Bonhams’ Rock & Roll Art Sale draws classic rock lovers in New York City

Fans and collectors of classic Rock & Roll crowded Bonhams’ newly launched Manhattan showrooms on May 14, 2008, as the auctioneers mounted the first-ever auction devoted to artwork created for and inspired by Rock’s greatest bands. Collector interest in Grateful Dead-related artwork attracted strong bids, holding four of the sale’s top ten prices paid.

Unlike typical memorabilia sales, the May auction of the Peter Golding Collection featured original paintings, drawings, sketches and studies, printing plates and poster sets for legendary musicians such as: Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, U2, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, The Doors, Ike & Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen.  The 163-lot sale brought nearly $800,000, filling the seats at Bonhams’ New York salesroom, in addition to drawing a large number of telephone bidders.

Attracting much attention was the original artwork for The Grateful Dead’s ‘Without A Net’ 1990 European Tour. On offer was a large 48-inch by 36-inch acrylic on canvas painting of the poster design, signed by artist Rick Griffin, together with an original poster for the band’s gig at the Frankfurt Festhalle in October 1990, and two framed color photographs of the band with a similar poster. A true treasure for a dedicated Grateful Dead fan, the lot sold for $114,000.

An additional treat for ‘Dead Heads’ was artwork for the band’s ‘Terrapin Station’ concept.  This was an ambitious project, though ultimately unrealized, to open a venue at the turn of the Millennium as a concert hall, multi-media center and museum for the band, a venue that could serve other related events for the various charities the Grateful Dead supported over the years.  The mixed media piece, signed by artists Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley (with custom framing by Kelley) was offered together with the 1997 triple CD album (sold for $90,000).

Rick Griffin’s signed ‘Grateful Dead – Touché Gris’ artwork, gouache on celluloid, sold for $19,200. Griffin was asked to produce an image for concert promotion on the Dead’s October 1988 Southern Tour, with venues in Florida, Louisiana and Texas. This colorful American Civil War-themed image, incorporating elements of the Confederate flag, was not used for posters or advertising, but did appear on Southern Tour T-shirts. ‘Touch Of Grey,’ from the Dead’s ‘In The Dark’ album, was the band’s biggest hit, reaching the Top 10 on the "Billboard 100" chart.

Other lots related to the Grateful Dead included: the original printing plate for the September 1966 Avalon Ballroom concerts poster, featuring the iconic skeleton and roses imagery, signed by both Mouse and Kelley (sold for $33,600); Rick Griffin’s fully rendered pencil, pen and ink and airbrush concept drawing for the cover of David Gans’ 1991 book Conversations With The Dead (sold for $7,200); Rick Griffin’s mixed media on tracing paper, the poster design for the Dead’s series of 1988 Madison Square Garden concerts in New York (sold for $15,600), and a collection of Grateful Dead 1970s and ’80s concert T-shirts (sold for $840).

A pair of collaborative homages to Jimi Hendrix garnered collector attention, including a work by artists Rick Griffin & Stanley Mouse.  Their mixed media on layered tracing paper, inscribed Mouse/Griffin©87 (original framing by Kelley), sold over estimate for $48,000.  "Hapshash and the Coloured Coat," AKA Nigel Waymouth and Michael English, collaborated to produce a poster for the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Fillmore in 1967 — the signed ink on board of Hendrix in a Native American headdress holding a peace pipe in one hand and a bow and arrow in the other, brought $72,000. 

Another Griffin tribute, an acrylic on canvas titled ‘Philippians 2: 9-11’ depicting infamous rockers Johnny Rotten & Sid Vicious, also excited bidders.  Feared as having been destroyed in a fire at Griffin’s Santa Ana home in 1988, the painting had survived.  Despite signs of heat damage in the top left, the work sold for $39,000.  Supporting interest in Griffin as a fine artist was unrelenting bidding for a small 18-inch by 18-inch painting depicting Point Mugu State Park in California. The oil on canvas was thought to possibly have been a concept draft for an album cover, but the work’s artistic appeal sparked a bidding war resulting in the work bringing $24,000 — well over its estimate of $3,000-$4,000.

Jon Baddeley, the International Head of Bonhams’ Collectibles Division, states, "This Griffin oil in particular illustrates the intent of this sale — to present these original works as artistic achievements of the era — independent of their appeal and significance as Rock’s cultural memorabilia."

The illustrated Peter Golding Collection catalog remains online with prices realized for review at