‘Exhibitionism’: Rolling Stones bring immersive exhibit to NYC

It’s only rock ’n’ roll history, but we still like it.

The Rolling Stones dug deep into their archives to deliver an immersive, whirlwind tour through their storied, 50-year career. Their first major exhibit, aptly titled “Exhibitionism,” opened this month at a private gallery in New York’s West Village.

Curator Ileen Gallagher, a native New Yorker, said she did not want the exhibition to be organized chronologically because that implies a beginning, middle and end — the band is keen on carrying on.

“There’s no end basically. So we thought the best way to present it, after giving visitors an introduction to the band’s early years, was to organize the rest of the exhibit thematically,” she said in an interview this week with Yahoo News. “It allowed us to create environmental installations in each of the rooms.”

A recreation of a Stones recording studio complete with their original instruments. (Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
A re-creation of a Stones recording studio, complete with their original instruments. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)

For instance, the exhibit’s team re-created a Stones recording studio with their original instruments for the section on recording, built a cinema for the portion on Stones films and formed a bona fide art gallery for the area on art and design, which includes a retrospective of their album covers, posters and set designs.

“This allowed us to move you into different environments as you were experiencing these different themes,” Gallagher said.

Slideshow: Rolling Stones ‘Exhibitionism’ >>>

This journey begins in London with a meticulous re-creation of the grungy flat on Edith Grove where Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones lived in 1962.

An amazing recreation of the Edith Grove flat that Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones shared in 1962. The flat was located just off the King’s Road in London’s Chelsea neighborhood. (Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
A meticulous re-creation of the flat in London’s Chelsea neighborhood that Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones shared in 1962. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)

According to Gallagher, no one had any good photographs of the interior of the flat. So they relied on Jagger, Richards and Charlie Watts’ memories of what it looked and felt like. The scenic designers got the apartment plans from the City of London and used items from that period to re-create it, she said.

“We set the apartment up and showed Mick and it had about 40 more beer bottles and a lot more cigarette butts than it has in it now. He said, ‘We were bad, but we weren’t that bad,’” she laughed.

Though it culminates in a “3D concert experience,” the true gems of the collection are found in-between: more than 500 artifacts, including original instruments, handwritten lyrics, diaries and all sorts of other technology and paraphernalia.

The guitar gallery brings together examples of some of Keith, Ronnie and Mick’s prized instruments. (Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
The guitar gallery brings together some of Keith, Ronnie and Mick’s prized instruments. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)

They assembled a gallery of guitars Richards, Jagger and Ronnie Wood used on celebrated Stones records. Gallagher said her team worked closely with Richards and his guitar tech, Pierre de Beauport, who has extensive knowledge of all the instruments Richards has used. Together, they figured out which guitars would best represent Richards in the exhibition. As for Wood, she said, he still uses the guitars featured in the galley in concert, and there were a few they got back just days before the exhibit opened.

A prominently displayed quote from Jagger welcomes visitors to the style section: “The images you project are really important. Musicians always like to talk that it’s only about the music. It isn’t, of course. It’s about what you wear, what you look like, what your attitudes are — all of these things.”

Gallagher, who ranks the style and art sections among her favorites, said the Stones have always managed to stay current through what they wore and how they were photographed or filmed. In the ’60s, they aligned themselves with artists who were part of that zeitgeist, such as Jean-Luc Godard and Andy Warhol. But in the ’70s and ’80s, they collaborated with popular artists like Jeff Koons and Walton Ford.

The original pieces of work from key collaborators who helped to make the band not just musical but cultural icons are also on show, include Andy Warhol lithographs of Mick Jagger. (Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
The artists who helped make the Stones cultural icons include filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and Andy Warhol, whose lithographs of Mick Jagger are shown above. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)

“I think this creates a very meaningful visual culture around the band that’s part of them,” Gallagher said.

As expected, the Stones-approved exhibit does not delve into the band’s scandals or controversies, public or private, instead keeping the focus on the band’s music, story, style and delivery.

Gallagher described the project as a collaboration with the Stones. Her team sent designs to the band and they provided feedback.

Slideshow: Rolling Stones ‘Exhibitionism’ >>>

“They certainly didn’t micromanage, but we wanted their insight and perspective. Other than that, they really left us to do our job,” she said.

“Exhibitionism” was first staged in London before opening at Industria at 775 Washington Street in New York on Nov. 12. It will run through March 12, 2017.

Exhibitionism is the largest touring experience of its kind ever to be staged, and the first time in history the band has unlocked their vast private archive. Exhibitionism will run in New York through March 12, 2017. (Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
Exhibitionism is the largest touring experience of its kind ever to be staged, and marks the first time in history the band has unlocked their vast private archive. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)