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Laurie Anderson Talks Plans for Lou Reed Archive, Shares Their Retirement Ranch Dreams

Lou Reed And Laurie Anderson
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Lou Reed rarely seemed to have much time for or interest in his past, but he actually left behind an impressive archive upon his passing in 2013 — and now it’s all headed to the New York Public Library.

Reed’s widow, artist Laurie Anderson, spoke with the New York Times about her goals for the installation, which she said wasn’t planed prior to his death — as she put it, “He fought for his life to the very last second.” But even without a specific outline in place upon Reed’s passing, Anderson knew exactly what she didn’t want for the collection, which the paper says takes up an impressive “300 linear feet of shelf space.”

“I feel like it’s really what I wanted, that people will get to hear it and it wouldn’t be hidden away. That was my worst fear, that it goes into some cave,” said Anderson. “I have friends who that’s happened to. An artist, very well known, gave his work to Harvard, and then like a year later he needed one thing, and he said, Can I get that from the archive? And they said no. I was not going to give this to a place that feels like that.”

The hands-on potential afforded by the Library will allow fans and artists to delve into Reed’s life’s legacy, warts and all. In fact, as Anderson went on to point out, it’s the crummy stuff she’s really excited for people to see — particularly young musicians who might not yet understand the mistakes even the most brilliant minds make during the messy creative process.

“I love having that available to people,” she explained. “Because it gives people courage to see, wow, Lou Reed made that thing? That was horrible. This is great for all of us who know how hard it is to find a style, find a voice.”

If Reed’s life hadn’t been cut short by cancer, Anderson says the two of them had a “sort of retirement plan” that included spearheading the design and construction of a performance space. “It was the L&L Art Ranch. Lou always wanted to have a club where he could play every night, and musicians could drop by,” she recalled. “We had the brand: it was an X with two L’s, like that. [Crosses fingers.] After he died, I went through a moment of like, ‘O.K., I’ll build it!’ Julian Schnabel was helping design the L&L Art Ranch in Red Hook.”

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