One of the biggest names in rock music history, The Rolling Stones have redefined music far beyond their own generation. Exhibitionism, the first international exhibition of the band, has debuted in London’s Saatchi Gallery, with full participation from current band members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood. With over 500 artefacts cleverly presented in nine thematic galleries, this is one not to miss — whether you’re an avid Stone’s fan or not.
The exhibition has evidently been meticulously curated with striking visuals, recreations, interactive features and information. As you enter the first room you are immediately met with a burst of colour and sound, and you know you’re in for something special. Nonetheless you are simultaneously greeted with the band’s arrogant charisma, with proud statistics from the number of records sold, to the countries they have played at all over the world, to a to-the-minute total recording time. The adjacent room plays on 40 screens a lifelong audio-visual of the band; a stunning memento, which is unafraid to mention the bad times.
Next, you are taken on a journey from the beginning of the 1960s, showing how the band was formed. The first ever contract signed is there, along with prints of the first recording photo shoot, tiny diaries kept by members and, of course, an extensive collection of instruments. Continue on through Exhibitionism, and you will see how the band is depicted focusing mainly on their performance, rather than each of the members’ personal development. But with moving and amusing quotes along the walls, short video excerpts and a room full of unexpected bits and pieces, fans won’t be disappointed.
One of the best aspects of the whole exhibition is the recreation of what have been some of the band’s key surroundings. You can walk through the Edith Grove flat in Chelsea that they first lived in together, with mould on the walls, clothes strewn all over the floor, fag butts and food wasting away in the kitchen whilst vinyls repeatedly sing blues influences on the record player. There is a recording studio, with interactive equipment for visitors to the exhibition to mix in and out instruments to the songs themselves. Top it off with a recreation of what it was like to be backstage at a Stones’ concert.
A large and truly deserving emphasis lies on collaborators. From artists and designers such as Andy Warhol and Alexander McQueen — with a considerable compilation of artwork and stage outfits — to musicians the band worked with, including Lisa Fischer whose sound has manifested in the music. A whole room is dedicated to the development of the big lips and tongue logo and how the idea began with Jagger and designer John Pasche.
As you put on your 3D glasses in the final room of the exhibition, you are temporarily transported to a recent Stones’ live performance, with never-before-seen footage. With overbearing music (what else), you forget where you are for a moment — likewise as the rest of the exhibition; it is a true spectacle.
Exhibitionism proves the impact The Rolling Stones have had on music as a whole, how they are the pioneers of live performances and sequinned jackets, and how their sound has resonated through British culture since they began.
Exhibitionism is on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London until September 2016, before embarking on a world tour.
Duke Of York’s HQ, King’s Rd, London
By Stephanie Butler