Altered States: 13 Items from the World’s Largest Counter Culture Memorabilia Collection
Colombian businessman Julio Mario Santo Domingo Jr. amassed hundreds of thousands of items in a private collection, all of which pay tribute to rebellion and altered states of mind.
Colombian businessman Julio Mario Santo Domingo Jr. (1957 to 2009) was fascinated with counterculture, from the Rolling Stones to the French poets of the late 19th century. His love for all things subversive and mind-altering prompted him to collect thousands of books, posters, photographs, and relics, all related to sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and magic.
By the time of Domingo’s death in 2009, he had accumulated around 100,000 items, ranging from pulp novels and pinball machines to original artworks by figures like Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. This collection, which is now mostly on loan at Harvard University’s Houghton Library, is documented in a new book, Altered States: The Library of Julio Santo Domingo, written by Peter Watts and published by Anthology Editions.
Altered States hits bookstores on December 5, 2017. Here’s a sneak peek at some of its most interesting relics.
While on tour in Munich, Germany, in 1990, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards gave bandmate Ronnie Wood a ring for his birthday. Instead of using wrapping paper, Richards hid the jewelry in a grapefruit and wrote a birthday message on the skin. Wood discarded the fruit after finding his present, and Santo Domingo rescued it from the trash. He later found a taxidermist in Austria to embalm the grapefruit, and displayed the preserved food on a shelf in his home office in Geneva, Switzerland.
Stills from TV Party, where SAMO, a.k.a. artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, answered questions from callers. In 1979, Basquiat appeared on New York’s TV Party public access cable show as SAMO, his graffiti artist alter ego. He was interviewed by presenter Glenn O’Brien and took calls from audience members—including one Julio Mario Santo Domingo, then living in New York City.
A pile of Santo Domingo’s T-shirts, of which he had thousands.
Photograph of Lawrence Ferlinghetti dressed as a priest. Ferlinghetti owned City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and was prosecuted for obscenity after he published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems in 1956. The photograph, by Françoise Janicot, is titled Il Papa di niente (The Pope of Nothing).
Top: Rolling Stones signed plastic toy guitar made by Selcol in 1964 / 1965. Bottom: Keith Richards’s guitar, signed “It’s only rock ’n’ roll, but I like it.” Manufactured by Selcol Industry, the plastic signed Rolling Stones guitar was one of the very first items of mass-produced Rolling Stones memorabilia. It’s emblazoned with the logo “Rolling Stones 6,” a picture of the band, and reproductions of the first-name signatures of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts. It originally cost $5, but can today fetch up to $1000, depending on its condition.
Beat Generation Cook Book, a sly but knowledgeable pastiche of the Beatnik lifestyle edited by Carl Larsen and James Singer in 1961, features illustrated recipes like Kerouac’s Kocktail (“serves four or five Beats, eight or ten Squares”), including drug and jazz references for a presumably mainstream audience.
An acetate for side two of the Rolling Stones's Exile on Main Street, 1972. Santo Domingo collected rare and valuable Rolling Stones recordings, including ones recorded on acetates, or fragile vinyl records. Acetates were used by record producers and engineers to test the quality of tape-to-disc transfers, or were given to radio stations as advance promotional items. They weren't intended for public release, and fewer than 10 were recorded for each album or single. Santo Domingo's collection included 20 acetates.
A drawing of a religious figure standing in a desert landscape, fingering rosary beads. It was drawn by Jack Kerouac on September 17, 1956, on the back of a card advertising the opening of “Ruth’s card shoppe and sales arcade” in Berkeley, California.
Shelves of video cassettes, mainly featuring Santo Domingo's home movies.
Rolling Stones pinball machine, one of 5700 made by Bally, 1980. It plays clips of songs like “Satisfaction,” “Miss You,” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
Santo Domingo was living in France in May 1968 when Paris students, inspired by Marx and Guy Debord’s Situationist International, almost brought down the French state. He owned a huge selection of material from the May uprising, including the poster above. Produced by Arts-Déco in June 1968 for striking Renault workers in Flins, France, it says “Les ouvriers de Flins à l’avant poste de la résistance prolétarienne” (“The workers of Flins are the vanguard of proletarian resistance”).
A small selection of books by William S. Burroughs from Santo Domingo's library.