I’ll be your Mirror, one of the Velvet Underground’s best-known songs, is an apt summary of a single-owner collection of psychedelic concert posters, handbills and flyers produced for the Velvet’s famous, often infamous, performances which McTear’s are excited to offer in our upcoming Toys, Models & Pop Culture auction Wednesday 11 October.
The band were and continue to be a mirror for so many: the outsiders, the marginalised, the downtrodden, the lonely, the addicts, all those who felt they didn't belong – that is, until they heard the Velvet Underground. These thin paper sheets, throwaway survivors, reflect a near sixty-year artistic legacy which has offered millions a sanctuary in which they see themselves through the lyrics, the music and, here, the art of the event, the one-time that became all-time.
Lou Reed, founding member, singer/guitarist and frontman, wove his creative energies into his lyrics, later saying his goal was ‘to bring the sensitivities of the novel to rock music’. These energies were often channelled through the darker times and places in Reed’s life, from the psychodrama of imposed electroconvulsive therapy by his parents to an ongoing relationship with drugs that had begun at the age of 16. This is perhaps best exhibited in another of the Velvet’s most celebrated songs, Venus in Furs, which adapts the masochistic fantasy novella of the eponymous Leopold von Sacher-Masoch written in 1870 – hardly ‘top of the charts’ material but that didn’t interest a band interested only in exploring the underground – and the new means of expression that it offered.
In the mid-late 1960s the underground scene in the group’s hometown of New York was growing rapidly, incubating exciting new talent in the visual and performing arts. When the band partnered with pop artist Andy Warhol in 1965 they would take on a new audio-visual identity, expressing themselves with full force across these two artistic spectrums: as part of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable this collective would ‘use rock as a part of a larger, interdisciplinary-art work based around performance’, a type of performance no-one had experienced before – and would never forget.
Through these full-throttle live events the Velvet Underground forged a unique artistic legacy, not fully appreciated in its day but now widely recognised as integral to the development of punk rock, alternative rock and new wave. They were in many ways their own kind of spontaneous art form and although the performances could not be repeated, indeed rarely recorded, ‘anti-Orthodox’ icons remain in the form of the concert posters, handbills and flyers which advertised these performances, all works of art in themselves by myriad talented artists who drew on the counter-culture zeitgeist of the era which the Velvet embodied, creating obtuse but always entrancing images to draw in kindred spirits.
As visual and material testament to performances otherwise confined to the memory of attendees, many of whom have passed away like Reed himself , these posters have come to hold a totemic quality for present day devotees. They are kaleidoscopic, psychedelic, enigmatic reflections of the band they promoted, mirrors in soul and expression, and for those who still listen, still identify, still obsess, and still collect, are now scarce and highly prized relics of a unique band at a unique time.
Join us for the live auction 11 October.
For a complimentary, no-obligation valuation, visit our Glasgow Galleries or contact a specialist on 0141 810 2880 or email@example.com.