Project Description

Searching For Apollo

The Master Altarpiece and associated limited editions by Alistair Morrison

When Roger Daltrey first approached acclaimed portrait photographer and good friend Alistair Morrison in 2015 to discuss the possibility of creating a new music-based piece, his initial thought was for something on similar lines to Alistair’s Actors Last Supper photograph – a panoramic montage piece with Alistair Morrison’s portraits of thirteen iconic actors – which had proved to be one of the most popular pieces ever exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery.

As they discussed the project further, Alistair realised that this called for something on an altogether larger scale – both in ambition and physical size, and which would take the concept of his ‘legacy’ photographs into a new dimension. Alistair recalls: “I suppose selfishly, I thought, ‘There’s a hell of a lot more than thirteen of them that I want to photograph, so we’d better do a different idea.’

Together they began inviting a stellar group of musicians to sit for portrait sessions. In November 2017, after two years preparation, 210,000 miles of travel, and 70 photo-sessions with many of the world’s most important living male musicians, Alistair Morrison unveiled his new large format artwork, Searching For Apollo, in the Raphael Room at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The launch was a star studded event, attended by many of the musical greats honoured in the huge 4.5m high master altarpiece.

Searching for Apollo, front view, closed side wings

Searching For Apollo – front view, wings open

Top two rows of panels, viewed from the front, with side wings open

Searching for Apollo is a 28-panelled altarpiece art installation, set on a bespoke jukebox. It can be enjoyed in closed or open position (with left and right wings opened out to reveal the central panels), and Alistair’s photographs adorn both front and back. This is a piece that needs to be placed away from a wall, as it needs to be enjoyed and appreciated from all sides. As Gary Kemp put it so aptly at the V&A launch event: “There’s no back. It’s a double A-side”.

Subjects include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Van Morrison, Ray Davies, Roger Daltrey, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson, Art Garfunkel, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton. Iggy Pop, Jeff Beck, Mick Fleetwood, Nile Rodgers, Nils Lofgren, Paul Weller, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart – and many more. You can see a full list below.

The design is based on the Ghent Altarpiece – a spectacular artwork finished in 1432 and attributed to Jan Van Eyck and his brother Hubert. The fact that the base of the altarpiece contains a powerful four speaker sound system is a contemporary nod and a wink to the music box that was, incredibly, incorporated into the original 15th century Ghent altarpiece, and allows the viewer to listen to the music created by the artists featured.

The title of the piece, Searching For Apollo, combines the theme of Apollo as the god of music and the notion of ‘search’, which is ‘buscar’ in Spanish – the origin of busking. Alistair explains: “So with that idea in mind, it seemed appropriate to do something looking back at these artists’ roots, to get everyone back on the street. This is why, in the piece, many of the subjects appear as the ‘buskers’ they once were; cloaked with old blankets, wrapped up in coats and scarves, or perched on the pavement seemingly singing for their supper.”

“My very first published photographs were a series of portraits of London buskers so, as part of my legacy as an artist, it seemed fitting to photograph these legendary musicians in a way that symbolised their musical roots. I have been delighted with the support received from so many musicians who understand the poignancy of gathering together in a historical image of this scale, at this point in their lives. Within the art piece, we also honour 140 musicians who sadly aren’t with us anymore.”

Searching for Apollo is the first of three large format altarpieces that make up the Adoration Trilogy. The trilogy – a long term project by Alistair Morrison – will go on to focus on influential women musicians for the second piece, whilst the third work will depict today’s rising stars.

Searching For Apollo  – front view, wings closed

Top three rows of panels from the front, with side wings closed

Featured Musicians

Bryan Adams
Jeff Beck
Jon Bon Jovi
Ali Campbell
Eric Clapton
George Clinton
Alice Cooper
Elvis Costello
Roger Daltrey
Ray Davies
The Edge
Chris Farlowe
Mick Fleetwood
Peter Frampton
Peter Gabriel
Liam Gallagher
Noel Gallagher

Art Garfunkel
Bob Geldof
Barry Gibb
David Gilmour
Rob Halford
James Hetfield
Mick Hucknall
Billy Idol
Tito Jackson
Billy Joel
Elton John
Brian Johnson
Wilko Johnson
John Paul Jones
Kelly Jones
Kenney Jones
Mick Jones
Tom Jones

Gary Kemp
Mark Knopfler
Nils Lofgren
Nick Mason
Brian May
Paul McCartney
Don McLean
Van Morrison
John Oates
Ozzy Osbourne
Carl Palmer
Robert Plant
Iggy Pop
Smokey Robinson
Nile Rodgers
Francis Rossi
Neil Sedaka

