Published: June 23, 2020
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. – Julien’s Auctions’ marquee two-day music auction event Music Icons culminated on June 20 in a world record-breaking sale of one of the most recognized and important guitars in rock ‘n’ roll history: the acoustic-electric guitar played by Kurt Cobain during Nirvana’s acclaimed MTV Unplugged performance.
The instrument, a 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic-electric model, played by one of rock’s most influential musicians and icons in one of the greatest and most memorable live performances of all time, sold for $6,010,000, far surpassing its original estimate of $1 million.
The sale set five new world records for World’s Most Expensive Guitar, World’s Most Expensive Acoustic Guitar, World’s Most Expensive Martin Guitar, World’s Most Expensive Piece of Memorabilia and World’s Most Expensive Nirvana Memorabilia. This makes it one of the rarest and most valuable acoustic guitars in the world. The buyer was Peter Freedman, founder of RØDE Microphones, who attended the live auction in Beverly Hills and successfully won the guitar in a bidding war among collectors and bidders all across the globe who participated live on the floor, online and on the phone.
Freedman plans to display the guitar in a worldwide tour of exhibitions to be conducted in galleries and art spaces, with all proceeds (including the guitar) going to the performing arts.
“When I heard that this iconic guitar was up for auction,” said Freedman, “I immediately knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure it and use it as a vehicle to spotlight the struggles that those in the performing arts are facing and have always faced.”
He continued, “The global arts industry has been shattered by the impact of COVID-19, with musicians and artists being among the most affected. The last few months were the straw that broke the camel’s back, and for many in the arts brought forth the harsh reality that they work in an industry for which there is little support in times of need.”
In a live taping for the popular MTV Unplugged series on November 18, 1993, approximately five months before his death, Cobain chose this guitar to paint what Rolling Stone called “his last self-portrait.” Nirvana’s acoustic performance that night produced one of the greatest live albums of all time, MTV Unplugged in New York, with recordings of the most celebrated and defining versions of Nirvana’s songs. The multi-platinum MTV Unplugged in New York debuted at number one on the US Billboard charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996.
The guitar was the seventh of only 302 D-18Es built by Martin and was customized by Cobain, who added a Bartolini pickup to the sound hole.
For information, www.juliensauctions.com.
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