has been at the center of the music photography world for over twenty years. Owner Chris Murray’s kinship with such luminaries as Annie Leibovitz led him to collecting and promoting music-related photography as a distinct genre, and he has been a pioneer in assembling such unprecedented exhibits as the early Beatles portraits of Astrid Kirchherr. I spoke with him at
his Georgetown gallery in the fall of 2003, where he gave one of his first in-depth interviews.
LI: How did you start out with doing this gallery?
CM: I was friends with two artists – they were my best friends – and I really enjoyed their work. One of them I was married to and the other one was my best friend. And so one day I was just driving by here and I saw that this space was for rent. Just serendipity to tell you the truth. I though gee, what a nice little spot maybe I can have a shop there, so I just rented the place – it was cheap at the time – it’s not cheap now but it was cheap then—and I thought I would open an art gallery and show my friends’ work, and that’s exactly how it started, no business plan, no grand design, it was pure serendipity and just entrepreneurial. And so there was no grand plan, it just really kind of happened.
LI: Was it originally and art gallery or photography or both?
CM: I didn’t have a show here for the first five years anyway, and I think there was one show in here--this guy named Chris Makos, who was with Andy [Warhol]--and I ended up doing six or seven exhibits with Chris, more than anybody and…But no, it was primarily – the first five years or so were primarily artists from here--painters, and some painters from New York, and then I started showing Chris Makos’ photos, and then around 1980 I started representing Andy Warhol here. So we established ourselves locally as a fine art gallery, a gallery representing painters and sculptors, and most of them from this region, most of them not all of them. I had a great group of visionary artists, Mati Klarwein, whose work was used on the Miles Davis album Bitches Brew and on Santana Abraxas and many, many others, and Bob Venosa who used to design albums for CBS – this great designer who became a painter--and this group of visionary artists which were around too--along with the local artists. But I then started showing Andy Warhol’s work here because two of my best friends from college went to work for Andy, and so I had access to Andy through them, and Andy became a great friend to Govinda Gallery. And whenever I was in New York (which is where I’m from), I’d go up and see Andy and hang out in the studio either with Chris Makos or Bob Colacello, who was also the editor-in-chief of Interview magazine – he went to Georgetown [University] with me – and so I started showing Andy’s work here. Primarily his graphics, and we had several great shows — whenever Andy was in Washington he’d come visit here. Also, his first book of photos (called America) he had a booksigning here for that, and so showing Andy was a great thing for us because I loved his work, and so we segued really from or expanded from painting –artists from this area – into showing a lot of pop art as well. Which I was very interested in, and I enjoyed pop art and I enjoyed Andy’s work and you know, he was terrific, and through Andy and Chris Makos and his circle I started showing more and more photography. Andy’s paintings are very photo-influenced and photo-based, and so Andy got me more interested in photographic images, and so we started showing this whole new wave of cutting edge photographers who were doing a lot of work with fashion, because magazines like Andy’s Interview magazine were very cutting edge and avant garde at the time. It wasn’t – they would show in terms of photography, they would do full page spreads of totally unknown artists--several pages in a row--and then next to that have several pages of Helmut Newton or somebody--but it was a great thing, they were exposing new talent, and a lot of the great new photographers of the time like Greg Gorman and Matthew Ralston and David Seidner and Jean Pagliuso and so many of them — Erica Lenard – whose work I all got to know from Interview magazine--Peter Strongwater and Chris Makos would show their work for the first time (most of them), and a lot of it was cutting edge fashion photography. And these would be outtakes from that work, and they had a real fresh approach to taking photographs of fashion and the models and the way they’d set them up. And Andy was adventurous. And [I met] the great photo editor who was my great friend, Robert Hayes, and he introduced me to so many of the these photographers. And so we really got involved with Andy Warhol and circle for a good ten years and it was great fun.