Closeup detail of two ornate guitar headstocks
John Monteleone sanding the body of a guitar in his workshop.

John Monteleone in his workshop in Islip, New York

Musical Masterworks tells the story of one of America’s most talented and famed makers of archtop guitars. From his workshop in Islip, New York, John Monteleone has built a world-renowned following as a skilled luthier. Monteleone’s guitars are one-of-a-kind masterpieces of functional art, and instruments made for some of the leading rock, jazz, and folk guitarists of the late-20th and early-21st centuries: Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Julian Lage, Anthony Wilson, and Ben Harper, to name just a few.

Beginning in the early 1970s as a repairer and maker of mandolins, Monteleone has made an extraordinary lifetime journey as a craftsman of his signature guitars and other instruments. Although stunningly beautiful, there are no features of his instruments that are entirely decorative. All elements—whether they provide a refinement in acoustics or imbue a sense of style and inspiration to the performer—are deployed to create instruments with exceptional sound that happen to also be great-looking. Now LIM visitors can enjoy seeing this largest-ever exhibition of John Monteleone’s musical art assembled and displayed at a single venue.

This exhibition features nearly 50 guitars, mandolins, and other instruments by Monteleone, made between 1971 and 2023, including the famed Four Seasons guitar quartet (2002-2006), on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with other historic guitars from Gibson, John D’Angelico, James D’Aquisto, and Selmer-Maccaferri.



On view in the History Museum May 23 through October 13, 2024



This exhibition is funded, in part, by:

New York State Council on the Arts NYCB Foundation: The Heart of the Community D'Addario Robert W. Baird incorporated. Baird Foundation, Inc. The Carol and Arnold Wolowitz Foundation