Like moths to a flame, most of us are keen to see original artwork from our favorite stars. What would be the subject of a painting or drawing by Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash or Mohammed Ali?
Which art style would Jimi Hendrix prefer to reflect his musical genius or Richard Petty if he didn’t drive race cars?
From sophisticated paintings to whimsical watercolors, the latest exhibition at Gallery 208, The Alex Munroe Collection: Artwork by Celebrities, opening October 11, showcases what multi-talented superstars have created in their personal lives with paint, crayons or watercolors.
The exhibition is as much about the collector as it is about the exhibition. The Alex Munroe Collection: Celebrity Artwork reveals a lot about the collector’s personality, his personal life choices and why he decided to collect over 200 celebrity works.
Curiosity brings you to the gallery to see the original works of the following celebrities: Janice Joplin, John Lennon, Grace Slick, Mohammed Ali, Jacques Cousteau, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Sid Cesear, Nancy Wilson, Red Foxx, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Curtis, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, Charleston Heston, Phyllis Diller and Richard Petty.
You will leave the exhibition with an unexpected and surprisingly pleasant experience. We can compare what we’ve already experienced, the mass media’s way of meeting a celebrity, and contrast it with something that feels personal and private. The more you know about each star, the more you’ll appreciate the experience of seeing the exhibit.
Jimi Hendrix’s career, for example, gained popularity with his first single “Hey Joe” and its follow-up “Purple Haze”. A pioneer and one of the pre-eminent instrumentalists in rock music history, Hendrix manipulated the distortion and feedback of an electric guitar into a kind of fluid language.
While superstar Hendrix is travelling, waiting in a motel room for a concert, or at home – what and why did he choose to paint, and which style best suits the fluid language of his music? Would it be a narrative story and have a character in the picture? What would the character do?
Hendrix was probably sensitive to seeing color as sound. Instead of a narrative style, Hendrix chose patterns and abstract colored shapes to create movement on the surface of the page. Each color chosen creates a rhythm: the color yellow jumps forward, sky blue slows down the repetitive beat and keeps us in a musical pause, while the color deep red, like a symphony slowly gaining volume, gains momentum in the overall composition.
Little did Hendrix need to know that chromesthesia is the name of a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to an involuntary experience of another sensory pathway. If we know Hendrix, to enjoy his work we just have to know that a musical genius only chooses colors to create mood and rhythm in his design.
Notably, like Jimi Hendrix, country singer Johnny Cash also uses abstract color patterns. Unlike Hendrix, whose design does not relate to an object or person, Cash’s color mosaic patterns create the image of a moving bird. Centered on the side, Cash’s bird appears to be soaring.
Imaginative, whimsical and minimalist, John Lennon’s watercolor hangs on the gallery wall in contrast to a large painting of cultural icon, actor Tony Curtis. An American film actor known for six decades, he was the most popular in the 1950s and 60s. Of the 100 films Curtis has made, all starring award-winning academy actors, the pop culture generation may know him for his supporting role in Spartacus, or for his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis.
Curtis had a passion and talent for painting in the post-impressionist style. His choice of motifs were colorful still lifes, landscapes and portraits. His painting entitled Red Table is in the Media Wing Collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Looking at another of his works, the sizeable figurative painting in Gallery 208, visitors will easily recognize the influences of Van Gogh and Henri Matisse. While some of the works in the exhibition reflect a relaxing hobby, Curtis created an extensive body of work during his lifetime and was keenly aware of his intention. Artnet quoted Curtis as saying, “When I paint, I don’t paint shapes; I paint colors.”
Those who come to the opening on October 11 will not only be fascinated by the exhibit, but also by the collector. Alex Munroe will briefly discuss the art of collecting at the opening reception. Gallery 208 is showing just 18 of an extensive body of work – over 200 pieces in his collection.
What someone collects says a lot about that person. All collectors like the work of the artist(s), but also assume that the work could be appreciated. For many investors, your collection symbolizes success in social circles.
When you visit the exhibition, you will not assume that Munroe’s eclectic collection is a way of self-validating as a social success. Instead, it’s easy to sense that the collection represents the collector with an entrepreneurial passion for the unexpected and a highly creative way of looking at the world and culture around them. When you meet Munroe you will immediately see the collection as an expression of a fun-loving personality with diverse interests and a positive attitude.
Munroe explained, “I buy art for the sheer joy of sharing it with people. Research has shown that when you look at art, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel safe and happy. My art takes this concept to an even higher level as being a celebrity has the added benefit. Seeing a play by Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney or Richard Petty adds an element of awe.”
So how do you share 200+ celebrity works with the public? Create the ambiance of a restaurant by stacking your original framed art collection on the walls and even hanging the works in the bathroom and toilet stalls. It’s easy to build and own a restaurant with great food, but it also has decor that exudes your outgoing and engaging personality.
Located in Elizabethtown off Interstate 87, this gallery restaurant is a combination restaurant, bar and ballroom. The stacked artworks that fill the walls are in the exhibition style of the 1850 Salon. The list is unexpectedly endless while dining at Cape Fear Winery, and includes works by Picasso, Salvador Dali, Matisse, Ron Wood, Ringo Starr, Dr. Suess, Jonathan Winters, Eric Clapton and more.
As already mentioned, the collector is just as curious as the collection. Munroe graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in Advertising and in 2000 founded his first company in Wilmington manufacturing and selling detectable warning systems. Munroe then returned home to expand his business in the Elizabethtown Industrial Park.
Munroe puts it best: “The abandoned winery was across from my office. It was such a beautiful property that I would walk my dog there every day. I discovered it was foreclosure, so I leased it out the day I found out. At worst it was a nice property, so it was valuable property for me. I did some research and decided the area needed a venue, restaurant and accommodation.”
Cape Fear Winery has expanded to include a restaurant, distillery, venue for weddings or special occasions, and a new gift shop and spa. With the collection always hanging, the restaurant is always the place to venture when you’re ready for great food and an eclectic dining experience!
Finally, visitors to the restaurant will be able to see his latest works, six more “Peanuts” tracks by Tom Everhart and an original by the famous guitarist Slash.
One would assume that Munroe had lived in Los Angeles for many years and was directly influenced by celebrities to collect celebrity art. To my surprise, Munroe’s brothers unknowingly influenced him to become a collector.
Munroe tells his story of moving to New York City with his family as a young boy. He said: “Coach Dean Smith was on the plane and my brothers asked me to get his autograph. I did and my brothers thought I was so cool. To keep impressing her, I bought more stuff and suddenly had a nice collection. I have an agent in San Francisco who helps me acquire rare pieces as soon as they become available, usually around a year after the celebrity’s death.”
What started as “a way to impress his brothers” grew into a genuine passion that enriched the area he grew up in as a child. Munroe believes “great art will be there forever and long after I’m gone. I see myself as the current owner of the art rather than the owner. You usually have to go to a big city to see the caliber of some of my artwork, so I’m happy to share it locally. Before I opened the winery, most of my art was housed in cylinders in my attic. Originally I thought I would exhibit selected pieces, but when people came and asked if I had more, I was happy to put more pieces on the walls.”
The public is invited to attend the opening reception of The Alex Munroe Collection: Artwork by Celebrities on October 11 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm at Gallery 208 on Rowan Street in Fayetteville.
Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For those unable to attend the opening, the exhibit will remain at Gallery 208 through December 15. For more information, call Up & Coming Weekly at 910-484-6200.