5-story Bob Dylan mural underway at 5th & Hennepin

Credit: Photo by Donner Humenberger

Internationally renowned Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra started working on a five-story mural of Bob Dylan at 5th & Hennepin Wednesday.

The mural of the Minnesota icon will be painted on the west side of the 15 Building, which is owned by R2 Cos. and AIMS Real Estate, a division of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. It is home to office spaces for creative tenants. 

The building owners made the decision to feature Dylan in collaboration with Kobra and the Hennepin Theatre Trust, the project’s manager. Kobra will paint the mural — the largest he’s done outside of his home country — with a goal of finishing in just two weeks, on Sept. 8.

The artist, who doesn’t speak English, told the Journal Wednesday that the mural will feature a timeline with different phases of Dylan’s life. Karen Nelson, the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s communications director, translated. After just a day of work, the mural came to life with two faces beginning to form. 

Kobra, who has painted all over the world, is known for painting bright and lively murals of noted personalities in a kaleidoscope of colors, including rappers Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac, Russian dancer Maya Plisetskaya, Malala Yousafzai and the “V-J Day in Times Square” photograph, showing the iconic kiss.

Dylan is a larger than life figure for him, so he hopes Dylan likes it, Kobra joked. 

The folk music figure and Hibbing, Minn. native is an ideal figure to paint because of his popularity and approachability, a key tenet of Kobra’s work, he said. Instead of galleries and museums, the artist’s first mediums were the walls of Sao Paulo, where Kobra began tagging with a graffiti crew called “Hip Hop.”

Now, with iconic murals around the world, the artist still creates public art grounded in the aesthetic and history of their locale. He’ll be painting the Dylan mural in full public view, captured by Twin Cities photographer Bill Hickey, above a surface parking lot not owned by the building’s owners. 

Rather than using stencils or tracing the mural first, Kobra’s creative process involves a methodical-grid planning system. Despite the mural’s size — about 60 feet tall and 150 feet wide — Joan Vorderbruggen, the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Cultural Arts District coordinator, said he will lay down a photo-real portrait first and then color block the mural. 

“This is such an amazing feat, and the answer is that his team is that talented. That’s why he’s world renowned,” she said.

His artist team for the Minneapolis project includes three Brazilian artists who have worked under him for 15 years. Two local artists, Erin Sayer and Yuya Negishi, are assisting Kobra with the Dylan mural. 

Tom Hoch, president and CEO of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, said Kobra’s mural will “add an invigorating and colorful international artwork to the downtown Cultural District and Hennepin Avenue.”

“At the same time, it celebrates Bob Dylan who is not only one of Minnesota’s most admired native sons, but also a former owner of the Trust’s Orpheum Theatre,” he said. 

Save for Prince — who was also in contention for the mural, Vorderbruggen said — Dylan is Minnesota’s most well known musical icon. The folk artist, who first achieved fame with protest anthems like “The Times They Are A-Changin” in the 1960s, got his start in Dinkytown as a student at the University of Minnesota. 

The 15 Building is a historic Art Deco office tower constructed in the 1920s. Downtown Minneapolis is home to a couple similarly sized murals above surface parking lots, such as the five-story musical notes mural painted on the side of the former Schmitt Music’s building near 10th and Marquette in the 1970s and a mural on the side of Gluek’s Bar and Restaurant that depicts Venice, Italy.

“We want to do more walls,” Vorderbruggen said. “Expect to begin seeing more and more art and culture public art projects in [Downtown West].”

The Hennepin Theatre Trust plans to host a community event once the mural is complete around Sept. 8.

After the Dylan mural, Kobra will be heading to Haiti and then Russia for other projects. 


(Note: Bob Dylan’s likeness also graces a mural at Minnesota Premier Publication’s offices at 11th & Hennepin.) 

Kobra’s mural visible from the High Line park in New York City.