news reports swirled that he had acquiesced to a censored playlist. He later took the unusual step of writing a public denial on his website, noting that his set-list was constant throughout his Asia tour.
Sheleg is adamant that there has been no semblance of interference with the exhibition’s plans.
“We’ve had a lot of experience with the government authorities and the people in China. There have been no restrictions and no specific requests from us, and I can say that the cooperation is full, wide and very productive,” he said.
Whether Dylan plans on following up with another concert is yet to be seen. As usual, he’s keeping quiet at the moment, and simply letting his paintings speak for themselves.