Last Thursday night at Able Fine Art Gallery on West 25th Street, the opening for the works of Joseph Arthur, Emilia Dubicki and Min-Suk Choi took a Dadaist turn when former Peter Beard muse Natalie White doffed her Herve Leger dress so Arthur could create one of his paintings on her entire body. Arthur painted White’s nude body before a crowd of appreciative art lovers who felt the vibe of art world happening and snapped away with phone cameras. Arthur, a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, is also a painter and designer whose artwork has been featured on his entire discography. The EP sleeve he co-designed with Zachary Larner for 1999’s “Vacancy” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
Arthur’s newest album, “Redemption City”, which came out on January 18th, will be available free at www.josepharthur.com for about a month, and then available for sale on iTunes. Along with guitarist Kraig Jarret-Johnson, Arthur performed “I Miss the Zoo” from the new release and “Black Lexus” from 2006’s “Nuclear Daydream” live for the packed in audience at the gallery. The show, which opened that night, will be up until March 13, 2012. R.E.M’s Michael Stipe dropped by to show his fellow artist the love and the lovely Ms. White was accompanied by Spencer Tunick, an artist who has been documenting the nude in public with photography and video since 1992. International DJ, Djette Kiwi, who is based in Bahrain, came along with White and Tunick and chatted with Arthur about his music and paintings. Also in attendance were Arthur’s art reps, Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz.
As partners in design for 30 years, Drate and Salavetz have authored and packaged over 21 books, from “The Art of the Modern Movie Poster” which was published by Chronicle Books in 2008, to the most recent “Five Hundred 45’s”, a graphic history of the seven-inch record, published by Collins Design, which received a two page review in the London Times when it came out in 2010. “Five Hundred 45’s” premiered with a party at the downtown rock gallery Morrison Hotel Gallery, which also sells the book. Drate presented the filmmaker Pedro Almodovar with a signed copy of The Art of The Modern Movie Poster last year when they met at Almodovar’s own book premiere event at the Taschen Gallery in Soho. The poster for Almodovar’s “All About My Mother” was included in the book. Almodovar was delighted with the gift and now regularly checks in with Drate just to chat.
Drate and Salavetz have been drawn to pop culture for their entire careers, and thus it was a perfect match when they first met Joseph Arthur about three years ago and designed the packaging for his album “Lets Just Be”, an award winning album design that made use of the letterpress, which was originally invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid 15th century. Drate’s design for The Ramone’s “Road to Ruin” point of purchase poster is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and he was the first album designer to ever be interviewed on MTV and VH1 about his design for Billy Squier’s multi-platinum album “Don’t Say No”. Drate and Salavetz’s album design for Joan Jett and The Blackhearts’ “Album” was in the 2010 show “Who Shot Rock and Roll” at the Brooklyn Museum and their 45 sleeve design for Talking Heads “Take Me to the River” was in MOMA’s 2010 show “Looking at Music-Side 2”.
Drate and Salavetz helped Arthur get his first New York gallery show at The Gershwin Hotel in 2011 and are planning further exhibits for him in Southampton. These two prolific designers, who together have worked on the albums of Lou Reed, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Paul McCartney, The Velvet Underground, The Beach Boys and many more, are the perfect match for Arthur and his creative sensibility. When Arthur was trying to decide on a name for the gallery he opened in Brooklyn in 2007, Drate came up with The Museum of Modern Arthur. It is a collaboration of artists who are the perfect complement of the visual and the musical.