Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Collector, dealer, bootleger



 Dan Abbott, Monterey International Trips Festival 1967, 17 x 24 inches, flat and metallic inks on paper, copyright Nigel Mentzel, 1987.

Nigel Mentzel (c.1946-2016) was a British poster collector who, though his home-based dealership, also printed and sold copies of original and reproduced posters from the 1960s and 1970s. Specialising in popular British and American pop culture and music posters, he issued sales lists on an irregular basis from the late 1970s through to 2015. These lists featured the work of artists and collectives such as Hasphash and the Coloured Coat, Big O Posters and the San Francisco Poster Company. In recent times, and especially since his death in 2016, it has become clear that many of the posters sold by Mentzel were bootleg copies or later reproductions of the 1960s originals. They were often sold to collectors at exorbitant prices as originals. Others were offered as reprints at lesser prices, though still relatively expensive and with no details as to when these later printings occurred or their official status. Due to the nature of the offset photolithographic printing process, it has been possible to reproduce many of the 1960s and early 1970s posters in a high quality form which is close to the original. Silkscreen and stone lithograph posters are not so easily replicated. It should also be noted that, apart from copying, from the late 1970s through to the 1990s Mentzel also produced his own set of unique and original psychedelic posters. It is likely that in doing this he made use of contacts in the printing industry to prepare the bootleged copies which now flood the market and continue to sell to unsuspecting buyers at a premium. This blog aims to reveal the work of Nigel Mentzel in regard to both his original posters, but also his role in selling unauthorised and bootleg copies of iconic works from the original, 1960s psychedelic era.

The mysterious Mr. Mentzel

In August 2015 a highly detailed, undated and colourful psychedelic poster appeared for sale on eBay. Titled Monterey International Trips Festival, it was described by the seller as "a busy, trippy 60s style design with metallic inks and a nice silk screened fade through green, yellow and purple". The poster brought together many of the elements typically seen in posters from the 1960s psychedelic period, and the northern Summer of Love during 1967, with a direct link to Nigel Waymouth and Michael English, working as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. Most commonly coming out of metropolitan centres such as London and San Francisco between 1966-8, these psychedelic posters were distinguished by bright colours, optical effects and swirling fonts and images which, in part, reflected the free spirit of the times and the influence of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs such as marijuana and hashish. The Monterey International Trips Festival poster also bore elements of the work of artists such as the American Wes Wilson - with his Fillmore posters from 1966-7 and their fat, swirling fonts. The workd of the London-based Hapshash and the Coloured Coat produced posters containing fantastical imagery of fairies, forests, naked women and UFOs, luxuriously printed with rainbow-like effect using metallic gold and silver inks transitioning to yellows, pinks and purples. Finally, the Australian poster artist Martin Sharp was also an influence, with his unique take on Dada, Surrealism and satire, mashed up with a dose of LSD and seen, for example, in his iconic Bob Dylan Blowing in the Mind poster from 1967. A good example of the work of English and Waymouth, and an obvious reference point for the Trips poster in both colour and design, is their 1968 photolithograph for a concert by singer Julie Felix held at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in April 1968.

 Nigel Waymouth and Michael English, Julie Felix, Royal Albert Hall, poster, 18 April 1968. This is an image of an original silk screened poster. It was subsequently copied and sold by Nigel Mentzel from the 1970s.

This poster contains a typical palette of yellow, pink, gold and black, printed with metallic and brightly coloured inks and exhibiting highly detailed imagery within a mystical narrative. Many of these elements would feature in the posters subsequently produced by Nigel Mentzel from the 1970s through to the early 1990s, though sold by him right up until his death in 2016. The original pop and psychedelic posters from the period 1966-8 were often distinguished by innovative printing techniques such as graded silk screening and the use of foil-coated paper. They were most often linked to pop cultural events of the time, most commonly concerts or festivals featuring rock music or promoting alternate lifestyles. They also covered the realms of sex, drugs, religion and the esoteric. The eBay Trips poster successfully combined many of these elements, but left this author querying it's origins. There are a number of contemporary posters relating to the original Monterey Pop festival of June 1967, including one by Tom Wilkes of a semi-naked woman amidst a background of yellow spirals and printed on metallic paper, along with the cartoonish equivalent by Tomi Ungerer for the 1968 release of the D.A. Pennebaker film Monterey Pop. It was at this event that major rock acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Who broke in America. However the eBay Trips poster was not known to the author and did not appear contemporary to the festival. There was also reference to a copyright holder by the name of 'Nigel Mentzel' printed on the lower edge of the poster. Another journey of discovery was about to begin for me, as I sought to identify the precise history of the Trips poster and to discover who Nigel Mentzel was and what was his association with this poster? Was he, for example, the artist, the publisher, or both?

