For years, Telluride Gallery of Fine Art director Baerbel Hacke has put together a killer art auction to raise awareness and funds in support of the Telluride AIDS Benefit, with donations from artists all over the world. This year that event takes place Friday, March 2, at the historic Sheridan Opera House. Bidding starts at noon. Reception, 6 – 10 p.m. (Heads up: there are goodies autographed by George Clooney, signed over to TAB when he was here for the Telluride Film Festival.)

From 1992 until just after her death in 2006, a photograph donated by the legendary artist, Ruth Bernhard, generally one of her signature nudes, was the most coveted piece in the show. For this year’s auction, thanks to the initiative of board member Ana Coe, TAB has found a new Ruth Bernhard. His name is Bob Gruen.

“My sister and I were in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival a few weeks ago,” explains Ana. “We love checking out small bookstores and stumbled upon a great one on Main Street. We walked in just moments before a ‘famous photographer’ was about to begin his book signing. We headed to the back of the store to check it out and to our surprise and excitement the ‘famous photographer’ was Bob Gruen. With a small audience, he begin to chat about his life and the outlandish adventures he shared with John and Yoko, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Elton John, and more. Bob is so down to earth and approachable that after the talk, I had him sign my book and told him about the Telluride AIDS Benefit, sharing my passion for TAB and Telluride with him. I followed up with an email a couple of days later. He responded promptly and offered to donate one of his most famous photographs.”

Bob Gruen is one of the best known and most respected photographers in rock and roll history. From John Lennon to Johnny Rotten; Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones; Elvis to Madonna; Bob Dylan to Bob Marley; Tina Turner to Debbie Harry, he recorded the music scene for over 40 years in photographs that have gained worldwide recognition.

Shortly after John Lennon moved to New York in 1971, Bob became John and Yokoʼs personal photographer and friend, taking pictures of their working life and private moments. In 1974, Gruen created one of the most iconic images ever taken of Lennon.

Extrapolating from an article that appeared in New York magazine in 2010, here’s an abridged version of the story behind the shot:

On an August day in 1974, a nearly-34-year-old Lennon, was back in the Big Apple recovering from his year and a half mostly in Hollywood making big time hay. The singer-songwriter needed a cover shot for his new album, but was anxious to get back into the studio. He knew Gruen, then 29, was a quick study and fast shot. Gruen purportedly asked Lennon to dress in a T-shirt he’d bought from a sidewalk vendor for $5. It was white with NEW YORK CITY in bold black letters emblazoned across the chest, its black sleeves cut off with a buck knife for a tougher, Jets-in -“West Side Story”- effect. Gruen snapped the shot of the pale, unsmiling, ex-Beatle, arms folded across his stomach.

Pay dirt.

And that’s the image of Lennon Gruen donated to Anna for TAB. And it’s signed by the artist.

According to Gruen, Lennon was uncomfortable about the cutoff sleeves.

No one should be self-conscious bidding BIG.


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