Julien’s to auction Kurt Cobain’s iconic MTV Unplugged guitar

Kurt Cobain

LOS ANGELES – Julien’s Auctions, the world-record-breaking auction house to the stars, has announced that the guitar played by Kurt Cobain during Nirvana’s acclaimed MTV Unplugged in New York performance will be sold at their MUSIC ICONS event taking place on Friday, June 19th and Saturday, June 20th, 2020 live in Beverly Hills, with absentee and online bidding available through LiveAuctioneers.
Kurt Cobain played this 1959 Martin D-18E in what would become Nirvana’s most legendary performance (seen in cover above). In a live taping for the popular MTV Unplugged series on November 18th, 1993, approximately five months before his death, Cobain chose this guitar to paint what Rolling Stone called “his last self-portrait”. Nirvana’s acoustic performance that night produced one of the greatest live albums of all time, MTV Unplugged in New York. Cuts from the album, released seven months after Cobain’s death, would go on to become the most celebrated and defining versions of Nirvana’s songs, “About A Girl,” “All Apologies,” “Come As You Are,” and “Dumb,” as well as covers of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” The Meat Puppets’ “Lake of Fire,” and a haunting rendition of Lead Belly’s “Black Girl” renamed “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.”

MTV Unplugged in New York debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard charts and is consistently ranked among the top ten live albums of all time. Cobain’s mastery of this guitar along with Nirvana’s flawless acoustic and vocal performance propelled the MTV Unplugged in New York album to multi-platinum certification and won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996. It was the seventh of only 302 D-18Es built by Martin and was customized by Cobain who added a Bartolini pickup to the soundhole. The starting estimate for the guitar is one million U.S. dollars.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E guitar. Estimate: $1 million. Julien’s Auctions image

In addition, the sale of the guitar comes with its original hard-shell case decorated by Cobain with a flyer from the punk rock band Poison Idea’s 1990 album Feel the Darkness. Three baggage claim ticket stubs are attached to the handle, along with an Alaska Airlines sticker affixed to the case. The storage compartment of the case also contains Cobain’s half used pack of Martin guitar strings, three guitar picks, and his suede “stash” bag decorated with a miniature silver spoon, fork, and knife. (all in photo right)

Fans can also have a chance to view the rock ’n’ roll artifact in the window display of the Hard Rock Cafe ® Piccadilly Circus, London, from May 15-31, inclusive, then at Julien’s Auctions Gallery in Beverly Hills from June 15-19 before the auction.

“Julien’s Auctions is proud to offer this historic guitar from Kurt Cobain, who upended the music industry and pop culture at large with his mythic performance fronting Nirvana on MTV Unplugged in New York,” said Darren Julien, President/Chief Executive Officer of Julien’s Auctions. “This important guitar has earned its rightful place in Rock ’N’ Roll history as the instrument played by one of rock’s most influential musicians and icons in one of the greatest and most memorable live performances of all time.”

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E guitar and case. Estimate: $1 million. Julien’s Auctions image

In addition, a black custom-made and smashed Fender Stratocaster guitar used by Kurt Cobain while performing with Nirvana on the 1994 In Utero Tour (estimate: $60,000-$80,000), a metallic silver lame long sleeve button-down shirt worn by the artist in Nirvana’s 1993 “Heart-shaped Box” music video (estimate: $10,000-$20,000) and a copy of Nirvana’s 1989 Bleach CD cover signed “Kurdt” and inscribed with drawings by Cobain (estimate: $1,000-$2,000), will also be offered in the auction. Other items from Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York performance will also be up for auction including the typed set list used by Cobain featuring the songs “About A Girl” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (estimate: $4,000-$6,000); a group of three typed lyric sheets for the songs “Plateau,” “Man Who Sold the World,” and “Lake of Fire” (estimate: $4,000-$6,000); a single sheet of handwritten lyrics to the song “Oh Me” (estimate: $4,000-$6,000); a typed letter from Nirvana’s management company Gold Mountain to Cobain regarding the MTV Unplugged set list (estimate: $2,000-$3,000) and Cobain’s Winter 1993 issue of Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) newsletter published by independent radio broadcaster WFMU, which he was seen reading at the MTV Unplugged rehearsals with Nirvana (estimate: $2,000-$3,000).

Julien’s Auctions has broken world records with the sale of Kurt Cobain’s memorabilia, including Cobain’s cardigan worn on MTV Unplugged in New York, which sold for a record $334,000, his In Utero tour Fender Mustang guitar which sold for $340,000, his cardigan worn on his last photoshoot which sold for $75,000 and a Nirvana paper plate set list written in Cobain’s handwriting which sold for a record $22,400.

The fully illustrated online catalog will be posted soon on LiveAuctioneers.

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