Jim Irsay Collection acquires iconic Kurt Cobain ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ guitar

Article Contributed by 117 Entertainment | Published on Monday, May 23, 2022

The Jim Irsay Collection, based in Indianapolis, has acquired at auction Kurt Cobain’s iconic guitar used in Nirvana’s cultural defining "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video. The guitar and more of the renowned collection will be showcased for the first time publicly on Friday, June 3 in New York City at the Manhattan Center's Hammerstein Ballroom. Ticket link here.

Nirvana’s breakout hit created a seismic shift in music by heralding the alternative/grunge era of the 1990s and becoming one of the most iconic songs and music videos of all time. The Generation X anthem off the album Nevermind, which celebrated its 30th anniversary milestone last fall, turned Nirvana overnight into the biggest band in the world. The video was released Sept. 29, 1991, on MTV and propelled the band into superstardom.

The legendary Fender Mustang electric guitar was on tour in Beverly Hills, London and Indianapolis before making its way to Hard Rock Cafe® Times Square in New York for auction. Its sale makes it the second-most expensive guitar sold on record behind the 1959 Martin D-18E Cobain used during his legendary MTV Unplugged performance in 1993.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Cobain family is donating a portion of the proceeds to Kicking The Stigma, the Irsays’ initiative to raise awareness about mental health disorders and remove the stigma associated with these illnesses. Through grants, as well as personal donations by the Irsay family, more than $16 million has been committed to local and national organizations to expand treatment and research and raise awareness in Indiana and beyond.

“I am thrilled to preserve and protect another piece of American culture that changed the way we listened to and looked at the world,” said Jim Irsay, owner & CEO of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. “The fact that a portion of the proceeds will go toward our effort to kick the stigma surrounding mental illnesses makes this acquisition even more special to me.”

About the Collection:
Irsay’s passion for rock music led him to assemble instruments and items owned and used by some of the greatest artists in music history, including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Prince, Eric Clapton, Sir Elton John, Jerry Garcia, Les Paul, David Gilmour, Jim Morrison, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, The Edge and other music icons.  

Irsay also has a love for American history and pop culture, leading him to grow his collection with items such as:

    An 1823 William J. Stone printing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the first exact “facsimiles” of the final signed document;
    Renowned American author Jack Kerouac’s On the Road scroll;
    The original manuscript for Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book, the organization’s founding document;
    The original 1777 Continental Congress proclamation designating Thanksgiving as a national holiday;
    Handwritten documents and artifacts from women’s suffrage pioneer Susan B. Anthony;
    A Jackie Robinson bat from 1953 (the founding year of the Colts);
    Muhammad Ali’s shoes from the 1975 “Thrilla’ in Manilla” vs. Joe Frazier;
    Artifacts and signed documents from numerous U.S. Presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and more.

An active philanthropist, Irsay regularly loans items to museums, nonprofits and other organizations for display and research.  Items have been displayed at the U.S.’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Lincoln Memorial, the world-famous Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Indiana State Museum; as well as at The Centre Pompidou (Paris), the British Library (London), Auditorium Parco della Musica (Rome) and other locations around the world.