He's not British or under 50, so he doesn't qualify for the Turner Prize. But after Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize victory over Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, and I guess Joni Mitchell (since the prize is open to musicians now), it's worth taking a look at another non-musical area Dylan could dominate - art. And, considering how surprising his Nobel win was, and the alluring quality of his paintings, perhaps the Turner committee will follow suit and hand their award to a 75-year old American.
The times they are a-paintin'
Unlike his music, which is some of the most universally acclaimed and popular of all time ("Wiggle Wiggle" will play at my funeral), Bob Dylan's paintings are a much lesser known part of his oeuvre. It's not hard to see why. Dylan's painting is quite traditional at a time when art critics would probably prefer an installation of home videos projected into a mixing bowl while a broken pipe drips water into it.
But this is a shame, because these art critics are missing the point.
What I'm saying is that Bob Dylan "just" paints. He uses pots of paint (apparently the thick stuff) and a brush (thick again, to my eyes) and he makes a picture on a canvas (I actually can't tell whether his canvases are thick or not, apologies).
Are Bob Dylan's paintings good?
Well, as I told my A-level teachers, all good art is subjective. So why don't you take a look for yourself? I don't have the rights to publish any of his pictures here on this blog, so I've done a quick Google image search there for your convenience, have a look now and join me back here afterwards for more discussion.
Here's what you can say about Bob Dylan's paintings: they are not bad. They're really not. In comparison to, say, Ronnie Wood's paintings, Dylan is practically Picasso. (I will not google Ronnie Wood's paintings for you and I don't recommend you do so either.)
Like all good capitalists, perhaps I should let the market speak for me. As you can see here, signed Bob Dylan art prints are available for sale, and they sometimes go for thousands of pounds. For some, these paintings will form part of an art investment portfolio. Since Dylan is so famous, his artwork will always be valuable, even if it is less popular than his music. One collector says Dylan's paintings pretty much consistently rise in value, meaning the gods of the market have deemed them worthy.
What do art critics think of Dylan's paintings?
The Guardian's resident art columnist Jonathan Jones says, although he has heard fellow critics talk about "how awful [Dylan's art] supposedly is," his own personal opinion is that no one could dislike the singer-turned-painter's "evocative pictures of America." A man after my own heart, Jones finishes that sentence with "unless you loathe pictures, and think painting, that old thing, should be banned."
Dylan's fellow artist Richard Prince describes Dylan's paintings as "workmanlike," but he seems to mean this in a good way, because he continues with "they're not trying to be something they're not." Prince outs himself as a moron, though, when he says: "If I were to describe the painting in musical terms, I would say they're more acoustic than electric." What are you talking about, Richard?!
There have been some major criticisms raised over Dylan's paintings, though. When Prince was viewing Dylan's Asia Series at Bob's own studio, he says he wondered what the painter based his paintings on, but he didn't ask him. If he had bothered to ask he would have found out that they were infamously plagiarised from internet images. Though, considering Richard Prince is the man who obliterated "plagiarism" as a concept, he probably wouldn't have cared.
The minor plagiarism outcry isn't the only scandal to befall Dylan's paintings. In his The Beaten Path exhibition, currently on display at London's Halcyon Gallery, a painting called "Norfolk, Virginia" actually turned out to be based on a photo of a pier in Blackpool by a photographer who goes by "Diamond Geezer."
So, should Dylan win the Turner Prize?
Basing paintings on images from Google is no crime, and neither is mistaking Blackpool for Norfolk, Virginia. Neither is creating paintings that are straightforward, but have a unique style of their own. As Dylan said when explaining his painting process, he wanted to "create pictures that would not be misinterpreted or misunderstood by me or anybody else." And, geographical questions aside, that has what he has done.
Whether it's as groundbreaking as his music or not, Bob Dylan's art deserves to be appreciated as part of the iconic figure's complete body of work. And if 2017 turns out to be anything like 2016, we better appreciate him now, while we still can...Suggest a correction