Lou Reed’s Archive Is Now Open in New York City

It's a comprehensive look at a musical icon

Lou Reed, 1975
Lou Reed, Arena Hal, Deurne, Antwerpen, Belgium, 11/03/1975.
Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

Over the course of his decades-long career, Lou Reed balanced a penchant for challenging norms with a command of pop songwriting. That resulted in one of the most acclaimed bodies of work in the 20th century, encompassing both Reed’s solo work and all that he accomplished as a member of the Velvet Underground.

And now, the city that acted as muse to so many of Reed’s songs is offering a deep dive into Reed’s discography. A new exhibition, Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars, is running through next March at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. The exhibit encompasses everything from Reed’s own writings to in-depth looks at his music — including a listening room focusing on Reed’s more sonically ambitious works.

As Smithsonian Magazine noted in a new article about the exhibit, the process of reviewing Reed’s archive also led to the discovery of some previously unknown works. This included a collection of demos made by Reed and John Cale in 1965, which will be formally released next month.

The exhibit on Reed also contains a recreation of producer (and longtime Reed collaborator) Hal Willner’s studio. The NYPL has assembled some other resources relating to Reed’s archive, including a Spotify playlist that includes selections from Reed’s record collection and a list of books that showcase Reed’s creative influences and musical mileau.

That reading list includes works by his contemporaries, including Richard Hell’s memoir, alongside books that feature a firsthand look at Reed in his heyday, such as Lester Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, which chronicles — in part — the feud between the two that spanned the 1970s. Reed’s life and work continue to fascinate many listeners and readers; this new exhibit helps explain why.

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