Lennon: ‘Society only likes dead artists’

On September 27th, 1971, a fortnight prior to the opening of an exhibit by Yoko Ono at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, the area’s local newspaper – The Post-Standard – ran an article entitled ‘Art or Hokum?‘, in which an anonymous journalist questioned the museum’s motives when agreeing to the show. In part:

‘We wonder, however, whether the Everson is presenting her “first one-man museum show” because it is great art, or whether the exhibition was merely the means of bringing to the Everson a man whose former group he once described as “more popular than Christ.” If the latter is the case, the Everson will add greatly to its normal attendance, but at a tremendous loss of good taste and of respect in the art world.’

Almost immediately the piece was brought to the attention of a furious John Lennon, who quickly responded in writing with the letter seen below. Its content was published in the newspaper on October 7th.

Transcript follows.


Hotel Syracuse

Dear whoever wrote that Hokum about ART,

I’d forgotten about people like you! Well well – you still exist, of course, in other small towns across the world…

I was wondering – what on earth has what the husband of the artist said, four or five years ago, got to do with the current ‘This is not here’ show at Everson Museum by Yoko Ono? -brought here by a man this town should be proud of – Jim Harithas – i mean did people really discuss Picasso’s – wifes – gossip. I’d also like to know since when this nameless ghost at the Post-Standard represented the so called art world? Yoko and i are pretty close to a few artists, (we are artists!) and as artists, we can tell you that the ‘art world’ is not in the 19th century, and one thing artists down the centuries have been up against is bourgois mealy mouthed gossip from the ‘grey people’ (or Blue Meanies!) Society only likes dead artists. i’m afraid Yoko and myself cannot oblige,

love anyway

John & Yoko

P.S. Why don’t you come and see the art – i’m sure the man you think i insulted would turn the other cheek and come.

P.P.S. You forgot to mention the other man from the former group (George Harrison) who is was a highly religious – fervent disciple of Christ? Hare Krishna et al.