July 29, 2017
Never-Before-Seen Paintings by Kurt Cobain Will Get Star Treatment at the Seattle Art Fair
By Eileen Kinsella
Artwork by former Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain will be front and center at next month’s Seattle Art Fair (August 3–6). The never-before-seen paintings will be presented by the fine arts division of the United Talent Agency. This marks the first time the division, which launched in 2015, has participated in an art fair.
The presentation will feature two original works by Cobain (neither of which will be for sale) alongside work by other rebel artists from the past 30 years, including Mike Kelley, Joe Bradley, Nate Lowman, Elizabeth Peyton, and Raymond Pettibon. (Some of these works will be for sale.)
Joshua Roth, the head of UTA’s fine arts division, tells artnet News that given Cobain’s well-known skills as an “influential creator, it’s not too much of a leap” for viewers to see that he was a talented visual artist as well. (It runs in the family: Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, is currently having her second solo art show on the West Coast, at Pasadena’s Gallery 30 South.)
Cobain’s paintings, which will be shown alongside some of his notebooks, have been in storage since his death in 1994. Dozens of other paintings and drawing-filled notebooks remain in the estate, which UTA began to represent last year. UTA has long represented Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, and Roth says he has gotten to know her in recent years.
With this new art-fair project, UTA further blurs the line between Hollywood talent agency and traditional gallery. Last year, UTA opened its own gallery space in Boyle Heights to mount creative projects with artists, including Enoc Perez, Jake & Dinos Chapman, and Larry Clark.
Why bring the show on the road to Seattle? Roth tells artnet News, “Bringing this particular exhibit to Seattle allows us to meet people and interact in fun an interesting ways.” (Cobain was also born in nearby Aberdeen, Washington, and died in the city.)
Meanwhile, another division of UTA is working on a feature film about Cobain, and Roth hopes to mount a complementary touring exhibition. He cites the major Rolling Stones touring show “Exhibitionism” as a model to emulate, noting that ideally the show would start or conclude in Seattle.
“I think when you have individuals who are iconic as Kurt, they have this ability to remain relevant across generations and the work remains poignant as ever,” says Roth, citing comparisons to Bob Dylan, James Dean, and Elvis. “We all think Kurt is very much a part of that group.”