Joy Division Frontman Ian Curtis’ Iconic Vox Phantom Guitar Sells For $211,000

An icon of Joy Division history has taken up a new residence. This past Tuesday, Ian Curtis’ signature Vox Phantom VI Special was auctioned off by Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia Sale for an eye-popping £162,562 (or $211,513 in US Dollars).

Bought in September of 1979 by Joy Division’s manager, Rob Gretton, the guitar most famously appeared in Joy Division’s video for “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, where Ian Curtis is seen as taking over guitar duties, while Bernard Sumner played keys.

The instrument also toured with Curtis during the band’s 1980 European tour and was also used on the recording of the song “Heart and Soul” from the band’s second studio album Closer. Following Curtis’s death, the iconic guitar ping-ponged between Bernard Sumner and his Electronic bandmate and Smiths co-founder Johnny Marr.

Sumner finally gave it to Curtis’s daughter Natalie, who after some thought, decided to put it up for auction with Bonhams.

Natalie Curtis, a brilliant photographer in her own right, offered the following statement on the sale:

“The guitar came to me at a time in my life when I was keen to learn more about my late father. I’m not at all musical, yet it is fascinating to see my father’s guitar, I mean, it’s such a personal thing. Since I’m a visual person, the Phantom is especially interesting to me, as the design is rather unusual. I grew up around and have worked with musicians, and although I’ve seen a lot of guitars, I’ve never seen anything like this. From everything I’ve been told about my father, he was very obsessed with how things looked, and so to me the Phantom makes sense as it very much feels like Ian Curtis’s guitar. It’s obviously super cool, regardless of its previous owner, and it sounds great, and even though I wouldn’t know what the hell to do with them, the geek in me loves all the built-in effects. If I had any kind of aptitude, it’s the sort of guitar I’d want for myself! As I didn’t know my father, it’s quite special to gain this further insight and to discover that our tastes align.”

It is a beautiful instrument, indeed. Looking like a futuristic vision of a medieval lute with its pentagonal shape, the guitar is unique in both its design and its history.

See the guitar in action here:

Alice Teeple

Alice Teeple is a photographer, multidisciplinary artist, and writer. She is not in Tin Machine.

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