In 2015 I set out on this journey to discover the history and extent of Nigel Mentzel's involvement in the production and sale of psychedelic posters. At that time, and residing as I did in Australia, there was precious little information readily available, either in print or on the internet. As he seemed to have primarily been active in the United Kingdom, it was difficult to identify any international presence. The fact of little information being available online also suggested a private or secretive aspect to his character and the work he was involved in. The only personal reference I found at the time was on LinkedIn, the professional CV sharing website. Therein it was recorded that Nigel Mentzel was, in 2006,  a 'vintage / psychedelic rock poster dealer and blues man' from the UK. No other information was provided on the site. A search of the internet revealed a 1974 reference in Blues Magazine to Mentzel offering for sale a vintage 1930s Gretsch f-hole acoustic guitar. Further to this, within the American blues magazine Storyville #111 from 1984 he was noted as 'an accomplished guitarist' whose opinion was sought by the writer of an article therein. More recently, a 2006 blog mentioned the presence of Nigel Mentzel at the launch of Johnny Hurford’s book of artworks dating from the late 1960s (Hill 2006). Hurford had published a number of highly detailed drawings in underground magazines such as OZ and International Times during the late 1960s, and went on through the following decades to refine his art, concentrating on portraiture and nature studies. His 60s work was often intense and psychedelic - similar in many ways to the Trips poster - and his friendship with Mentzel was perhaps based on a shared love of such work. A picture on the aforementioned blog showed Johnny Hurford and Nigel Mentzel bending over looking at some posters, with the latter’s face not exposed.

Johnny Hurford and Nigel Mentzel at the launch of Hurford's book, September 2006. Source: Juliet's Blog.

In 1974 Mentzel's address was given as Hull, Yorkshire, and in 2006 and 2015, Cardiff, though he was likely living in the latter by the early 1980s. A 2013 eBay sale of a lot of 20 posters included reference to a number which involved Mentzel in their production. Apart from these few references, nothing else of substance was found online. However upon tracking down a copy of the Hurford book I found it contained a photograph of Mentzel, where he was noted as a collector of psychedelic posters and an historian.


Nigel Mentzel and part of his poster collection, circa 2006.

In the picture he his holding a copy of a poster produced in 1979 by Magic Garden Posters and based on an original 1968 drawing by Hurford entitled The Human Family

Johnny Hurford, The Human Family, 1968. Screen print poster, 20 x 26 inches.

The Mentzel poster honors an event which never took place, in that it uses Hurford's drawing along with the addition of some historical references. It also labels the work Love Festival. It is possible that this is one of the first posters produced by Mentzel, around 1979.  If so, it reveals his intention to make use of original posters and artworks through adaption and reproduction. It also became clear from the above sources that Mentzel was a blues guitarist and involved at some point in the reproduction and production of psychedelic posters. This is all a researcher from Australia such as myself could ascertain during 2015. Of course, in England he was well known by dealers and collectors for his sale of original and copied (bootlegged) posters over an extensive period. However this was not easily discovered whilst Mentzel was still alive. My research therefore brought me back to eBay and the beautiful psychedelic Monterey International Trips Festival poster. Its origins were initially not clear. This multi-coloured and highly detailed work of art was approximately 17 inches by 24 inches in size and according to the eBay entry bore the signature “Dan”, perhaps in reference to the original artist. Copyright was in the name of Nigel Mentzel, suggesting that he was the publisher of the work. Within the description was a note that it was a first printing from 1987. A number of other posters produced between 1987 and 1996 were subsequently identified which mentioned Mentzel and reinforced his role as publisher, though some also referred to him as the artist. Additional research during the first half of 2015 initially uncovered a total of 6 original posters possibly associated with Mentzel and these were mentioned in the initial version of this blog.

