1968-Alton Kelley ORIGINAL GRATEFUL DEAD ART- Sore Thumb CONCERT POSTER ONE OF A KIND Pen and Ink Collage AOR 2.172

closed on Friday, June 18, 2021

Final Auction Price
*Final prices include buyers premium
Starting bid: $1.00

The Psychedelic Art Exchange is honored to offer for auction THE ORIGINAL ART that was used to create one of the finest 1960’s concert posters. Alton Kelley’s “Sore Thumb ” tells the story of the Carousel Ballroom a short-lived 3000 seat dance hall in the heart of San Francisco that would later become Bill Graham’s famed Fillmore West. The 15" x 20" Original Artwork is mounted on 17 1/8" x 22" Archival Matte Board. 


Alton Kelley was a master at collage and incorporating layered images with hand drawn elements. The inner circle section of this artwork (the thumb and the dark areas around it) is from a photograph which Kelley pasted onto this pen & ink hand drawn surrounding art. Also the text in the rectangle at the bottom was printed on clear acetate that Kelley glued over the paper. Both elements are secured tightly to the magnificent hand drawn artwork.


The Carousel Ballroom was essentially a coalition of the era’s major San Francisco rock bands that included The Grateful Dead Jefferson Airplane Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Wanting to create an idyllic concert venue the collective brought their dream to life at a large capacity ballroom on Market Street. The cooperative of bands slaved over the project and did much of the work themselves. That is in essence the explanation of the artwork that was created for the “Sore Thumb” poster. The Carousel venture was short-lived due to a myriad of circumstances but primarily because the operation lacked the essential business skills to pull it off. As an added threat Bill Graham was intent that the competing enterprise would fail. When the Carousel did close he quickly took over the lease and renamed the venue THE Fillmore West. However according to legend The Carousel was an insanely fun party.


The Sore Thumb poster was created for a March 1968 Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead concert at the Carousel. Only 500 copies were ever printed. It’s a very hard poster to find in top shape as the black background shows off flaws easily. The catalog # for the poster is AOR 2.172  which refers to “The Art of Rock” published by Abbeville Press in 1987.


The creator of the poster Alton Kelley was one of San Francisco’s “Big Five” concert poster artists. Kelley and his partner Stanley Mouse were fixtures of the San Francisco psychedelic culture. Kelley belonged to the original Family Dog collective and was responsible for creating the poster for the very first Psychedelic Dance Party in San Francisco “A Tribute to Dr. Strange”.  


This artwork is surfacing after decades in a private collection. The piece has excellent provenance. We have been told that Kelley had allegedly lost the art in an unpaid storage locker in Boston. The piece’s owner acquired the art in the mid-’90s from a respected concert poster dealer. It has been in the collection of the current owner ever since.


Original poster art is incredibly rare and valuable pieces of this pedigree seldom come up for public sale. The values of the posters themselves have been exploding in recent months so we expect the art to follow. We at PAE believe this piece represents an unrepeatable opportunity for collectors. When compared to the superhot original comic book art market the quantity of Concert Poster art is minuscule. For example original art from famed comic artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko regularly sells for six figures! Pieces like this seldom come to market. 


Poster – Original Art for Alton Kelley's "Sore Thumb" AOR 2.172

Grade – Not Graded 

Bands/Bill – Grateful Dead Jefferson Airplane

Venue – Carousel Ballroom

City – San Francisco CA

Date – 3/15-17/68

Dimensions – 15" x 20" Artwork ; 17 1/8" x 22" Mattboard

Printing – Original Pen & Ink Drawing and Collage

Artist – Alton Kelley

Condition Details –  100% Original with no restoration. The 15" x 20" Artwork is mounted on 17 1/8" x 22" Archival Matte Board. View the detailed high res photo of this lot. Click on the thumbnail photo to see an enlarged photo. Click a second time on the magnifying glass in the upper right corner of the enlarged photo. A super high res image with every millimeter will now be clearly displayed. For a personalized eyewitness examination call 410-464-6180 11:00 am to 6:00pm eastern.


*****This original art is available for inspection at our gallery by appointment. *****


*A 20% Buyers Premium will be added to the final hammer price of this lot.*