Musical Masterworks: John Monteleone’s Guitars and Other Instruments exhibit on view at...

Musical Masterworks: John Monteleone’s Guitars and Other Instruments exhibit on view at the Long Island Museum

This summer, don’t miss Musical Masterworks: John Monteleone’s Guitars and Other Instruments — a must-see exhibition for any music lover! Currently on view at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, this major retrospective and groundbreaking show celebrates the life and work of one of America’s most talented and renowned makers of archtop guitars, John Monteleone.

John Monteleone in his workshop in Islip, New York. Photo from LIM

From his 2,400-square-foot workshop in Islip, Monteleone has crafted one-of-a-kind masterpieces of functional art, coveted by leading rock, jazz, and folk guitarists of the late-20th and early-21st centuries: Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Ben Harper, Julian Lage, and Anthony Wilson, to name just a few. Monteleone also has lifelong connections to Long Island, growing up in Islip and maintaining his workshops here, initially in Bay Shore, in 1976, before opening his current shop in Islip, in 1990.

Renowned for his perfectionism and his intense concern for materials, and for facilitating versatile performance, Monteleone has made an extraordinary lifetime journey as a craftsman of his signature guitars, mandolins, and other instruments. The master luthier has garnered international acclaim for his exquisite craftsmanship and innovative designs. 

Musical Masterworks is the largest-ever exhibition of John Monteleone’s musical art assembled and offers visitors a rare opportunity to explore the artist’s extraordinary journey, beginning in the early 1970s as a repairer and maker of mandolins, to producing some of the most sought-after guitars in the world.

Featuring nearly 50 guitars, mandolins, and other instruments crafted by Monteleone between 1971 and 2023, the exhibition showcases the stunning beauty and unparalleled craftsmanship of his creations. 

“It is always my great honor and pleasure to create the resonating sonic beauty of these instruments and to hear them finally sing and speak to me,” says Monteleone. “From the trees in the forest to pulsating maple and spruces on my workbench, it is my way of giving process to unleashing the songs within the wood.”

Highlights include the famed Four Seasons guitar quartet (2002-2006), on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and pictured above; Monteleone’s groundbreaking Rocket Convertible guitar (1997); his beautifully ornamented Radio Wave (2004); and many examples of special model guitars and mandolins: Eclipse, Radio City, Grand Artist, the Train series, and more. Featuring guitars from private collections in Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Vermont, the exhibition will also be displaying iconic and historic guitars from Gibson, John D’Angelico, James D’Aquisto, and Selmer-Maccaferri.

“This exhibition showcases the artistry of an American original, a luthier with deep Long Island roots,” says Joshua Ruff, Co-Executive Director and curator of this exhibition. “John is an innovator, an artist craftsman with the needs of the guitarist and music listeners truly at heart, and our visitors are in for a treat to see all these beautiful instruments up close and all together for the first time ever.” 

Musical Masterworks: John Monteleone’s Guitars and Other Instruments be on view in the History Museum at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook through October 13. Major support for this exhibition was provided by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of musical craftsmanship.

For more information, visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

This article originally appeared in TBR News Media’s Summer Times supplement on June 20.

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