Bruce Springsteen
Zak Starkey
Ringo Starr
Rod Stewart
James Taylor
Roger Taylor
Danny Thompson
Pete Townshend
Steven Tyler
Lars Ulrich
Eddie Vedder
Rick Wakeman
Joe Walsh
Paul Weller
Brian Wilson
Steve Winwood
Ronnie Wood
Bill Wyman

Searching For Apollo – rear view, wings open

Top two rows of panels, viewed from the back, with side wings open

Engineering expert and designer Alan Sawyer of Luzzo Bespoke developed a series of specially constructed hand painted metal frames to house the 28 panels displaying Alistair’s photographic montages and vignettes. Each print within the altarpiece is signed on the reverse by Alistair Morrison and protected with non-reflective acrylic glazing. The first row of images, closest to the base of the unit, are housed within lightboxes, creating their own lustrous glow.

The base unit on which the artwork stands, also designed and built by Alan Sawyer, is a bespoke lacquered-wood, metal and perspex cabinet housing four speakers, and a Naim audio system with a customisable playlist.

The base unit of the altarpiece opens up at the back to reveal a series of plaques honouring those musicians who have passed away – 140 in total, starting chronologically with Buddy Holly, who is also referenced with an extract from Don McLean’s “American Pie” that appears on the reverse of the altarpiece.

Many of the specially created montages of musicians that make up the scenes on the panels of the altarpiece contain subtle references and hidden meanings, and these will be explained in detail by Alistair Morrison to a purchaser.

 “There’s a lot of imagery of Slash, so one thing I wanted to try was to have something with a little more softness to it. And even with the idea of him being Slash in the sunglasses and the T-shirt, the jewellery and the hat, there’s something about his hair, this veil, that seemed quite pertinent to that idea. To others, that might be ‘Rough Slash’. But for me, that’s ‘Soft Slash’. And although there’s that image of him as this growling man, he’s actually delightfully shy.”

– Alistair Morrison


Searching For Apollo

Information for collectors

Collectors have the opportunity to purchase the original 4.5m high Searching For Apollo Master Alterpiece, or smaller scale limited edition versions of the original. 

The original master altarpiece

The original Searching for Apollo master altarpiece – which was displayed in the Victoria and Albert museum – is available to purchase.

In homage to the well-known tradition in art history where patrons of the arts are featured within the works they commission, the purchaser of the Searching for Apollo master altarpiece has the option to include themselves (or someone they nominate) within the artwork – and placed amongst the rock legends. The concept requires the nominated individuals to sit for a portrait session with Alistair to recreate the part of either a passer-by, graffiti artist, street musician or vagabond, which will then be incorporated into one of the photographic montages within the piece.


Base unit H 121cm x W 244cm x D 118cm
Artwork panels in closed position H 330cm x W 200cm
Artwork panels with wings open H 330cm x W 400cm
Overall size closed H 451cm x W 244cm x D 118cm
Overall size open H 451cm x W 400 cm x D 118cm

Price – on request
Viewing – by appointment

The limited edition master altarpieces

The sheer physical scale of the original Searching for Apollo master altarpiece means that it will only be suitable for a very specific – and very large – space. Because of this, Alistair Morrison is offering collectors the opportunity to commission a smaller format limited edition of the original Searching For Apollo altarpiece, in a completely bespoke size of your choice, built to suit your specific space. Alistair will create a maximum of eight of these bespoke editioned pieces, featuring the same complete 28 panel artwork as the original altarpiece, each on a base with their own in-built sound system.

Purchasers of each of the eight editioned versions of Searching for Apollo will also have the opportunity to sit for a portrait session with Alistair Morrison and have themselves incorporated into a panel on the artwork alongside the honoured musicians.

Dimensions – bespoke to suit your space
Price – on request

Alistair  Morrison unveils the master altarpiece at the Victoria & Albert Museum 

What is The Ghent Altarpiece?

The design of Searching for Apollo is based on the Ghent Altarpiece (or the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb) – a spectacular artwork finished in 1432 and attributed to Jan Van Eyck and his brother Hubert.

Currently housed in the Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium it is considered one of the most influential paintings ever made.

The Ghent Altarpiece was painted with wing panels, allowing to either display it closed or opened. The Alterpiece used to be opened only on holy days. Painted on oak panels, it is often referred to as a touchstone of Western art, and has survived six centuries of tumultuous history.

 “A lot of the other guys are in the throes of remembering their music, but I felt with Weller he was still in the throes of great music. There’s something about him that says, ‘I haven’t finished yet. I’m going to give and give.’ The generation that followed him very much respects Weller, whereas he respects the guys that came before him. So he’s in that position where he can work with McCartney and the others and they all want to work with him. He was edgy and he still is.”

