17,000 tiles of beatlemania: john lennon's psychedelic swimming pool mosaic heads to action

Amidst the whirlwind of Beatlemania fame in 1965, John Lennon commissioned the Psychedelic Eye mosaic for his Kenwood home’s swimming pool, as a vivid display of the Beatle’s artistic vision. Now, almost sixty years later, this monumental piece, crafted from an astonishing 17,000 tiles, is set to be auctioned at Bonhams’s Rock, Pop & Film sale on November 29th, 2023. Master tiler Joseph Ritrovato designed the mosaic using polychrome tiles in vibrant shades of red, blue, green, and white, while mirrored tiles were incorporated to form the iris. The piece adorned the deep-end wall of Lennon’s pool at his Kenwood residence in England, which emerged as his secluded retreat away from public attention. He often found relaxation by the poolside, with the mosaic visible from different spots around the house. Claire Tole-Moir, Bonhams Head of Popular Culture in London, highlighted, ‘The mosaic could even be seen from his favoured ‘sunroom’ at the top of the house. With Kenwood still under private ownership, it is very rare to see anything from when John Lennon lived there, making the ‘Psychedelic Eye’ mosaic an incredibly important artefact of Beatles history.’  

The mosaic was most likely based on one of John’s own designs, perhaps one of his cartoons, the original for which has not survived. Interestingly, John also created a pool mosaic for George Harrison during the mid-1960s, which was an enlarged version of a cartoon from Lennon’s book In His Own Write. Referred to in various media outlets as the ‘Psychedelic Eye,’ the ‘Magic Eye,’ or ‘The Eye Of Knowledge’ over time, the mosaic was finished two years prior to John’s initial encounter with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and thus, it predates any connections to the Eastern philosophies later explored by The Beatles’ members. As a rare artifact from Lennon’s Kenwood era, the piece bears historical weight. In 1967, during a visit from The Beatles Monthly’s editor and photographer, John and his son Julian were photographed around Kenwood, with the mosaic in the backdrop. Installed in 1965, the mosaic remained part of Kenwood until 1984, when it was carefully removed for preservation. Over the years, it was displayed in various exhibitions, including The International Garden Festival in Liverpool and The Museum of Liverpool Life. In 2016, it featured prominently at the V&A’s ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?’ exhibition, showcasing Lennon’s creativity. Today, this mosaic, which is scheduled for auction by Bonhams, serves as a tangible connection to Lennon’s artistic spirit and a significant relic from a time when creativity thrived. Mosaic Stone

17,000 tiles of beatlemania: john lennon's psychedelic swimming pool mosaic heads to action

Psychedelic Eye mosaic for John Lennon’s Kenwood home

The upcoming auction at Bonhams also includes a diverse array of items, such as Abbey Road Studios’ 1983 poster, Paul McCartney’s signed vocal score from ’68, and a rare John Lennon lithograph from ’69. You can explore a variety of memorabilia, including autographs, production drawings from Yellow Submarine, limited edition prints, and personal items owned by Ringo Starr, Linda McCartney, and others associated with The Beatles and their era.

the mosaic panel depicts a large eye gazing upward, with the iris formed of mirror glass tiles that reflect its surroundings

the artwork remained in situ within the swimming pool at Kenwood from 1965 until 1984

17,000 tiles of beatlemania: john lennon's psychedelic swimming pool mosaic heads to action

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