At Christie's: Something Bittersweet
Written by Ed Lopez-Reyes   
Saturday, 15 June 2019
The Christie’s David Gilmour Guitar Collection exhibit has made its way through London and Los Angeles and has now landed in New York City… where all the David Gilmour guitars you have seen played live over the years, or that you have listened to an endless amount of times on albums, are about to sojourn into an entirely new existence.

Yesterday, at 11:00am Eastern Standard Time, a small group of guitar and Pink Floyd enthusiasts waited patiently in the lobby at Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza exhibition space to catch what may be the last glimpse anyone will get of some of David Gilmour’s most famous guitars. And just like that, as Christie’s musical instrument specialists and hosts invited everyone in, the small crowd trickled into different parts of the exhibit: some looking to take each guitar in with great pause, others going straight for “The Black Strat,” “The Red Stratocaster,” or #0001. These guitars were all on display in separate rooms, songs that were performed on them over the years piping through speakers directly underneath and around them. 
    
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This exhibit is on for a very limited amount of time, so let’s talk about what to expect if you can still manage a spot on their schedule (viewings must be reserved in advance) or if you can’t quite make it but would like to access what is available online.

 

Firstly, while many of the guitars are incredibly expensive (proceeds will be donated to charity) and in the six-figure range, what’s surprising is how many are relatively affordable – at least in the estimates Gilmour’s team has worked out with Christie’s. Some items, which may not be as iconic, can range as low as $300-500 (240-400GBP) (but could, of course fetch more than that). A large portion of guitars are in the $1000-$5000 range (800-4000GBP). While this isn’t necessarily inexpensive, the reality is a lot of musicians would drop $1000 for a decent guitar at a retail store. We can be certain many of these will end up raising more than the estimates but, excepting a specific portion of the guitars on display, there may be something for ordinary musicians and music enthusiasts.   

 

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The second thing to point out is that there are some guitar-related items: a guitar case, amplifiers… on a walk through the exhibit you could easily overlook these items and think they are props – but a closer inspection will show that, yes, those are also being auctioned. 

 

The third thing to consider: if you listen to the David Gilmour guitar collection podcasts (the most recent and final one of three was just released two days ago) it’s clear Gilmour is able to part with these because even though he has ultimately gotten to know them as ‘tools of the trade.’ Surely, Gilmour will continue creating music with new guitars – but this shouldn’t diminish the importance of these historical items. And for those who are fortunate enough to visit the exhibit, when you stand there, just a few inches away from these guitars, pausing to think about how much of your personal soundtrack was created, produced, and performed on these tools - and when you think of how many people in the world and over time have been impacted by these instruments - it’s hard not to have a bit of an epiphany and to realize the importance of preserving these for historical reasons… if you panic and start wondering what travel plans, car down-payments, or other entertainment expenses you might be willing to put off for a while to possess one of these items, there’s a good argument to make that this is not entirely irrational thinking.

 

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Although some items are better-known than others, a music enthusiast with a keen eye and ear will have a broader sense of what makes a piece iconic or not – far beyond the scope most superficial fans might account for: a guitar Gilmour may have only used in the studio may have been played by other historical figures – George Harrison and Ringo Starr have played a couple of the guitars on display, for example.


Although we should celebrate the fact that proceeds will do a great deal for charity it would be a bit insincere or disingenuous to say that there isn’t something to mourn: some of these guitars may land in private hands that may choose not to share these items with the public again. As Christie’s summaries for each guitar point out, many of these have been a crucial part of the Paris exhibit in 2003-4 and the Mortal Remains exhibit that has been on the road since 2017.

 

The time left for this Christie’s auction exhibit is quite limited – if you still have a chance to make the exhibit on this last, brief New York City leg, consider the importance of these items and their impact on the world and on music history. Take the time to see them up close... and to say goodbye to some old friends.


The Christie’s David Gilmour Guitar Collection Exhibit is on until this coming Wednesday, June 19th, at the time of writing, a few reservations for viewing were available on Tuesday the 18th and Wednesday the 19th. The auction takes place on Thursday the 20th. For more information visit Christie’s booking website  and davidgilmour.com

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 July 2019 )