One of Minnesota’s most famous sons is going to gaze down on Hennepin Avenue from a five-story-high perch.
Beginning Wednesday, a team of artists will begin painting a kaleidoscopic portrait of Bob Dylan that — at 60 feet tall and 150 feet wide — will fill the whitewashed wall of an Art Deco building at the southeast corner of Hennepin and S. 5th Street in downtown Minneapolis.
The $50,000 project was commissioned by the building’s owner, Goldman Sachs, to help the city revitalize its downtown Cultural District.
“We want Minneapolis to be a 24-hour city,” said Joan Vorderbruggen, arts coordinator for the district. “Arts and culture should be a part of every step you take.”
The work will unfold over the next two weeks as Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra and his team of five artists — three from Brazil and two from Minnesota — attack the blank wall using boom lifts and air compressors.
Kobra, whose portfolio stretches across three continents, was chosen for his vibrant style and international renown. He said Tuesday that he appreciates Dylan as an iconic figure with roots in Minnesota — and on Hennepin Avenue, where Dylan once owned the Orpheum Theatre.
“All of my work is based in memory, history and personalities that are important,” said Kobra. His past murals include a Miami work showing revered rappers Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., a portrait of Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai that scales a wall in Rome, and an adaptation of the iconic V-J Day photograph, showing a Times Square kiss, that overlooks the High Line in New York City.
Three ages of Dylan
Kobra wants the design to remain a surprise, but he invites anyone to watch the process unfold.
He envisions a triptych of Dylan, with three pensive images in black and white mirroring the singer’s longevity. Two capture his younger years while a third shows a more seasoned Dylan brazenly wrinkled and wearing his iconic white hat.
In the style of Kobra’s other work, the portraits are magnified by a panoply of colorful geometric patterns and a cutout of an electric guitar. The mural will include lyrics from Dylan’s anthem “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
Twin Cities photographer Bill Hickey will document the process in a time-lapse video.
“This is going to be one of our biggest projects and in a short amount of time,” said one of Kobra’s assistants, Agnaldo Brito Pereira. “It’s very challenging.”
Kobra, who got his start as a graffiti artist in São Paulo, has completed more than 10 U.S. projects, though this will be his largest outside of Brazil.
‘Coolness and street cred’
Both the artist and his subject were chosen by Goldman Sachs, which co-owns the 15 Building at 15 S. 5th St. and operates it as a co-working space for small businesses.
Goldman Sachs hired the Hennepin Theatre Trust to manage the project, which was launched in November.
Vorderbruggen said the project managers considered other subjects, such as unsung heroes of social justice. They selected Dylan because of his widespread appeal, in the belief that accessibility is central to public art.
“People wanted something that brings people together,” said Hennepin Trust spokeswoman Karen Nelson. “We’re honoring our history.”
The spectacle will give the commercialized corner a pop of culture, local artists hope, as well drawing admiration from afar for Kobra’s work.
“I think it will add a level of interest and coolness and street cred to downtown,” said Erin Sayer, one of the two Minnesota artists on the project. She has seen Dylan live about 20 times and also has painted him.
The other Minnesotan, Yuya Negishi, a native of Japan who moved to the Twin Cities in 2010, sees the project as an opportunity to celebrate world-class artists while also fostering homegrown talent.
“I think we have such a big art community,” he said. “It’s going to make history for Minneapolis.”