A black and red photo of Lou Reed face, eyes closed, holding the neck of his guitar.

© Mick Rock 1972/2021

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts presents Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars, the first large-scale exhibition from Reed’s archive which the Library acquired in 2017. The exhibition displays the life and work of the icon whose profound influence—musically, visually, and culturally—still affects a range of artists and writers today.

The exhibition is free to all—no library card, ticket, or appointment is needed to view the exhibition at this time.

Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars, taken from a lyric from "Romeo Had Juliette" from Reed's solo album, New York, exhibits previously unseen and unheard work of a prolific and uncompromising artist—songwriter, musician, performer, poet, photographer, and tai chi practitioner. The story is told through the voices, images, and music of Reed's music projects; through his performances and theatre works; the articles, books, and poems that he authored; his own photography; and his personal tai chi studies.

The exhibition is curated by Don Fleming and Jason Stern. Fleming served as the archivist for the Lou Reed Archive, and Stern as Reed's Technical Director and Archivist during the artist's lifetime.

‘You Don’t Become Lou Reed Overnight.’ A New Exhibition Proves It.

— The New York Times

Lou Reed Listening Room

Photo of Metal Machine Music Trio performance

Photos by Amy-Beth McNeely of Metal Machine Music Trio.

June 9, 2022 – January 7, 2023

Vincent Astor Gallery

The exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to experience the full range of Reed’s technologically ambitious discography in the Lou Reed listening Room. This room will allow visitors to experience a range of Reed’s work in the original intended format. Most notably, the room will enable Metal Machine Trio: The Creation of the Universe, Lou Reed’s first and only sound art installation. Recorded live at New York’s Blender Theatre in 2009 with musicians John Zorn, Ulrich Krieger, and Sarth Calhoun, the gallery installation is composed of twelve loudspeakers in an ambisonic (or full sphere surround sound) arrangement to create a fully immersive 3-D sound environment. In collaboration with the acoustic specialists Arup in New York, Reed was able to recreate this groundbreaking composition for gallery visitors from exactly the same acoustic perspective he had while performing onstage. Other selections from Reed’s audio and video collections will also be featured daily in the gallery.

The Lou Reed Listening Room and content design is led by Raj Patel at Arup.

Hal Willner's Studio

Photo of Hal Willner's studio with a computer desk and shelves filled with collectibles.
June 9, 2022 – March 4, 2023

Hal Willner was a cultural polymath. He didn’t just master the modern concept album, in many ways he forged it. As a record producer he used sound to link work in film, TV, performance art and beyond. Theremin, Monk, Nino Rota - like the puppets that surrounded him, these names had a talismanic effect. His sea of influences, bursting through the walls of this studio, coalesced into a voice that was unmistakably Hal.

Lou Reed’s 1985 appearance on Hal's Lost In The Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill marked the beginning of a 30 year journey as they evolved from friends, to collaborators, to partners in crime. While Hal’s work utilized vast casts of artists spanning eras and genres, his bond with Lou anchored him, both musically and geographically. He incorporated Lou into his concert “happenings,” interpreting Doc Pomus, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen, amongst others. They performed in Sydney, London, Berlin – but New York remained at all times home.

Gradually, Hal became Lou’s most trusted set of ears, producing his solo records Ecstasy, and The Raven, as well as live albums and compilations. Finally, it was their radio show that bonded them in the medium of their youth. Freed from almost any constraints they created 86 two-hour episodes. Comedy colluded with tragedy. The preposterous tangoed with the sublime. Call it avant-vaudeville. Call it circusy. They called it New York Shuffle.

Together they navigated the new, both musically and technologically. Hal collected over 200,000 MP3s – yet his strongest bond remained with the dustiest of records. This studio was the radio show’s brain trust, a sanctum of sounds, some so rare they may only be found here. 

Though surrounded by hard drives, Hal remained a 20th century artist at heart, his studio a shrine to a fading era. Most of all, it remains a shrine to Hal.

Celebrate Lou Reed With Us

Purple and blue lights shine on a man with long gray hair as he holds up a 78 vinyl record before a set of turntables.
Lenny Kaye spins doo-wop 78s from Lou Reed's collection

Coney Island Baby: DJ Set

In celebration of Lou Reed's 80th birthday on March 2, we partnered with the Lot Radio as Link Cromwell (aka guitarist Lenny Kaye) spun selections of doo-wop 45s from Lou Reed’s archive at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Check out the whole dj set! Listen

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Lou Reed Archive Now Available

Black background with white and gold text that says "Celebrating Lou Reed March 1942-2013."

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is thrilled to announce that the Lou Reed Archive has been processed and is now available to users. The Lou Reed Archive documents the history of Reed's life as a musician, composer, poet, writer, photographer, and tai-chi student through his own extensive papers, photographs, recordings and other materials. The archive spans Reed's creative life—from his 1958 Freeport High School band, the Shades, to his final performances in 2013.

Materials from the Lou Reed Archive are available onsite at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, located in Lincoln Center.

Listen Like Lou Playlist

As part of Lou Reed's archives, the Library for the Performing Arts also acquired his personal collection of LPs. His reflects the diversity of his interests, from the expected fellow punk-inspired artists like Elvis Costello and Iggy Pop, to opera, rap, and hip hop, to baroque instrumental suites and the Boston Pops orchestra. Because they are, by and large, commercial recordings, most can be found through your local branch or streaming service. We've compiled a Listen Like Lou playlist that reflects the LPs in his collection.

Lou Reed Oral History Collection: Garland Jeffreys Interview

Watch Laurie Anderson, Don Fleming, and Claire Jeffreys interview Garland Jeffrey. An interactive experience with an index and transcript is available. 

Lou Reed Reading List

The Library has created a book list dedicated to the great poet and musician in appreciation of his legacy. 

Support the Library for the Performing Arts

Our collections, programs, and resources are made freely available to New Yorkers thanks to contributions from supporters like you. Support the Library for the Performing Arts and the Lou Reed Archive by by making  a tax-deductible donation today