By Della Hasselle
SOHO — Three lithograph prints based on John Lennon's artwork were made available to the public for the first time this week at an exhibit marking the 30th anniversary of the legendary Beatle's death.
"Imagine There’s No Hunger," which features 100 Japanese-ink drawings, some songwriting sketches, and several famous Beatles songs, opened Thursday in SoHo.
The drawings, inspired by Lennon's sketches, were all printed posthumously, and some were even altered with color or added images, creating controversy among some art lovers.
The suggested donation for the gallery exhibit and art sale will benefit New York's Citymeals-On-Wheels. The anti-hunger city program delivers 2.1 million meals to over 17,000 homebound elderly people every year, spokesperson Beth Shapiro said.
She added that it's "particularly poignant" that the exhibit also occurs the same week as what would have been the singer’s 70th birthday.
Citymeals-On-Wheels is the most recent recipient of the 20-year-old exhibit, which travels all over the United States and gives donations to non-profits around the country.
"Lennon would be proud that we leave a positive footprint wherever we visit," exhibit spokesperson Rudy Siegel said in an interview Thursday.
The exhibit also gives newcomers a fresh glimpse into Lennon’s legendary life, Siegel said. The Beatles member chronicled his life with sketches, using techniques he learned from the Liverpool School of Art, which he attended from 1957 to 1960.
"Most people didn’t know that John was an artist in the true sense of the word," Siegel said. "They are blown away by how prolific he was."
People may find the singer/songwriter less prolific, however, after noting that, despite a roomful of images devoted to Lennon's "color prints," the artist never worked in color.
Instead, the lithographs' "reworking" may give the illusion of the artist tha is not only misrepresentative, but completely false, artist and historian Gary Arseneau said Friday.
"Very simply, the dead don't create art," Arsenau said flatly, adding that Lennon's wife Yoko Ono hired professional artists to color in his sketches. "They're promoting colorized forgeries that [Lennon] has never even seen."
Despite the reworking, the art is often called "music for the eyes," because it becomes a walk down memory lane for Lennon’s contemporaries, now in their 60s and older, Siegel said.
"The atmosphere here…we get a lot of goosebumps, you know," Siegel said. "He was a proponent of people getting together and raising consciousness.
"There’s a lot of peace and love in the room," he said.
The exhibit shows at 134 Spring St., Thursday through Sunday.