a poem is a naked person . . . some people say that I am a poet

Apparently Bob Dylan

“has welded for 40 years as a form of catharsis”.

That is, he

“welds like you would play golf,”

in case you know what golf is, but not catharsis.

During these 40 years, he has made quite a collection of gates and railings by welding together various old tools and pieces of machinery. These are on display, and on sale – low six figures for a gate – ‘for the first time‘ at a gallery on New Bond Street. Along with the gates there are ‘wall hangings’ – something like 40 scythes, 20 cogs and 60 pairs of pliers, arranged into a circle (and why not). And along with these are some paintings, which the gallery sensibly put downstairs. These are the sort of thing Paul McCartney does, whereas the ironmongery is the sort of thing high-functioning schizophrenic men who live in tents in suburban woodland do, along with sculptures made with a chainsaw from a single tree trunk.

First of all, the gates are actually functioning gates, or at least look like they are, with real connectors and hinges down one side of them. So you can buy then and actually hang them between gate posts to keep people out of your garden. It isn’t clear if Bob Dylan comes with his welding equipment and adjusts them himself if you want say, the hinges on the other side. Nor was I sure how you drop Bob Dylan’s authorship of your gate into conversation when it is being admired, especially if it’s by people who aren’t aware of his welded oeuvre.

What really got me about the steel sculpture was the finish though. Rather than leave them naked, the working-class rust of his native Winnesota ore, or whatever, like the schizophrenic men would tastefully have done, they were powder-finished to be shiny metal color, and one scythe or rawl or crowbar or each gate was painted shiny red or yellow or blue. This made them look like fictional artefacts from bondage-themed steampunk, as rendered lovingly in digital 3d on deviantart, only in real life.

Bob Dylan is largely famous for not being able to sing or play the guitar particularly well, and writing lyrics which make these deficiencies unimportant. It would obviously be unfair to suggest that he shouldn’t make things out of pieces of iron, unless there was some kind of reciprocal agreement that welders would no longer attempt to bang out ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in their own leisure time. But if he could do something with ferrous metal which was nearly as surprising as hearing his songs for the first time, you wouldn’t be buying it in W1, even for £165,000. You would be able to see it from space.