Waukesha museum closes to prepare for Beatles exhibit
Fans can see John Lennonís artwork starting Saturday
By SCOTT WILLIAMS
Aug. 12, 2008
This self-portrait of John Lennon will be among the artwork.
Beatles - Watch the holes Yoko.
Waukesha - Waukesha County's historical museum is closing its doors this week for the high-security installation of an exhibit that could open doors for the museum in the future.
The museum, at 101 W. Main St., is closing today and Thursday while crews inside assemble an exhibit featuring rare Beatles memorabilia, including original John Lennon artwork.
Officials of the Waukesha County Historical Society & Museum believe it is the first time that the facility has closed to protect the security of a new attraction.
"This is the most prominent exhibit that the museum has ever had," said Kirsten Lee Villegas, the museum's executive director.
The exhibit, "Coming Together Through the Art of John Lennon," opens Saturday for a two-week run that officials hope will pave the way for an unrelated exhibit honoring Waukesha-born music legend Les Paul.
One highlight of the show is the microphone that Lennon used to record his signature solo song, "Imagine."
With tickets costing $12 each for adults, Beatles lovers from as far away as Illinois and Missouri are jumping at the chance to see the unique collection.
Candace Easter, 43, of Kenosha, who has been a Beatles fan since she was a child, already has her tickets and is hoping to attend the exhibit on opening day.
Easter said she is intrigued by the artwork, but she is most excited about seeing the "Imagine" microphone.
"That's going to be so cool," she said.
Retired Milwaukee radio personality Bob Barry also is contributing memorabilia and artifacts from his personal collection, which includes items dating back to when he hosted the Beatles during their 1964 concert appearance in Milwaukee.
The exhibit is scheduled to continue through Sept. 1.
The artwork includes more than 20 original drawings by Lennon, who was an art student in England before forming the Beatles in 1960 with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and two other musicians. Drummer Ringo Starr joined Lennon, McCartney and Harrison in 1962.
Covering a period from the late '60s through the late '70s, the artworks include many self-portraits and images of Lennon with his wife, Yoko Ono. One depicts Lennon sitting at his favorite grand piano with musical notes flowing from a flower in a vase.
"People will really be able to peer into his persona," Villegas said.
Lennon was fatally shot by a deranged fan in New York City in 1980. (His killer, Mark David Chapman was denied parole for a fifth time Tuesday.)
An anonymous collector from Waukesha County is loaning the Lennon artwork to the museum in hopes that a successful show will help the nonprofit museum complete its long-promised Les Paul exhibit.
Paul Jillson, owner of Pacific Edge Gallery near Los Angeles, which specializes in Lennon art, described the Wisconsin collector as meticulous and cautious about purchasing authentic pieces.
Jillson said original Lennon works generally fetch $20,000 or more.
"It is unusual to have that many authenticated originals in one place," he said.
Museum officials plan around-the-clock security to protect the unique collection.
A special $50-per-person sneak preview is scheduled Friday before the exhibit opens to the general public Saturday.
Villegas, who has called the show an important step in completing the Les Paul attraction, said handling such rare artifacts has been challenging and exciting.
"This is very rare, this collection," she said.
No photographs will be allowed of the most significant pieces, she said.