The Modern Art Museum in Shanghai is currently running a major exhibition showcasing the artworks of one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century: American singer-songwriter, performer and artist, Bob Dylan.

The current Bob Dylan art exhibition is the grand opening of the new jewel in Shanghai’s cultural crown. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times

A millennial renaissance man, Dylan is as at home with oil paints as he is guitars. “Retrospectrum” showcases over 250 works – from pencil sketches to metalworks – representing five decades of Dylan’s artistic career.

“Seeing many of my works years after I completed them is a fascinating experience,” Dylan said, according to a press release. “I don’t really associate them with any particular time or place or state of mind, but view them as part of a long arc; a continuum that begins with the way I go forth in the world and changes direction as my perception is shaped and altered by life.”

A vast mosaic of Bob Dylan, as featured on magazine covers over the years, is part of the exhibit at Modern Art Museum, Shanghai. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times

The artist also commented on his range of influences.

“I can be as profoundly influenced by events in Morretes, Brazil, as I am by the man who sells me El País in Madrid,” he said. “Shanghai is a city so rich in culture and history, and I couldn’t be happier that ‘Retrospectrum’ is being exhibited there.”

Among the works featured are some of Dylan’s earliest ink sketches, first published in 1973’s Writings and Drawings, that illustrate song lyrics. These drawings appear alongside works from last year’s Mondo Scripto series, in which Dylan revisited some of his most renowned lyrics, hand-writing and illustrating them.

The exhibition also features the iconic Train Tracks paintings, representing The Drawn Blank Series (2008) that first brought won Dylan’s visual artworks fame.  The New Orleans and Asia series were inspired by the artist’s own travels, as were The Beaten Path series that exemplifies Dylan’s appreciation for the beauty of America’s landscapes.

Over the last decade, art pros, from gallery directors to critics, have taken notice.

“Bob Dylan’s artworks are informed by the same constant compulsion to renew that characterizes his music,” said the director of the National Gallery of Denmark, Karsten Ohrt.  “He doesn’t seem satisfied with settling on one form of expression once he has perfected it, but is constantly experimenting and trying out new artistic techniques and styles.”

“You feel that what he sees is always subtly merging with an America in his mind,” wrote Jonathon Jones, art critic for The Guardian newspaper and jury member for the 2009 Turner prize. “Sometimes that inner America seeps out…Yet most of the time, with true observation and patient work, he records reality in all its strangeness.”

Below, join Asia Times as we walk through “Retrospectrum.”

Entry to, and egress from, the exhibition is via a concrete spiral staircase that is fully Dylan-branded. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Signage for Greenwich Village’s Cafe Wha? – the legendary talent incubator which helped kick off the careers of notable musicians including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and the Velvet Underground – is recreated in the exhibition. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Visitors contemplate a display of Dylanesque words. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Dylan lyrics matched to Dylan sketches. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
“Take this badge off of me….” A sketch accompanies a songsheet of Dylan’s famed lyrics. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Dylan’s artworks include metal sculptures – like this piece, superimposed against an industrial waste land. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Empty roads and rails rolling toward typically American horizons are a favorite Dylan motif. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
A rice harvester – a subject from the Asia series – gets the Dylan treatment. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
Classic Americana from the iconic American artist. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times

The exhibition fully leverages audio-visual medium to showcase Dylan’s works. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times

The final gallery – a vast, darkened space – presents a spectacular explosion of color. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
A gallery of Dylan art albums overlooks the Whampoa. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times
The Modern Art Museum, on the Pudong waterfront, is a new jewel in Shanghai’s cultural crown. Photo: Andrew Salmon/Asia Times