REVIEW: Exhibitionism - The Rolling Stones

Until September 4 2016, Saatchi Gallery, London,

Wednesday, 11th May 2016, 3:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2016, 4:57 pm

Keith Richards calls it the “ancient art of weaving” when he gets together on guitar with long-time collaborator and fellow Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood.

Probably the greatest thrill of the superb new London Stones exhibition is that it’s weaving you can now unravel at your leisure.

If you’ve ever pondered (and I’ve spent most of my life doing so) just what it is that makes the Stones so magical, you will want to spend the rest of your days in a truly-inspired little section which allows you to presume to mix the Stones.

Put the headphones on, and you can explore the constituent parts of a half a dozen or so songs. You can isolate Nicky Hopkins’ glorious piano on Angie; even better, you can separate Ronnie and Keith on Start Me Up, surely one of their greatest collaborations.

You can shut everyone out and just listen to Ronnie; shut everyone out and fill your head with Keef; or you plunge into Jagger’s breathy vocals alone. It is bliss, complete bliss – one of the many, many ways this astonishingly-imaginative exhibition takes you right into the beating heart of the Rolling Stones.

Just the word exhibition conjures something dusty and dry; but this is exhibitionism, remember, and it sparkles to life at every turn, all aspects of their life and work explored in sections which capture the vibrancy of the Stones themselves.

An exhilarating multi-screen video montage greets you, countless clips vying for your attention as you are thrown into the bewildering life the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band has led for more than half a century.

But it hasn’t all been about the glamour as a truly-disgusting (but fortunately odour-free) mock-up of the Chelsea flat they shared in 1962 doubly underlines. Remarkable to think that genius flourished (or festered) here.

Thereafter it’s all themed. Endless guitars which played various specific riffs or tracks are displayed, sufficient to keep the guitar anoraks happy for decades; more thrilling is a mock-up of a Stones recording studio. You can almost imagine them there.

Fascinating too is a section detailing the development of almost all their album covers – images we have taken for granted for years, but images you suddenly find yourself thinking about again only to realise just how terrific they are.

It took me right back to the thrill of finding a zippered, tatty Sticky Fingers in a second-hand record shop in 1979 – just as the section on stage design whizzed me back to the day I first saw them. It was the final day of A levels, 1982. One last stodgy wadge of German translation to do, and then it was on the train to Wembley.

The Stones had been going for 20 years by then. No one had been going for 20 years. Four years into my adoration of them, I was finally seeing them live, utterly convinced though my first time would be their Last Time (and mine). They were entering uncharted territory even then…. which makes it all the more remarkable that 31 years later, I saw them for the tenth time on a stiflingly-hot day in Hyde Park.

Like all obsessives, I admit I struggle to put into words just why Mick, Keef ‘n’ Co mean the world to me. The answers, I am pleased, to say are laid before us all in Exhibitionism. The show, complete with a fabulous array of costumes, nails the Stones in all their awesome glory.

And with a fabulous final flourish, the genius of the show is that it deposits us once again in the crowd at that 2013 Hyde Park gig – the best possible conclusion to a truly brilliant celebration of the band, their spirit and their sheer, well, exhibitionism.

Phil Hewitt

Exhibitionism, delivered by DHL is the first ever major exhibition by The Rolling Stones and the largest touring exhibition of its kind ever to be staged. Hundreds of treasured items from the band’s career, including original artwork, cherished instruments, handwritten lyrics books and even a recreation of their first flat in 1962, will plunge fans deep into the world of The Rolling Stones. Exhibitionism will provide a journey that goes to the very heart of the band, exploring their career of mythical proportions.

Exclusively exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery, Exhibitionism is a world first. Over 500 Rolling Stones important and unseen artefacts from the band’s personal archives will be showcased, embracing all aspects of art & design, film, video, fashion, performance, and rare sound archives.

Highlights on display at Exhibitionism explore every facet of the band, dating back to the sixties right up until 2016. They include artwork from across the decades, onstage and off stage clothes, performances, instruments, recordings, unseen films and photos, and entire rooms of rare, precious and beautiful objects that have been assembled to tell the story like never before.

Thea Jeanes-Cochrane, Director of iEC (International Entertainment Consulting), the company behind Exhibitionism, said: “Exhibitionism has been three years in the making and we’re leaving no stone unturned. Working closely with the band, we’ve delved into their personal archive and uncovered some incredible artefacts. It’s The Rolling Stones, we had to create something really special and on an epic scale. Nothing like this has ever been produced before and we can’t wait to see people’s reaction.”

The works of key collaborators who helped to make the band not just musical but cultural icons are also be on show, including Andy Warhol, John Pasche, who designed the band’s iconic tongue logo, fashion designers Ossie Clark and Alexander McQueen, artist Shepard Fairey, producer Don Was, playwrite Tom Stoppard and film director Martin Scorsese.

Other curiosities include the cassette player on which Keith famously sketched out the idea for ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, just before falling asleep in a Florida motel room, Mick Jagger’s lyric book which features the hand written words for ‘Miss You’, ‘Hey Negrita’ and ‘Worried About You’, and the toy drum kit that Charlie Watts used in the recording of ‘Street Fighting Man.’

Exhibitionism is the largest touring experience of its kind to be staged by any band or artist, and continues the Stones’ proud tradition of ground-breaking innovation combined with the highest production values.

The Saatchi Gallery was founded in 1985 with the aim of bringing contemporary art to as wide an audience as possible and make it accessible by providing an innovative platform for emerging artists to show their work. Over the last five years the Saatchi Gallery has hosted 17 out of the top 20 most visited exhibitions in London, according to The Art Newspaper’s survey of international museum attendance, and is also ranked amongst the world’s top five most liked museums on Facebook and Twitter by Museum Analytics. The Saatchi Gallery’s website has become a global meeting place for people interested in contemporary art.

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