The Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism at Saatchi Gallery
Pardon the journalistic equivalent of an open goal, but this new event at the Saatchi Gallery will certainly provide some satisfaction to both hardened experts and relative newcomers to the phenomenon known as the Rolling Stones. Exhibitionism is being touted as the first-ever touring exhibition devoted to the Stones, and it clearly benefits from the involvement of all four of the current line-up, who are quoted on the walls throughout the various galleries along with a coterie of big names such as Andy Warhol, Martin Scorsese and more.
The structure of Exhibitionism has been scrupulously thought out in an ironic contrast to its anti-authoritarian subjects. The journey starts with a massive curved screen featuring a kaleidoscopic selection of archival footage that does well to bring novices up to speed, before heading to a recreation of the flat Edith Grove that the original members cohabited in before their success – it was certainly a less Olympian point in the boys’ timeline judging from the squalor and mess on display. What follows are galleries focused on the recording process, obscure paraphernalia, costumes (from Alexander McQueen and JP Gaultier amongst others), spectacular stages, film and video appearances and a collection of visual artwork such as album covers and promotional photographs by the likes of Jeff Koons, Shepard Fairey and of course John Pasche’s Tongue and Lip design. This all culminates in an exhilarating 3D live recording of Satisfaction immersing viewers into the chaotic maelstrom of Stones gigs.
Exhibitionism does not lack for content. It’s well-stocked for collector’s items: there’s a great deal of vinyl discs, vintage guitars and scrawled notes that are aimed more for the anal retentive side of fandom; fortunately a good chunk of the exhibition has a more analytical feel to it and aims to capture just why the Rolling Stones have remained so culturally significant. The archive of video and still imagery highlights how the potent love affair that both artists and the mainstream media have had for the seductive and impulsive image which, as an excellent video montage in gallery five shows, despite the increasing cragginess of their features, has remained almost unchanged giving the band a somewhat ageless appeal across the globe.
Yet there always exists the possibility that the Stones’ music is lightweight and their image is less than what meets the eye – sound and fury signifying nothing. One amusing Jagger anecdote reveals that a famous photograph in which he is handcuffed was misinterpreted: he wasn’t hiding his face, he was actually trying to wave. So while Exhibitionism presents an uneven mixture of trivial and profound material, it also feels very true to the charming contradictions of the band’s identity, as exemplified in the concluding live footage, where a bemused Keith Richards grins as he hits out a solo to the adulation of the enormous crowd. They’re riding on the crest of a tsunami with still no shoreline in sight.
The Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism is at the Saatchi Gallery from 5th April until 4th September 2016. Book your tickets here.
Listen to The Rolling Stones explaining the important of this exhibition: