The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired two guitars hand built by Ken Parker—who joins Paul Reed Smith as one of the few custom-guitar makers in the prestigious New York City museum’s Musical Instruments collection. The luthier is best known for his innovative Parker Fly electric guitar, but since selling Parker Guitars in 2003, he’s focused solely on crafting acoustic archtops, which feature his signature lightness and rigidity that defined the Parker Fly.
The Met has added one of Parker’s 2015 archtops and a 1987 prototype of the Parker Fly to its collection. The acoustic archtop, called Merlin, is 16.5 inches across the lower bout with a cutaway. The back, sides, and top layer of the neck came from the Tree, a fabled 500-year-old Honduran quilted mahogany that Acoustic Guitar covered in detail in its March issue.
Parker spoke to AG from his studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he produces one acoustic archtop every two months. “I spent the ’70s building archtop guitars,” he says. “That was my first project and electric guitar came second. My acoustic building informed my ability to design a groundbreaking, electric sold-body guitar.”
The Met welcomed the Parker guitars at a January 29 reception, which included a performance of the “Ken Parker Suite” for three guitars—written and played by jazz guitarist Doug Wamble along with Brandon Ross, and Matt Munisteri. At the time of writing, the guitars were not yet on display at the Met.