Exhibitionism at the Saatchi Gallery, London celebrates the Rolling Stones’ 54 year history. Featuring handwritten lyrics, instruments, video and costumes it aims to show the variety of the Rolling Stones’ career, from a blues cover band to global superstars. Exhibitionism really allows the audience to interact with the exhibition, to push away from a conventional gallery setup. The Saatchi fully embraces the Rolling Stones by decorating the Kings Road with tongue sculptures and benches featuring album covers.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN greets us as we enter, in the form of a large 3D artwork referencing the band’s introduction. It is fair to say that the exhibition is quite video-based and the first room is entirely dedicated to video screens. This room provides a great introduction by quickly showing highlights of their career, from early performances, to Hyde Park 1969, before going on to show them selling out sports stadiums and entertaining crowds to the present day.
The next area is a recreation of the band’s grubby apartment in Edith Grove, featuring piled-up plates and cutlery, cans of chicken soup, tea and HP Sauce. As well as being littered with cigarette ash and Chuck Berry records. This area has a musty, herbal smell and is very low lit, as it would have been when they lived there. Following on from this there is more items from their early career, including handwritten notes, diaries, acetate records and a wall of The Rolling Stones Book fan magazine.
Instruments are big part of the bands career, so are a big part of the exhibition. There are Charlie Watts’ drum kits and several of Keith and Ronnie’s guitars. One of the most bizarre items is a stuffed donkey, replicating the cover of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out from 1969. There are areas replicating their studio setup including African drums which would be played on songs such as Street Fighting Man. Throughout, there are quotes and video interviews with the band talking about recording. Original tapes from the 1978 Some Girls sessions are on display, most interestingly they give fans the opportunity to mix songs themselves as if they were on the mixing desk in the studio. It is amazing to be able to create unique mixes of songs such as Miss You, Start Me Up, Angie and Honky Tonk Women. This is where the interactive aspect really shines.
Another room is dedicated to the Rolling Stones’ music videos, from when they were niche and known as ‘promotional videos’ to the heyday in the MTV era. The exhibition shows videos from Jumpin’ Jack Flash in 1968 to Doom and Gloom in 2012. Although, the Rolling Stones were making videos from as early as 1966, so it is odd that no earlier ones where shown, such as the black and white video for Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby? featuring the band dressed as women. There is also an area showing the Rolling Stones on film, featuring interviews with the band and directors, here we certainly get our money’s worth of Martin Scorsese.
John Pache’s Tongue logo is probably the most recognisable logo in music history, so many styles and formats are featured in the exhibition. Most notably, a large 3D tongue sculpture has designs from over the years projected onto it. For the Rolling Stones, the artwork and imagery was almost as important as the music. In one area we see original photographs and designs for album covers, in particular Andy Warhol’s iconic covers for Sticky Fingers and Some Girls and David Bailey’s original photographs for Goat’s Head Soup. From the early albums such as The Rolling Stones No.2 to designs for 2012 compilation GRRR!.
The Rolling Stones have been touring continuously since the beginning, so there is a room full of posters from throughout their career. Including works by John Pache and set design models from the Bridges To Babylon Tour. Near the end of the exhibition is one of the most interesting sections is dedicated to clothing. It’s fair to say there are a few hits and misses but they are all legendary and iconic, from flowing white gowns in the late sixties, to the sports inspired look of the eighties. There is a whole group of clothing which Jagger has worn when performing Sympathy For The Devil over the years. Many of the mannequins have masks and material over their faces, emulating the look of the Goat’s Head Soup album cover, albeit more frightening.
The exhibition ends with a backstage area, before allowing visitors to experience a 3D showing of Satisfaction from Hyde Park in 2013. The curatorial concept was to let the band tell the story through quotes and interviews and not have it be told by a curator. The band wanted the exhibition to be interactive and to allow the audience to be involved, and they achieve this. Exhibitionism is an excellent look through the Rolling Stones over-50 year history, although they probably wish that they had kept more items such as more lyric sheets, more of Keith and Ronnie’s clothing and even broken instruments from legendary recording sessions. But for most of their career they were seen as disposable items, only now have they become museum pieces.