WSJ: “Art, Fashion, Satisfaction”

November 12, 2016

From the Wall Street Journal

A Rolling Stones Exhibition to Rock New York
’Exhibitionism’ shows the band’s cultural influence; Sui and Scorsese

After taking LSD one day in 1967, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards got bored and started painting his boots in psychedelic colors. Then he turned to his 1957 Les Paul guitar and painted it, too.

The fate of the boots is unclear, but the guitar—along with some 500 other items, including album cover art, tour posters and attire—is coming to downtown Manhattan. It’s part of the band’s first major exhibit, aptly titled “Exhibitionism.”

The show, which opened in London, will take up 17,000 square feet of display space at Industria, an event space in New York, from Nov. 12 to March 12. It starts with a large, lit-up image of the world showing where the Stones have toured over the decades, a short video about the band on 50 screens arranged in a circle and a replica of their first apartment in London. The first floor also includes re-created recording studios, and some roms have audio of the band members talking in the background. Upstairs, the show divides into categories such as style, film, and art and design, with a narrative by directorMartin Scorsese and 3-D concert footage.

The Australian production company International Entertainment Consulting, which was behind a 2014 Stones tour, came up with the idea for the show and contacted the band. Mr. Richards, Mick Jaggerand other band members had been storing troves of costumes and instruments in a warehouse in London and agreed that it was time to put some of it on display. “Mick was the best at keeping his wardrobe,” says curator Ileen Gallagher, former director of exhibitions for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. “Over the years various family members borrowed certain things, but he definitely had the most extensive wardrobe of anyone in the band.”

Mr. Richards saved items like an early diary of life in London. The other band members, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts, didn’t save as many of their belongings. None of them held on to much before 1972, so Ms. Gallagher had to contact collectors and museums to find earlier outfits, instruments and artwork.

The exhibit begins with the story of a young band eager to gain some attention. Visitors will see letters sent by Brian Jones, the group’s founder and original leader (who died at age 27), trying to get gigs. He insisted, “We are not a pop band. We are an R&B band.”

The show also emphasizes how much the Stones influenced fashion and art over the decades. Graphic designer John Pasche’s 1971 tongue-and-lips logo for the band still pops up frequently today. Contrary to rumor, it was not a drawing of Mr. Jagger’s own prominent lips. The singer had given Mr. Pasche a drawing of an Indian goddess as inspiration for the design. However, Ms. Gallagher adds, Mr. Pasche says that “he unconsciously was thinking about Mick’s lips” when he drew it.

Fashion designer Anna Sui contributes a voiceover about clothing in the 1960s to that part of the exhibition. “The Rolling Stones were at the forefront of that whole male peacock moment in the ’60s when the men were dressing as dandies and Victorian and Edwardian lords with ruffled shirts and frock jackets and even jewelry like brooches and rings,” she says.

When she first introduced menswear to her runway shows in 1993, Mr. Jagger was Ms. Sui’s first customer. He was appearing on “Saturday Night Live,” and Ms. Sui got a call saying that the singer wanted to see her designs. He ended up wearing one of her crepe suits and embroidered vests. In the Stones’ later years, high-end labels such as Alexander McQueen and Gucci started dressing them for their concerts.

Ms. Sui was inspired by the Stones again after thinking about the exhibit. She says it is reflected in her current fall collection, which has a vintage 1960s British classic rock look and themes from her favorite song by the band, “Child of the Moon.” The obscure 1968 track is classic Stones of that era, halfway between hippie bliss and edgy darkness, with lyrics like “Give me a wide-awake crescent-shaped smile.” Ms. Sui says, “I love the evocative nature of it, of psychedelia with more rock in it and the thoughts that it conjures up.”

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