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The Art Behind the Music

Sep 9, 2008
An Interview With Classic Rock Art Curator Michael Goldstein of RockPoPGallery

Rock and roll has been part of our pop culture for many decades and, so too has pop/rock memorabilia and art associated with it. Many classic album covers were created to not only sell music, but the concepts and images that were often the driving forces behind the music as well.

A business that is keeping this ideal alive is www.RockPoPGallery.com, a site that is dedicated to bringing customers the best selection of limited-edition rock and pop music related art prints, photography and related collectibles on the market today.

I spoke with curator and owner Michael Goldstein of RockPoPGallery.com about his business and why it is so important to preserve these pieces of audio history. Let's learn more about the man behind the scenes:

RockPoPGallery.com was founded in 2005 in Huntington, NY by Michael, a long-time collector of music related artwork, as Michael explains:

"It was my personal collection (and my display of it in my offices at the TV network I worked at) that got me into the business in the first place."

And his interest in the art of the music was apparent at an early age, as Michael details:

"My father was a cartoonist/caricaturist and, while I only had 20% of his natural ability, I did a lot of drawing. I'd done a reproduction of one of Roger Dean's "Flying Machines" on a wall in the basement of the house I grew up in, and that was the first time that I really sat down and took a look at the artistry that went into these covers. Growing up during the heyday of record cover art- from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, from Iron Butterfly, the Electric Prunes and early Black Sabbath to King Crimson, Yes, Frank Zappa and The Mothers, and the Mouse/Kelly's works- all of those images ingrained in my psyche. Later on, when I got into cartoon animation and then into TV/Web production, I had a chance to work with some of the illustrators and photographers whose works I'd admired while growing up; and seeing how many of the still 'had to work for a living' made me mad/curious as to why these works of art and most of the people who'd made them were, in my opinion, seen as outsiders by the fine art establishment. I had to do something about that. These images were all expressions of the collaboration between musical artists, art directors, illustrators and photographers, and many of these images have certainly survived the 'test of time' even better than some of the music they accompanied! The artwork is about emotional connections and different forms of inspirations (sometimes chemical) and I think that is why my visitors enjoy the album art-related Cover Stories I write, as they're all about the art and the artists."

Not knowing much about fine art, I asked Michael about the specifics of the business, some rather obvious, and some that needed some clarification. Here are some of the questions I was curious about:

What is a print?

"To put it simply, unlike a painting, prints are made by drawing not on paper or canvas, but on a surface such as stone or a metal plate, from which the image can then be printed a number of times," explained Michael. "The surface is inked, a sheet of paper is then placed over it and the two are run through a press. The total number of prints that are pulled is decided by the artist and the publisher beforehand and this is called an "edition". Each impression in the edition is signed and numbered (and sometimes embellished otherwise) by the artist. Once the edition is completed, the original plate or stone is either defaced or destroyed so that no more can be made."

"Original prints are often referred to by the technique that was used to produce them, such as lithography, silk-screening and the newest (and somewhat controversial) method - digital printing (or Giclee'). I explain these techniques in detail on the website."

I asked Michael, how do I know what I'm buying is an original?

"In almost all circumstances, RockPoPGallery buys its inventory from only one of three sources - either directly from the artist, directly from the artist's publisher, or at auction from auction companies that can authenticate the "provenance" (the documented history of a work of art from its production to the present) of a work of art," stated Michael. "While many items come from these sources with complete documentation, this is not the case with all works and so we guarantee originality, based on our knowledge, provenance and the above checks. As an art lover, collector and a gallery owner I would not consider buying or selling a work of art that I am not 100% sure about. Upon request, RockPoPGallery will provide you with a Certificate of Authenticity, which will include a copy of the provenance provided from our sources. You can then go visit the web sites of the artists/publishers, and if the description of the print matches theirs in every detail, then there is a very good chance it is original."

What determines the market price of a particular print?

"The international art market decides the price, based on the principles of supply and demand, basic economics really," Michael explained. "Original prints may exist in multiples of more than one, which can account for a difference of thousands of dollars between the price of a mass-produced poster, an unsigned 'open edition' print and a signed and numbered limited-edition print. If a certain print is in demand and the supply is no longer there, the price will go up. However, price also very much depends on the condition of the print. Works on paper are extremely delicate and can easily be damaged by mishandling, poor framing, exposure to strong light and, of course, the passage of time. Prints in good condition are more sought after by collectors and therefore their prices are higher. And finally, some prints have been signed by both the artist/photographer and the musical act that the cover was done for, such as the Jimmy Page-signed Led Zeppelin IV prints, the David Bowie-signed Ziggy Stardust prints, and the Tony Iommi-signed Technical Ecstasy prints we sell. I have much more detailed information on the website."

What is the most expensive piece you sell, or conversely, maybe the most interesting item you have owned or sold.

"This really changes day-to-day and expensive is a relative term," said Michael. "Compare to a Warhol or a Lichtenstein or a Haring- all of whom did record covers- none of my images are expensive. The highest-priced items tend to be the pieces where the editions are nearly sold out- like the Led Zeppelin 4 cover art signed by Jimmy Page, Karl Ferris' photos for the covers of "Are You Experienced?" and "Electric Ladyland," Entwistle's "Who by Numbers", etc. As far as the most interesting item I have sold, well the one with the most personal story must have been my copy of Roger Dean's "Magician's Birthday." I bought one for my personal collection at a very good price and then was offered a lot of money to sell it, which I did; not knowing how much I really wanted to keep it. To punish myself and to let me look at it everyday, I had a section of it tattooed on my right arm!"

I enjoyed my conversation with Michael and have certainly learned valuable information about the fine art that is available for rock and roll fans. I think what impressed me the most about conversation was Michael's commitment and passion for what he does, certainly intangible qualities that you cannot place a value on.
About the Author
Author Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com, where you can pick up a copy of his FREE ebook called "The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting." Have your vinyl records appraised at http://www.vinylrecordappraisals.com
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