Monday 18 June 2018

Nirvana’s MTV Moonman and Kurt Cobain’s Rolling Stone cheerleader outfit among memorabilia on display at Newbridge

The Rolling Stone shoot
The Rolling Stone shoot
William Doyle and Martin Nolan at the exclusive launch of ‘Audrey’ a new exhibition at the Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style Icons. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Fans of iconic 90s grunge band Nirvana and late frontman Kurt Cobain can check out some of their most treasured possessions at the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware.

The Kurt Cobain & Gods of Grunge & Rock Exhibition opens today and runs until October 25 and gives the public a chance to see several personal items due to go under the hammer at Julien’s Auctions in LA on November 3 and 4.

Martin Nolan is auctioneer to the stars with Julien’s and has handled some of the world’s biggest celebrity auctions with memorabilia from stars including Michael Jackson, Ringo Starr, and Cher. 

Last year he handled the sale of Marilyn Monroe’s dress which she wore to sing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy.  It sold for a cool $4.81m.

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The dress on display at Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images

However, he’s equally as excited about the current exhibition because of the rarity of Nirvana and Cobain-related items.

“It’s very rare that anything comes up from him and anything that does sells hugely,” he says.

“We sold his green cardigan, the grunge cardigan he wore on MTV Unplugged in 1994, for $120,000 and we sold another grunge jacket he wore for over $70,000.  He is highly collectible. 

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Kurt Cobain on stage during the filming of MTV Unplugged.

“We sold some of his artwork back in May for €75,000.  These are phenomenal prices for small postcard-sized drawings. 

“So he’s highly collectible and has a huge fan base, even here in Ireland, among every age group, even the younger generation.  Everyone is intrigued by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.”

The highlight of the collection has to be the MTV Moonman the band received for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ at the MTV VMAs in September 1992.

It was a memorable night given the fact that the band were banned from playing ‘Rape Me’ and agreed to play ‘Lithium’ instead.  On the night they played the first few chords of ‘Rape Me’ in a prank designed to make the heads at MTV sweat.

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Nirvana's Moonman from the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards

Then there was the beef with Axl Rose which spilled on stage resulting in drummer Dave Grohl taunting Rose from the stage towards the end of their performance.

“It was really the first time Nirvana took centre stage and they won the award for Smells Like Teen Spirit, which was a massively popular song and is to this day,” says Martin.

“Nirvana were sort of separating themselves from other rock bands and Axl Rose was constantly vying with Kurt Cobain and they had that spat on stage.  It’s a famous, famous night and that award comes from some of his family members. 

“Kurt kept it as a door stop in the bathroom of his house in Olympia, Washington.”

The door stop is valued at $30,000 to $40,000 but Martin reckons it will sell for “hundreds of thousands”.

The Montage of Heck documentary released in 2015 gave an insight into Cobain’s life before the band as well as with Nirvana and Martin believes the items at the exhibition also give an insight into the man and his genius.

“He was a genius, a creative genius, a brilliant writer, a great artist,” he says. 

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The Rolling Stone shoot

“Of course in terms of his music and performance and his shows, he was a showman as well.  He knew the importance of not just performing musically but giving more – like smashing up guitars!  One letter we have is where he’s asking permission to use footage from the time he was playing Belgium and he broke a guitar and a piece flew into the audience and broke a kid’s tooth.” 

Another remarkable item is the cheerleader outfit Cobain wore for a photoshoot for Rolling Stone which took place at Aberdeen Weatherwax High School where Cobain had been a student.  Shot by Mark Seliger in 1994 it’s accompanied by a copy of the magazine.

“He was a funny guy,” says Martin.  “He was very direct in what he said and always said what was on his mind.  He wore that outfit for a shoot with Rolling Stone and it comes with the magazine.  The magazine is from January 1994 and in April 1994 he died.  It’s listed at between $6,000 and $8,000 but it will sell massively higher than that.”

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Kurt Cobain's cheerleading outfit from the Rolling Stone shoot

Another notable item in the collection is a vintage xerographed flyer advertising a live show which took place in Seattle, Washington, at the Vogue on Tuesday, April 19, 1988. The concert featured live performances by Das Damen and Blood Circus, as well as the first live performance by early grunge band Mudhoney.

The verso of the flyer contains notes handwritten in ink by Kurt Cobain, including date references and venues (OK Hotel and Natacha’s) and the bands Broken Bones, The Accüsed, U.K. Subs, and Bundle of Hiss, whose drummer, Dan Peters, was also the drummer for Mudhoney.

Less than four months after this show Mudhoney would release the single “Touch Me I’m Sick” followed by their debut EP {Superfuzz Bigmuff} which Cobain reportedly stated was the album most influential to Nirvana’s sound.

Less than five days after Mudhoney’s appearance Nirvana would also perform at the Vogue in what many have cited as the band’s first live performance in Seattle.

As well as the Nirvana memorabilia there will also be garments belonging to Michael Jackson, Prince and Rod Stewart.

A cream leather single right hand tour glove belonging to Michael Jackson is one of the highlights, as is a printed silk Gucci shirt belonging to Prince, given by his wife, and a Louis Vuitton garment bag which once belonged to Rod Stewart.

Typically, items belonging to deceased stars will fetch a higher price.

“It depends but certainly it can be the case that because Kurt Cobain died so young, aged 27, that definitely does have an impact on value,” reveals Martin.

“He’s not playing guitars, not winning awards, not wearing cardigans so there is a finite amount of stuff.  But people are still buying Madonna memorabilia. It’s selling very well.  Same with Cher, Barbara Streisand, Bruce Sprinsteen.  Items may be less expensive now and more available because they are still working and performing but they will appreciate in value. 

“We had a sale for Ringo Starr a couple of years ago and anything that was touched by or had an involvement with John Lennon sold significantly higher because Ringo is still working, still performing.”

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Martin was also set to handle the sale of items belonging to Michael Jackson before his death.  He spent nine months in 2008, with a team of 30, at Neverland cataloguing items which would go under the hammer.

“It was unbelievable,” he says.  “We went to NEverland to see 2700 acres of land, acres of houses, theme parks, gyms, tepee villages, zoos, and going through everything and documenting every single thing and cataloguing it, photographing it and transporting it.

“There were massive big ornaments - everything was big and elaborate and marble and gold so we worked on it for nine months and brought it to Newbridge and 25,000 people came to see it over 10 days.  It was phenomenal.”

However, just two weeks before the auction Michael cancelled so Julien’s handed everything back on April 25, 2009 and eight weeks to the day later Michael Jackson died.

“The stuff still sits in storage,” says Michael, who hopes that when it is eventually sold he will handle the sale.

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The train station at Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

“We are ready to go.  We have the catalogues printed, five books of stuff. We’re just waiting for that call,” he says.

However, he adds, “ The estate decided, and I totally support their idea, that they want the kids to be old enough to go through the stuff and decide what they might want to keep, their favourite memories from Neverland, and then for them to make the decision about what they might want to go.”

The Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware will be the only European stop on the tour before it returns to the US and Martin expects people to travel from all over Europe and beyond to see the items.

The exhibition runs from Wednesday, September 27th to October 25th.  For more see www.newbridgesilverware.com or call (045) 431301

Irish dash and charm adds to the sparkling glamour 

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