Morrison Hotel Gallery, the brick-and-mortar and online fine art music photography destination, is changing hands and looking to expand.
Original founders/owners iconic music photographer Henry Diltz, former music executive Peter Blachley and former music retailer Richard Horowitz started the gallery 22 years ago, and later were joined by noted photographer Timothy White. The quartet has sold MHG to private markets investor Grand Mountain Partners, former Sony and Amazon executive Adam Block and former Concord CEO Scott Pascucci for an undisclosed price.
Block will serve as the new CEO, while Pascucci will be executive chairman focused on strategy and development. Block was encouraged to take on the role after Pascucci, whom Block calls “the mastermind behind the acquisition,” told him their first order of business “’is make sure we do absolutely no harm,’” Block recounts. “’The foundation is solid. We want to see it continue to build and grow in the spirit that it’s existed for so long.’”
That answer resonated with Block, who was most recently global head of catalog music at Amazon Music, but is best known for his 25-year tenure at Sony Music Entertainment where he rose to president of catalog division Legacy Recordings. Under his guidance, Legacy amplified the prestige of icons such as Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, A Tribe Called Quest, and others.
At MHG, he sees the opportunity to do the same for some of the most legendary images in existence, including Bob Gruen’s 1974 shot of a cross-armed John Lennon in a sleeveless New York City t-shirt, Jim Marshall’s portrait of a defiant Johnny Cash flipping the bird, and, of course, Diltz’s Morrison Hotel album cover for the 1970 Doors LP.
“What these guys have been doing for 22 years is telling stories and celebrating the legacies of music, artists, photographers and art and it just felt like a real natural continuation of work that I’ve loved doing for most of my professional life,” Block says.
MHG operates retail locations at Los Angeles’ historic rock and roll hotel the Sunset Marquis and on Prince Street in New York’s Soho neighborhood.
A third location, at Mick Fleetwood’s restaurant and bar in Lahaina, Maui, was destroyed in fires earlier this month.
“It’s absolutely our intention to remain in Maui,” Block says. “Beyond that and before that, we’re just trying to figure out how as extended members of that community we can be helpful.”
An immediate goal is to expand galleries into more cities with either permanent or pop-up locations, with an eye towards Nashville, Tokyo and Mexico City. “It’s part of a very rough roadmap that’s being sketched out now,” Block says. Mall locations have been ruled out. “It’s not my intention to see this become a cookie cutter mass market,” he continues. “Part of the beauty and success is the uniqueness of it from market to market.”
Block says there are also plans to expand MHG’s “relatively new” online business, which is “growing quite nicely. We see a huge upside there.” White, who will remain with MHG as creative director, will help develop a most robust website and online sales business. “The Morrison Hotel Gallery is a living testament to the power of music and the moments that define our culture. I am so excited to be a part of this next chapter under new stewardship, and the guidance and direction of Adam Block,” White said in a statement. “His visionary leadership and expertise will be instrumental in shaping the gallery’s future and continuing its enduring legacy. I’m excited to work alongside him as we continue to create an experience that resonates deeply with music fans and collectors across the globe.”
Marketing the gallery, the photographers and the work by enhanced storytelling is also an area for future development, Block says, including through a greater social media presence. “It’s making sure that the legacies of these photographers, the subject matter and the work itself continues to be celebrated,” he says.
Block also plans to add more photographers and areas of coverage. “Going forward, we’d like to continue to diversify both our roster and the subject matter that we’re offering,” he says, adding the gallery now features more than 120 photographers. “Morrison Hotel Gallery is and will always be the rock music gallery, but beyond that we’re seeing that our community and our customers are interested in music more than just rock music.”
To that end, both the New York and Los Angeles galleries currently feature exhibits celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, highlighting some of the most famous photos from the genre featuring Jay Z, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Tupac and more.
“It’s exciting to me to have the opportunity to find ways to be more relevant to more people and celebrate more art that speaks to different kinds of people. I think there’s a huge upside to us,” Block says. “It’s really important that we become recognized as champions of younger photographers who are speaking to a different generation of potential customers. There’s a role that the gallery can play in encouraging and even accelerating some of that.”