Death and lists

Late in 2017 I was contacted by British poster collector Steve Carter who provided access to a number of original Mentzel sale leaflets dating from the 1970s and 1980s, along with information derived from his personal poster  collection. I also discovered at that time that Mentzel had died in Cardiff on 16 January 2016. Salacious reports of the circumstances surrounding his death provided an insight into his life. One such account follows:

Coroner warns 'legal highs' are more dangerous than illegal drugs after collector of psychedelic art, 70, dies from a cannabis alternative (Daily Mail, London, 6 April 2016)


One of Britain's top experts in psychedelic art died after experimenting with a 'legal high' he had opted to take instead of banned cannabis. Retired council planner Nigel Mentzel, 70, was a leading collector of colourful posters inspired by the mind-bending drugs of the sixties and seventies. An inquest heard he turned his back on illegal drugs to try a synthetic marijuana legal high at his home but was killed by cannabis poisoning. A coroner warned the so-called 'legal high' was in fact more dangerous than banned drugs - and was the direct cause of his death. Pathologist Dr Sarah Winstanley told the inquest patients who experienced the effects of synthetic cannabinoids reported worse agitation and hallucinations as well as a faster heart rate. She added: 'Their effects do seem to be worse than the effects of cannabis.' The pensioner retired from his job as a council strategic planner more than five years ago - but maintained his interest in the psychedelia of the 60s and 70s. The inquest in Cardiff heard he was also interested in mind-altering substances and started using a synthetic drug called 'Cherry Bomb'. The keen blues guitarist bought it legally from a shop in Cardiff city centre. His partner, Julie Garner, told his inquest she warned him not to smoke the highs in their home in Penylan, Cardiff. Mrs Garner, who had been in a relationship with Mr Mentzel since 2009, told how she began to notice a change in his behaviour. She said: 'He would get very defensive and angry and we would argue because I disagreed with his use of the highs. 'He was very private and I never sought help for him. He always felt I was overreacting.' Mr Mentzel collapsed and died at his home on January with traces of the synthetic cannabinoids later being found in his system. Cardiff assistant coroner Thomas Atherton told his inquest it was ironic substances like 'cherry bombs' were known as legal highs, despite being more dangerous than illegal drugs like cannabis. Mr Atheron said: 'It may well give the impression that they are safe to use or at least not as dangerous as those which are illegal. 'It's quite clear that synthetic cannabinoids are extremely dangerous drugs to use, in spite of the fact it's given the term of legal high.' He recorded a narrative conclusion that Mr Mentzel died from using synthetic cannabis. Following his death, mourners were asked to wear 'colourful' clothing in the vibrant character's memory at his funeral.

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Late in 2017 through to early 2018 a number of posters from the Mentzel collection were offered for sale through eBay, adding significantly to the list of known and associated items. Finally, during February 2018 I was provided with a 21 page list of works for sale by Mentzel. It was produced late in 2015 and proved to be his last. From these the following Mentzel (as publisher) posters have been identified:

  1. Love Festival [1979] - based on the Johnny Hurford design of 1968
  2. Monterey International Trips Festival [1987] - by Dan.
  3. Isle of Wight Festival [1987]
  4. Pink Floyd [1989]
  5. Festival of Flower Children [1990] 
  6. Through the looking glass - The Doors at the London Roundhouse [1991]
  7. All You Need is Love [1996]
  8. Marc Bolan
  9. Beatles Magical Mystery Tour
  10. Glastonbury Festival
  11. Captain Beefheart
  12. The Who
  13. Woodstock Festival
  14. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper
  15. Jimi Hendrix Experience
  16. Stones in the Park
  17. The Rolling Stones at the Lyceum Theatre
  18. Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall
  19. Wear Your Dreams Festival
  20. Pink Floyd at the UFO

These posters are original designs from the Mentzel production team. However, it can be seen from various sales advertisements and leaflets that he also sold originals posters from the 1960s, including those of American, European and British origin. In addition, he appears to have reprinted some of these and offered them for sale. As unauthorised copies they would have had the status of bootlegs. Not having personally sighted any of these, it is difficult to assess their quaility in comparison to the originals, though online images suggest they are close and would possibly deceive unwary collectors. Mentzel's activities in bootlegging Hasphash and the Coloured Coat posters has been identified elsewhere (here) and severely damaged his reputation amongst the collecting fraternity.