– Alistair Morrison


Inspired By British Music and By World Music

The Limited Editions Triptychs

To complete the Searching for Apollo collection, and to reach out to a new band of collectors, Alistair has created two new triptychs, which are offered in in limited editions of eight examples worldwide.

The first, Inspired By British Music (“IBBM”) features thirteen iconic British male artists, while the second, Inspired by World Music (“IBWM”) features thirteen global male artists.

Both triptychs are produced in a more manageable physical size, at a more affordable price. Less complex in construction than Searching for Apollo, IBBM and IBWM can be supplied either as a wall-hanging triptych or a free-standing triptych with a customised base unit containing a music system.

Because the panels displaying the artwork are on the front and inside, but not on the back, IBBM and IBWM can be placed against a wall, and displayed in closed or open position, with the left and right wings opened to reveal the full panorama of the interior panels.

Both IBBM and IBWM triptychs come with unprecedented levels of customisation that give you the ability to feature personally in the artwork alongside your musical heroes, and also substitute in alternate musicians of your choice from the Searching for Apollo sessions.

There is also scope to make adjustments to the physical size to suit your personal display space. The option to place yourself in one of the panels requires you to sit for a portrait session with Alistair in the UK.

Inspired By British Music on base unit, with side wings in open position

Inspired By British Music

Front view of triptych artwork in closed position

Front view, closed. Left panel: Paul McCartney Right panel: Ringo Starr

Inspired By British Music

Front view of triptych artwork in open position

Front view, open. Left panel: Ozzy Osbourne, Paul Weller, Ringo Starr
Centre panel: Paul McCartney, Ronnie Wood, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, David Gilmour, Robert Plant,
Right panel: Elton John, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Ray Davies.


Wall hanging triptych artwork – in closed position
H 132 cm x W 100cm x D 7.2 cm
Wall hanging triptych artwork – in open position
H 132 cm x W 200 cm x D 3.6 cm
Triptych artwork including cabinet with sound system – in closed position
H 220 cm x W140 cm x D 60cm
Triptych artwork including cabinet with sound system – in open position
H  220 cm x W 200 cm x D 60cm

Price  – on request
Viewing – by appointment


“It seemed appropriate to do something looking back at these artists’ roots, to get everyone back on the street. So with Robert Plant, he’s got a harmonica, but there’s also a pride in his position. He’s the absolute head boy of rock and part of that upright pose was very much him saying, ‘I’m the Brando to all musicians.”

– Alistair Morrison


Inspired By World Music

Front view of triptych artwork in closed position

Front view, closed. Left panel: Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney. Right panel: Ringo Starr, Steven Tyler

Inspired By World Music

Front view of triptych artwork in open position

 Front view, open. Left panel: Barry Gibb, Smokey Robinson. Centre panel: Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Tom Jones, Elton John. Right panel: Van Morrison, Rod Stewart.


Wall hanging triptych artwork – in closed position
H 90 cm x W 100cm x D 7.2 cm
Wall hanging triptych artwork – in open position
H 90 cm x W 200 cm x D 3.6 cm
Triptych artwork including cabinet with sound system – in closed position
H 176 cm x W140 cm x D 60cm
Triptych artwork including cabinet with sound system – in open position
H 176 cm x W 200 cm x D 60cm

Price  – on request

 “Ringo is traditionally the joker in the pack, but he’s such an embracing guy, to the extent that you would never, ever think that he’s not back in the Sixties. He’s still got that enthusiasm. He’s never got a bad word for anybody. Life is great around Ringo. Peace and love! This was done in his garage in LA. And that is the beauty of the man: we needed a space and he said, ‘Come in, guys.'”

– Alistair Morrison


Alistair Morrison biography

For the past 35 years, Alistair Morrison, has photographed prime ministers, athletes, models and rock stars and has had over 80 pieces of his work on display at The National Portrait Gallery, London.

Since 1982, he has worked as a freelance editorial and fashion photographer for a variety of newspapers and magazines, including The Sunday Times, Observer and Vogue specialising in portraits of celebrities and well-known prominent people.

Morrison’s portraits are collected by private and corporate clients worldwide and he has exhibited in Paris, New York, Palm Beach, Miami, Florence, Berlin, Barcelona and London.

Most recently, Morrison has completed a series of ‘Legacy Photographs’, applying his signature style of portraiture to depict historic collections of notable actors, sportsmen, Britons and musicians.

Alistair Morrison with Slash