When Yoko Ono started showing John Lennon’s artwork in the ’80s, she was derided as an opportunist and worse. Two decades later she is seen as a keeper of the Lennon legacy, with fans softening on the woman who “broke up the Beatles” as more of the band’s history comes to light. The latest exhibit is here through Sunday.
You’ve been on a 20-year mission now to keep John’s work in the spotlight. Has it paid off?
I think it’s great now. People are loving it. It’s a very popular show. When it’s a very popular show, you have to be extremely careful and keep it like that. You never know. It might just go boom, down, but I don’t see that.
I’m seeing pieces I haven’t seen before. Do you rotate in unseen works each tour?
That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I don’t want to put everything in there at once. You have to give space to each work. I try to put one or two new ones in.
Are you still finding new pieces?
Exactly. I do find things quite often. Just even in the books, he’d been reading so many books. In the shelves there are so many books he marked something in or whatever. And then sometimes you find a piece of art.
Do you find poetry, writing or song lyrics as well?
Not so much. Those he kept and took them to the studio or whatever. The fact that his artwork was not particularly in demand, he’d keep it somewhere else. His songs were in incredible demand. So he’d take that to the studio.
Where do you see his art ending up? If someone wants to see it in 50 years, where will they go?
That’s the question, isn’t it? I can’t do everything at once. There’s so many things I’m doing (laughs). One day I’ll be able to put everything together and maybe donate it to a reliable university.
You were criticized early on for exploiting his work with things like Lennon coffee cups.
I just love the idea of using a cup with John’s art on it. I think it’s a great form of expression and communication. Myself in the art world I’ve done so many different things with so many different kinds of media, sometimes in places where most people don’t think artwork should be done. I just like the idea of spreading his words and spreading his work in all different media.
Is there more music to be released from your archives, or is all the best stuff out there?
I’m sure there are some things that are out there that I don’t know. . . . I was making sure that things were done in the best way that I could think of. I did my best. It doesn’t mean it’s the best, but I tried. I have the satisfaction that some of the songs are now being known more than they were known at the time of John being here. I think John would have been pleased that I made sure that some songs are out there in a way he would have liked.
Are there projects you don’t sign off on?
I do really put my foot down where it is necessary.
Are all the showings done for charity?
It’s very important isn’t it? It’s very necessary. Each time we do a show in a town or city I make sure we do something with the local charities. I ask the local curators to give me some suggestions. I really feel they have the local take on things. I shouldn’t be ‘Now hear this!’ I don’t do that.
Your image has changed so much that you’ve had your music remixed and reach the top of theBillboard charts. What’s that like?
I’ve had about three or four (laughs). It’s better that I’m doing something on my own as well. But I make sure that John’s stuff is not being ignored. That’s very important to me.
In recent years that meant that both your music and John’s were on the charts at the same time.
I know. Isn’t that great?
Fri: 5pm-9pm, Sat: 11am-7pm, Sun: 11am-6pm
902 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302, USA
$2 donation at the door benefitting the Emergency Family Assistance Association
303-449-3774 or lennonart.com