The production of after-the-fact posters relating to specific historical musical events from the 1960s is novel though not without precedent, whereas the reproduction of original event posters is common, where copyright allows. Often such latter day artworks are less than successful, failing to capture the spirit of the time or replicate the quality of those original works. However the Mentzel retro-psychedelic posters are exceptional in that they reflect, quite successfully, and pay due homage to, the work of the original poster artists from the Sixties, with special reference to Waymouth and English. The Trips poster, for examples, reproduces elements of the Hapshash style in regards to content, colour, fonts and even printing techniques. At this stage, all that is known about Mentzel and his brief flirtation with the publication of posters in the psychedelic style is what is outlined above. Further research will hopefully reveal more.

Catalogue of posters

The following is a  detailed listing of known original posters produced by Nigel Mentzel. All were produced by the offset photolithographic process. To date (February 2018) identified posters include the following:

1. Love Festival [1979]

Based on an original 1968 drawing by Johnny Hurford, with additional detail by an unknown artist. Purple ink on pink, white or red paper. Produced by Magic Garden Posters, 1979. Additional text by Nigel Mantzel.


2. Monterey International Trips Festival [1987]
Artist - Dan Abbott. Dimension:17 inches by 24 inches. First printing, copyright Nigel Mentzel, 1987. Multicoloured on paper, including metallic inks.


3. Isle of Wight Festival [1987]
Artist - John Kelly. Dimensions: 15 inches x 22 inches / 37 x 57.5 cm, first printing, copyright Nigel Mentzel, 1987. Annotated:  Free, Moody Blues, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Procol Harem, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Fairfield Parlour* - *Previously known as Kaleidoscope.


4. Pink Floyd [1989]

Artist - R.M. Bancroft. Annotated: Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, Rick Wright, Nick Mason. Limited edition print, signed and numbered, 1989, 300/500. Dimensions: 18 x 23 inches. Blue ink on paper.


5. Festival of Flower Children [1990]
Artist - Lisa Moraity [?Moriarty], 1990. Dimensions: 23 inches x 33 inches, first printing, copyright Nigel Mentzel, 1991. Annotated:  'Woburn Abbey, 6-7th July 1967, Festival of the Flower Children. No:2.  Jimi Hendrix, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall's Blues Breakers, Roy Harper, Donovan, Al Stewart, Janis Joplin, Family and more. For Mifi, remembered always with lots of love.' 



6. Through the looking glass - The Doors at the London Roundhouse. [1991]
Copyright Nigel Mentzel, 1991. Also referred to as the artist on an auction sale site. Multicoloured on silver foil coated paper.


7. All You Need Is Love [1992]
Artist - Lisa Moraity [?Moriarty], 1992. Dimensions: 19 inches x 27 inches, first printing, copyright Nigel Mentzel, 1996.



* Marc Bolan
Dimensions: 17 x 23 inches. Multicoloured on paper.



* Glastonbury
Multicoloured on silver foil coated paper. Dimensions: 17 x 26 inches. Printed in gradation from red - blue - red.




* Love Life / Beatles Magical Mystery Tour
Dimensions: 46.3 x 61 cm. Multicoloured on silver foil coated paper.This is a copy of an original 1966 poster by Marijke Koger entitled Love Life.


Marijke Koger, Love Life, 1966.

* Captain Beefheart
Multicoloured on paper.


* The Who
Multicoloured on silver foil on paper. Possibly a copy of an original American poster.


* Woodstock Festival
Multicoloured on paper.



* The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper
Dimensions: 37.8 x 57.5 cm. Purple and black ink on paper. Image of a head extracted from OZ magazine.



* Jimi Hendrix Experience
Multicoloured on silver foil on paper.


* The Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa, Lyceum Theatre
Green and orange ink on silver coated paper. Dimensions: 59 x 40 cm. Copyright 'LN 74'. According to Steve Carter, a copy of this poster hung in Bill Wyman's Sticky Fingers London restaurant for a number of years.



* Stones in the Park
Black and silver ink on paper. Dimensions: 45 x 64 cm. In the style of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat posters.


* Love - Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall
Red ink on gold ink on paper. The design is based on the poster by Marijke Koger who worked with the Beatles. The original 1966 poster was printed in pale red on cream paper and did not make reference to the Albert Hall concert. This is typical of the bootlegging by Mentzel, in taking an original work, adding to it, and selling copies.

Marijke Koger, Love, lithograph, Trigram Press, London, 1966.


* Wear Your Dreams Festival
Black and silver inks on paper. Dimensions: 17 x 24 inches.


