Although Janis Joplin sang “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,” the truth is that the star of the psychedelic era of American music did, indeed, drive a Porsche. Her unique 1964 Porsche 356C 1600 cabriolet has been consigned for sale to RM Sotheby’s upcoming New York auction.
In addition to announcing the inclusion of Joplin’s car, RM Sotheby’s announced a new name and new date for the auction. Earlier advertised with a different name and a November 28 date, the sale has been titled “Driven by Disruption” and will be staged December 10 in Sotheby’s New York showroom.
Joplin’s exotically painted Porsche will be one of 30 “creatively styled, cutting-edge automobiles” offered at the sale, RM Sotheby’s said in a news release.
“Janis Joplin’s 356C is without question one of the most important Porsches of all time,” Ian Kelleher, managing director of RM Sotheby’s West Coast Division, said in the auction house announcement. “It’s a fantastic automobile that transcends art, pop culture and social movements, and is as groundbreaking and stunning as the renowned singer was herself.”
RM Sotheby’s said Joplin bought her Porsche in September 1968 but found its Pearl White paint to be much too conservative. So she had Dave Richards, a friend and roadie with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, customize the car’s surface with a “kaleidoscopic mural.”
Richards has described his artwork on the car as representing “The History of the Universe.” He included jellyfish and butterfly graphics as well as a portrait of Joplin and the band.
“The car quickly became identified with Joplin, who was frequently seen driving it in period,” RM Sotheby’s said.
The car is being offered for sale by Joplin’s family after being featured for two decades in an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland.
“Janis drove the car everywhere, all around San Francisco and down to Los Angeles when she was recording there,” Joplin’s sister and biographer, Laura Joplin, told RM Sotheby’s. “Wherever Janis went in the car, her fans recognized it. When she parked it and returned, there was always at least one fan note under the wipers.”
After Joplin’s death in 1970, the car remained in her family’s ownership, usually driven by Joplin’s manager, Albert Grossman, and also being lent to various family and friends. The car underwent a “meticulous” restoration in the 1990s before going on display until this week at the Rock and Roll museum in 1995.
“Besides Janis’s music and legacy, her Porsche is the most visual and important piece of memorabilia that exists,” Michael Joplin, Janis’ brother, told RM Sotheby’s. “Like most people and their car of choice, her Porsche is a direct link to Janis. She drove it everywhere — and with everyone that was anyone in the San Francisco music scene — with the top down and her feathers flying. Her music, life and car are a part of rock and roll history.”
“As a titan of the creative movement of the late 1960s, Janis Joplin remains one of the music industry’s brightest stars,” Kelleher said. “It is an honor to be working with her family in the sale of this magnificent Porsche and even more so to have the opportunity to showcase such an important woman’s ownership of a classic car.”
In explaining the new name and date for the second iteration of the Art of the Automobile sale, the previous such sale took place in the fall of 2013, RM Sotheby’s noted that, “Much like the Porsche’s groundbreaking artwork, each of the cars in the auction showcases the extremes of motoring history and the molds that were broken by engineers and designers in pushing the automotive envelope. Previously slated for November, the new December date was strategically chosen to coincide with one of the most spectacular times of the year in New York City.
Kelleher added that the 30 cars will be stunningly beautiful coachbuilt automobiles or have wild, untraditional design, or be “a marvel of high-performance engineering.”
“The new sale date is perfectly suited to the tastes and interests of RM’s collector car clients, providing opportunity for them to not only spend a few days in New York during the electric holiday season, but to also enjoy other events taking place during the same period, including Sotheby’s Important Watches and Magnificent Jewels sales,” the auction house said in its news release. “As a prelude to the Driven by Disruption sale, an exclusive six-day exhibition will open over the weekend of December 5 in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries.”