A psychedelic mosaic designed and owned by John Lennon is heading to auction this month. The work, depicting an eyeball surrounded by whimsical designs, was commissioned by the late Beatle to adorn his swimming pool.
The 17,000-tile mosaic was installed in the deep end of the pool in 1965 at Lennon’s Kenwood home, which he owned until the late 1960s. “It’s said Lennon would spend idle hours near the swimming pool and that the mosaic could even be seen from his favored ‘sunroom’ at the top of the house,” said Claire Tole-Moir, head of popular culture in London for Bonhams auction house, in a statement. “With Kenwood still under private ownership, it is very rare to see anything from when John Lennon lived there, making the Psychedelic Eye mosaic an incredibly important artefact of Beatles history.”
Removed in 1984, the mosaic went on display at the International Garden Festival at the Royal Festival Gardens in Liverpool. It was later moved to The Museum of Liverpool Life, in addition to being featured in the 2016 You Say You Want a Revolution? exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Now, it’s being offered up for sale with a six-figure estimate, according to Bonhams. The work will star in the auctioneer’s Rock, Pop & Film sale, scheduled for Nov. 29 in London.
This wasn’t the first time Lennon experimented with mosaics; in the mid-1960s, he designed a pool mosaic for fellow bandmate George Harrison. The work depicted one of the cartoons Lennon created for his 1964 book In His Own Write, a collection of poems, writings and illustrations. The volume was followed up by a similar book the following year titled A Spaniard in the Works.
Despite Lennon’s acclaimed fame as a musician, his initial career aspirations were centered upon the art world; before forming the Beatles, he attended the Liverpool School of Art. Some of his illustrations will also be sold in the Bonhams sale, including a black and white drawing he created of Hilary Gerrard, the former business manager of Ringo Starr, wielding a sword while riding a sheep. Lennon’s prints and drawings have previously fetched significant sums at auction. In 2014, Sotheby's sold nearly 90 lots of sketches and poems by Lennon for $2.9 million.
John Lennon’s interactions with the art world
While the Beatle was famously married to multimedia artist Yoko Ono and collaborated with her on several art projects, he also admired and associated with a number of varying artists throughout his career. After coming across art from The Fool, a Dutch art and design collective, the Beatles commissioned the group for works ranging from a mural on their Apple Corps company building to the painting of Lennon’s Rolls Royce.
Lennon was also introduced to renowned artists like Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol, the latter of whom he praised in a 1971 Rolling Stone interview. “He is an original and he’s great,” Lennon said of the Pop Art icon. “I dig Heinz Soup Cans.” The musician also praised the work of Paul Gauguin and the experimental art group Fluxus and Marcel Duchamp. “Yoko has taught me about Duchamp and what he did, which is just out of this world,” he told Rolling Stone.
Even in the 1960s, Lennon’s pull towards art of an experimental nature can be found in the hallucinatory designs of Psychedelic Eye. The mosaic “is a striking example of the Beatles artistic vision and influences,” Bonhams said.
Around 360 lots will accompany the mosaic in Rock, Pop & Film, which is expected to bring in a total of between £700,000 ($860,000) and £1 million ($1.2 million). Other highlights in the auction include music memorabilia donated by Warner Music and stars like Liam Gallagher and Elton John, an autographed copy of the album Led Zeppelin II, and a series of vintage polaroids taken by Robert Rosen between the 1980s and early 2000s and signed by stars like David Bowie, Audrey Hepburn, Francis Bacon and Muhammed Ali.