* Pink Floyd at the UFO
Pink, red, blue and gold metallic inks on paper. Dimensions: 18 x 24 inches. In the style of a Hapshash and the Coloured Coat poster.



The sales leaflets

The key to unlocking some of the mystery surrounding the Nigel Mentzel posters was provided by a series of sales advertisements and leaflets dating from the 1970s and through to at least the 1990s. Some of these are reproduced below. They show on offer original posters by Nigel Mentzel's production company, plus original and bootlegged copies of other posters, mostly from the 1960s and firms such as Big O Posters of London and the various San Francisco posters associated with the Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms. 


 (1) Undated Nigel Mentzel sales leaflet. Featuring 7 posters for sale.

(1) This leaflet refers to the following posters, with an attribution to Mentzel by this author unless  the poster is otherwise known:

1. Legalise Cannabis - original by Martin Sharp 1967. Original Big O Posters edition. Unknown if Mentzel copied these.
2. Monterey - poster by Mentze
3. Beatles Magical Mystery Tour - poster by Mentzel
4. Pink Floyd, T Rex, Cream - poster by Mentzel in the Hasphash style
5. Wear Your Dreams Festival - poster by Mentzel
6. Love Bob Dylan - poster by Mentzel 
7. Rolling Stones at the Lyceum Theatre - possibly a poster by Mentzel

(2) Undated Nigel Mentzel sales leaflet. Featuring 9 posters for sale.

(2) This leaflet refers to the following posters, with an attribution to Mentzel by this author unless the poster is otherwise known:

6. Love Bob Dylan - poster by Mentzel 
7. Rolling Stones at the Lyceum Theatre - possibly a poster by Mentzel
8 - 10. Roger Dean posters. Original Big O Posters. Unknown if they were copied by Mentzel
11. Woodstock Festival - poster by Mentzel
12. 14 Hour Technicolour Dream - reproduction of an original poster
13. Stones in the Park - poster by Mentzel, in the style of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat
14 - 16. San Francisco Avalon Ballroom posters - San Francisco Poster Co. reprints. Unknown if they were copied by Mentzel.


(3) Undated Nigel Mentzel sales leaflet. Featuring 21 posters for sale.

(3) This leaflet refers to the following posters, with an attribution to Mentzel by this author unless the poster is otherwise known:

17 - 27. San Francisco Poster Company reprints.


(4) Undated Nigel Mentzel sales leaflet circa 1980. Featuring 13 posters and 1 book for sale.

(4) This leaflet refers to the following posters, with an attribution to Mentzel by this author unless the poster is otherwise known:

a. Nico 86
b. David Bowie
c. Dylan - Don't Look Back
d. Jim Morrison
e. Sgt Peppers - The Beatles - poster by Mentzel
* Roger Dean poster book
f. Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett
g. Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
h. The Doors
i. Pink Floyd - The Wall
j. Sunshine Superman by Martin Sharp - Big O Poster
k. Psychedelic Buddha 1971 - Big O Poster
l. Isle of Wight Festival - poster by Mentzel
m. Acid Daze - Psychedelic Festival

An additional set of leaflets offered for sale more San Francisco poster reprints, however none of the distinctive, British Mentzel productions were included for sale therein. From these four leaflets, which possibly date from the early 1980s, we can see the majority of the Mentzel produced posters offered for sale, along with remainders from the Big O Poster company of London, and the defunct San Francisco Poster Company. How Mentzel acquired these posters - either by purchase or through commission - is unknown. He continued to produced sale leaflets through to 2015, the year prior to his death. It has been noted that his bootlegging of posters has caused damage to the collection of these items as his work was not always identified and as a result buyers would purchase works assuming they were original, 1960s era editions.In his final 21 page listing, it is often possible to identify the original posters offered for sale, as against the modern reprints based on price. For example, an original 1960s era Big O Posters item could have a price of £370, whilst a modern copy would be £100. Likewise for posters by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat - a supposedly original print would be offered for £380, whilst others would be £200 and were most probably modern reprints.


References

Hill, Jonathan, Johnny - the work of psychedelic artist John Hurford, Sunrise Press, 2006, 166p.

Nigel Mentzel, Deceased Estate, The Gazette, 16 June 2016. Available URL: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/notice/2557612

-----, LinkedIn [webpage], available URL: https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/nigel-mentzel/4a/419/910. Accessed 25 August 2015.

Michael Organ
27 February 2018