Going Back to Its West Coast Roots: The Morrison Hotel Gallery Opens in LA

What do the Sunset Marquis Hotel, the Morrison Hotel Gallery and Julian Lennon have in common?  A history of musical greatness, that’s what.

They all came together in perfect harmony last Thursday night – a delightful combination of elements that would be great on their own but together made for one grandiose evening. It was the opening of the Morrison Hotel Gallery West, an exhibit of fine art music photography. And, what better place to have it but the infamous Sunset Marquis Hotel, which has long been a sanctuary to rock ‘n’ roll A-listers.

Before I continue on about the event, let’s rewind. It’s important to share the history behind the Morrison Hotel Gallery. The story begins in the early 2000’s in a San Fernando Valley bungalow where three guys – Peter Blachley, Richard Horowitz and Henry Diltz – decided to form a new partnership.

Blachley and Horowitz were music industry execs and Diltz was a renowned rock ‘n’ roll photographer. Diltz accumulated tons of amazing photographs and other rock memorabilia over the years, and the trio decided to take his iconic rock ‘n’ roll images to the public in a traveling gallery exhibit in California. It was an immediate success, and they decided to do something more permanent and started scouting locations in NYC. The NYC gallery moved a few times but then set up shop at 124 Prince Street in SoHo.

And, what about the name? It originated from a photograph that Diltz took of Jim Morrison in front of a seedy downtown LA hotel, which later became the cover of The Doors’ 1969 album Morrison Hotel.

Blachley says, “Authenticity is key. It was important to maintain the authenticity of Henry’s photographs.” What makes a Morrison Hotel Gallery photograph authentic?  They are always printed by the photographers themselves or the labs designated by the photographers. When someone purchases a photograph, the photographer prints the photograph either from the original negative or transparency. It’s printed in a fine art manner and hand signed by the photographer. The average price for a Morrison Hotel Gallery photograph is between $1500 to 2K.

Morrison Hotel Gallery works with more than 90 photographers today. When Blachley discussed the photographers they work with, he said, “they are family.” One of the featured photographers is Julian Lennon. Many know Lennon for his music but he’s the epitome of a true artist having been an actor, composer, producer, and now photographer.

Some could say Lennon had a flare for art at a young age. In 1966, Lennon brought home a drawing from school, which later became the inspiration for the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” And, while Lennon took pictures like any person may when he/she gets a new camera, he never looked at it back then for being an art form that he’d pursue. Lennon’s photography took on a more serious note when he spent some time on his half-brother Sean’s music tour.

But, it was international-acclaimed photographer and long-time friend Timothy White who pushed Lennon to take his work. Lennon credits White for encouraging him to launch his first exhibit, “Timeless,” in 2010. Timeless was comprised of 35 photographs of beautiful landscapes and celebrity portraits, including U2 frontman Bono and brother Sean. Having an exhibition was not on Lennon’s radar when he was took the photographs, and because of it, Lennon and White worked closely together for a year combing through all the images to find the right ones to showcase in the collection. Lennon enjoyed that process so much so that he decided to continue pursuing this new creative outlet.

It was also the freedom that came with photography that drove Lennon to continue down this road. While Lennon may have followed in his famous father’s footsteps to some degree (he’s releasing another album in the spring), he is certainly forging his own path with photography.

His father was never a photographer so there’s a great sense of freedom to express himself creatively. Lennon stated, “There was no comparison with dad or the Beatles in this artistic form. It was such a joy to be free and reviewed on the merits of the work itself and not for the blood line. This was the first time this had ever happened to me.”

The singer/songwriter turned photographer recently launched his second collection titled “Alone” at popular international Art Basel Miami Beach show in December. Again working with White, Lennon says his new collection is about taking time to reflect and thinking about life – the past, present and future.collection

I would be remiss not to mention Lennon’s philanthropic endeavors. Giving back is incredibly important to him. Lennon’s  White Feather Foundation addresses various humanitarian and environmental issues, and he’s also part of an effort to encourage the art community to launch art programs in underprivileged schools.

Now, back to the partyyyyy…….The photographs (I estimated more than 100) were displayed in the art gallery across from Bar 1200 and all throughout the hotel’s property.  The event attracted some big names including Billy Bob Thornton and Harrison Ford.

From left to right - Julian Lennon with photographer Bob Gruen and actor Gary Oldman

Harrison Ford with Henry Diltz

Billy Bob Thornton with Micky Dolenz

As I walked from room to room eyeballing the iconic imagery of legendary musicians photographed over the last fifty years, I couldn’t help but think about when these photographs were taken. What makes a good picture stand out? For me, a good image will pique my curiosity. One needs to consider both sides of the lens. With one click of a camera, a photographer can capture the subject’s raw emotion and create a timeless moment without even knowing at the time what he or she has created.

It was hard not to get emotional when looking at some of the photographs. Certain images brought back a flood of memories of my teenage years cruising around Diamond Hill Reservoir in Cumberland, Rhode Island listening to the music of Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and Crosby, Stills and Nash. This is the reason why people purchase these photographs – there’s an emotional connection either with the artist and song, or a specific memory associated with the music.

(NOTE: Apologies folks but my pics didn’t come out due to the lighting around the photographs. I highly encourage you to visit Lennon’s work at the Morrison Hotel Gallery or go online to check out these awesome photographs.)

About kristinmartell:
Kristin Martell is a Pacific Punch Correspondent and Author of Damn the Odds. A recent Los Angeles transplant from Washington, DC, she’s pursuing her dream of acting while working as a PR consultant. Visit her at www.damntheodds.com. Follow the Pacific Punch on twitter @ThePacificPunch.
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