On Monday, October 7, 2013, Paul Reed Smith Guitars presented a custom electric guitar to be part of the permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The event was open to the public and took place at the Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing. The exquisite guitar, a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Warren Esanu [Mr. Esanu is a founding partner and chairman of Paul Reed Smith Guitars Limited Partnership], was designed for the exhibit and features a McCarty-style body, a 25" scale, curly red maple top, African ribbon mahogany back, red heart abalone body purfling, and a light “tiger eye microburst” finish with natural binding. The curly maple neck features 22 frets, bird inlays cut from mammoth ivory found in arctic ice, ebony fretboard and headstock veneer, a bone nut, and PRS Phase III locking tuners. The PRS 408 humbuckers are controlled by a 3-way selector and master volume and tone controls. Because the museum wants the instrument to be played, PRS also provided the prototype so that if the instrument is ever on loan another will still be on display in its place.
Said company founder, Paul Smith, of the event, “There’s something about it that’s beautifully validating. Everyone in the business is marketing all these different products, saying, ‘Look at us, look at us.’ And the Met comes along and says, ‘You know something, this needs to be paid attention to’—and they weren’t subtle about it. They can decide what they take in and what they don’t. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Guitar legend John McLaughlin was present to introduce the instrument to the world. “Electric guitar is meant to rock, swing, boogie, and get down—all those things that you wouldn’t normally associate with such an illustrious place as the Metropolitan museum. I feel very honored to be here,” McLaughlin said. With Gary Husband accompanying him on a Steinway grand piano, McLaughlin performed blazing, distorted jazz-rock runs with the display guitar, which was routed through a PRS amp and an Arion stereo chorus pedal. Although it might be expected that the guitar would be handled with kid gloves, McLaughlin even bent the neck several times for added vibrato. At the end of his performance, the fusion maestro raised the guitar in the air and kissed it.
Following the public event was a private reception, at which two PRS acoustics—a nylon-string and a steel-string—were also presented to the museum, though it has not yet been announced whether these will be part of the Met’s permanent display. The steel-string, a 25.5"-scale 2014 Collection Angelus, features a 15 1/2" body with PRS hybrid X-bracing, a European bear-claw spruce top with paua-heart purfling and curly maple binding, and Brazilian rosewood back and sides with paua-heart purfling. The rosette features ebony, green abalone, paua heart, and 14-karat gold. The nylon-string, a 2014 Collection Classical, features a 14 7/16" body with Torres-style bracing, a European spruce top with maple-and-black purfling and Brazilian rosewood binding, and Brazilian rosewood back and sides with maple purfling.
The acoustic instruments were demonstrated by renowned Celtic guitarist Tony McManus and Grammy-winning country artist Ricky Skaggs. McManus held the audience captive for a 13-minute performance of a Bach Chaconne. “The guitar was astonishing,” said McManus. “It was resonant, crystal clear, and responsive. I could have happily sat and played it for about eight hours without going for dinner.” Skaggs then took the stage to sing and play. As a light-hearted gesture, he played the opening riff to the Beatles’ “Day Tripper,” then jammed with Paul Smith.