Bob Dylan’s largest-ever sculpture, of a railway freight carriage, has been unveiled on a French vineyard.
The monumental piece, entitled Rail Car, is built from about seven tonnes of iron and installed on train tracks at Château La Coste in Provence. Exposed to the elements, it features motifs of ladders, wheels and tools.
Dylan said the artwork “represents perception and reality at the same time… all the iron is recontextualized to represent peace, serenity and stillness.” He heralded the work’s “enormous energy … It represents the illusions of a journey rather than the contemplation of one.”
Rail Car continues Dylan’s sculptural artworks in welded metal that were first shown publicly in 2013, with a set of iron gates entitled Mood Swings that were exhibited at London’s Halcyon Gallery. Other metal works include Portal, an iron archway created for a casino in Maryland. Another gate piece was bought for $84,375 by the US state department in 2019, to install in its embassy in Mozambique – the high expenditure was criticized, with an official at the department describing the purchase as “excessive”.
Railways are a repeated feature of Dylan’s painting, and he wrote about them in his memoir, Chronicles: Volume One: “I’d seen and heard trains from my earliest childhood days and the sight and sound of them always made me feel secure. The big boxcars, the iron ore cars, freight cars, passenger trains, Pullman cars. There was no place you could go in my home town without at least some part of the day having to stop at intersections and wait for the long trains to pass.”
Iron, too, has a link with Dylan’s past. “I’ve been around iron all my life, ever since I was a kid,” he said in 2013. “I was born and raised in iron ore country, where you could breathe it and smell it every day.”
Railway imagery appears in songs such as 1979’s Slow Train, as a symbol for impending change and judgment, and 1962’s Train A-Travelin’: “There’s an iron train a-travelin’ / that’s been a-rollin’ through the years / With a firebox of hatred and a furnace full of fears / If you ever heard its sound or seen its blood-red broken frame / Then you heard my voice a-singin’ and you know my name.”
Rail Car joins another high-profile project away from music for the 80-year-old songwriter this year: in November he will publish The Philosophy of Modern Song, a 60-strong essay collection celebrating songs by musicians including Elvis Costello, Hank Williams and Nina Simon.
Dylan is awaiting progress with a lawsuit filed against him by a woman who accuses him of sexually abusing her when she was 12 years old, in 1965. In January, Dylan’s lawyers vigorously rejected her claims, calling the lawsuit “a brazen shakedown … false, malicious, reckless and defamatory”.
He also sold his catalog of recordings to Sony Music Entertainment earlier this year, in a deal believed to be worth as much as $200m. He had previously sold his songwriting rights to Universal in 2020, for a rumored $400m.