Sunday, August 28th 2016 – Saatchi Gallery, London
Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones at the Saatchi Gallery proved to be a surprisingly worthwhile investment of £25.00 each. We initially felt that was a bit steep for gallery entry, but actually, unlike a lot of specially mounted exhibitions we have been to it was a very enjoyable and not at all growl inducing experience, with good access to all the exhibits. I wonder if they had done what I’ve wanted museums and the like to do for years which is to let fewer people in for each session and – if necessary – charge more as a result, but whatever you do make damn sure the paying public can actually see the exhibits without either having to wait patiently for 10 minutes to get close enough to see what’s in the case or risk an elbow in the face from everyone pushing and shoving, This was a complete pleasure from the minute we got there.
Room 1 of 9 presents you with a number of statistics around the Stones career to date, with an interactive display showing how many gigs each year they played, how many countries that they played over the years, how many people actually saw them play and so on, for example I now know that they only played 1 country for the first three years of their musical existence, and it took them until very late on to finally make it to Japan.
We moved on through a series of rooms including a mock-up of the flat in Edith Grove that they lived in in the early 1960s, a truly gross mess but not perhaps surprising for 4 young men in one small flat with other things on their minds that cleaning up. A mock-up of a recording studio and a display of many of the guitars and other instruments used was intriguing, but the highlights for me were the art (often for album covers and such) by other artists including the black and white work of Helmut Newton, and a number of Andy Warhol pieces, including some beautifully executed pencil drawings that were so minimal but so evocative that I was stunned by them. I’m not that up to speed on Warhol and was not aware of some of his simpler drawing work. Everyone knows the coloured versions, but I’d not seen the plain black lines on white versions and I could have quite happily hauled one of them home and hung it on the wall, were it not for the fact that I think someone might notice and probably quite quickly.
Other items of interest – and there were lots – included Keith Richards’ very tiny diaries, and the set lists illustrated by Ronnie Wood with “assistance” from Keith, along with letters to all sorts of people. Towards the end, after overviews of various films about the group, and more art work, came three sections of costumes, starting with some of the earliest 1960s suits and jackets, and working right through. There are some magnificent pieces which left me wondering how anyone could perform in them without collapsing from exhaustion about 30 minutes in, even in an out-door arena! There are also some horrors, chief among them a “tartan” suit that belonged to Charlie Watts and is a long way from subtle. It was apparently “one of (his) few faux pas”.
After the costumes it was on to film of various musicians who have collaborated with the band over the years, and then into a reconstruction of the backstage area at a show, before we were all ushered into a final room where we were treated to a very effective 3D film of the band tearing through Satisfaction in fine form at a massive gig presumably somewhere in the USA. We’d been in the exhibition for over two hours which proves how absorbing it is so all in all it was £25 well spent (and a further £30 for the exhibition catalogue – the paperback version as the hardback was an optimistic £70).
There’s around a week left to run in London before the whole shebang is moved to New York for a season, starting in November. Catch it if you are at all interested in the band. It’ll be worth the effort! And let’s face it it’s not often you’ll find yourself singing when you leave an art gallery.