Even though the Nobel Prize commission chose Gnnter Grass for this year’s Nobel Prize in literature, over-looking Bob Dylan for the third year in a row, the J. Paul Getty museum appreciates the iconic minstrel. They have paired the lyrics of Dylan’s 1965 classic, “Desolation Row,” with one of the most important works of Belgian avant-gardist James Ensor, the nightmarish “Christ’s Entry Into Brussels In 1889.”
Ensor’s painting was initially rejected as scandalous by the public, the press and Belgian’s royal family — and was not exhibited publicly until 1929. But it now has a new life as the centerpiece of a new book entitled The Superhuman Crew. Getty Senior Editor John Harris said he immediately thought of Dylan when attempting to find some suitable text to go along with Ensor’s masterpiece, since the track from Highway 61 Revisited seemed to echo some of the themes in the painting, with it’s absurdist portrait of modern life-looking at the contemporary world as anarchic and grotesque.
“No painting at the Getty is bigger or more complex than Ensor’s painting,” Harris told CNN. “But we needed a new concept, some sort of text to go with the pictures. The problem was the painting is so overwhelming — it’s a huge painting — what poem could hold its own with these powerful images? I have a fondness for Dylan, and I thought: Well, what about ‘Desolation Row?'”
The book, which was released this month by J. Paul Getty Museum Publishing, will not only feature a reproduction of Ensor’s painting, but also include a CD with Dylan’s recording of the song, all for a mere $24.95.