Grateful Dead t-shirt sets auction record at Sotheby’s

Counterculture relic originally design by Hells Angel artist Allan "Gut" Terk sold for nearly $18,000

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The t-shirt designed by Allan “Gut” Terk sold for a record $19,300 with fees. Sotheby's.

The t-shirt designed by Allan “Gut” Terk sold for a record $19,300 with fees. Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s auction house in New York has made a record sale for a vintage band t-shirt after selling an Allan Turk-designed cotton top dating back to 1967 as part of a Grateful Dead vintage memorabilia acution.

Sotheby's dedicated two sales this month to counterculture Americana. The Grateful Dead sale followed the Burning Man benefit sale, which netted around $2m.

The yellow t-shirt from 1967, billed as the earliest official Dead t-shirt mass-produced by the band, sold for $19,300 with fees after a high estimate of $8,000. The t-shirt features a simple design by Allan “Gut” Terk, a Hells Angel and graphic artist who was a prominent figure in 1960s California through his designs for the Dead and other bands like Jefferson Airplane.

Examples of Turk’s bold, psychedelic work are held in several museum collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Oakland Museum of California. Bo Bushnell, a collector of California biker gang artefacts and ephemera, placed the winning bid. “We just did this to keep the memory of Gut Terk alive and to keep his history together under one roof,” he said on social media.

The t-shirt was previously owned by Dan Healy, an audio engineer best-known for his work with the Dead. The sale From the Vault: Property from the Grateful Dead and Friends made around $4m included several pieces from Healy's collection, including one t-shirt depicting the Dead's signature skull and lightning bolt logo designed Owsley Stanley that achieved the second highest record for a band t-shirt, making $15,000 (est $600-$800). A "chemistry set" once owned by Stanley also sold for $69,3000 (est $10,000-$15,000).

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