Smithsonian Collections

Kurt Cobain

Image for Kurt Cobain
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition Label
In the song "Stay Away" from Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind, the band’s front man, Kurt Cobain, sings, "Monkey see, monkey do / . . . I’d rather be dead than cool." Led by Cobain’s wailing voice and his explosive guitar chords, Nevermind was arguably the most influential album of its time, selling more than ten million copies during the band’s short life. Yet Cobain, like Bob Dylan, was a reluctant rock star who felt much ambivalence about the band’s success and great discomfort with the attention of fans and the media. A product of the Pacific Northwest punk scene, he wore thrift-store plaid shirts and torn jeans and sought to distance himself from the packaged stadium rockers of the previous decade. Louder, faster, and often darker, Seattle grunge, as exemplified by Nirvana, also proved widely popular. Three years after Nevermind’s release, at the age of twenty-seven, Cobain—addicted to heroin—killed himself with a shotgun.
Mark Seliger, born 1959
Kurt Cobain, 20 Feb 1967 - 5 Apr 1994
1993 (printed 2013)
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Platinum-palladium print
Image: 46.7 × 35.5 cm (18 3/8 × 14")
Sheet: 61.8 × 50.3 cm (24 5/16 × 19 13/16")
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
Kurt Cobain: Male
Kurt Cobain: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician
United States\Michigan\Kalamazoo\Kalamazoo
Restrictions & Rights
Courtesy of Mark Seliger/Steven Kasher Gallery, New York; © Mark Seliger