Making it’s debut at the recently renovated Navy Pier, The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism art installation is the pop culture exhibit to see in 2017’s Windy City art world. Three years in the making and fusing design teams from Australia, London and New York, with the full cooperation of Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie, as in Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood, this exhibit is a history lesson chronicling their rise to superstardom. Originally formed back in 1962 London, England, The Rolling Stones are a global phenomenon. Estimated album sales exceed over 250 million, awards won include Grammys, Junos, MTV Video Music Awards, World Music Awards and more. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, this exhibit of over 500 original and rare items are assembled as one amazing archive. This vast private collection is now proudly on display in Chicago for just the next four months. Having already successfully toured London and New York, this exhibit is proving a must see “diamond” in the “crown” that is tourist attraction, Navy Pier. Sprawled over 18,000 square feet, the viewer meanders through a series of rooms, organized in chronological order, with an interactive hand held AV guide serving as an aid during the tour. Offered in four different languages, English, Spanish, French and German, to help accommodate the tourist this band’s global appeal is destined to attract. A new film piece narrated by Oscar Award-winning director Martin Scorsese launches the exhibit, with video snippets introducing many of the iconic Stones’ various live performances.
The Rolling Stones were at the forefront of the British pop music invasion and the counterculture of the 1960’s. Truly original in both sight and sound. While this show is certainly a beloved treasure trove of unique collectibles, the exhibit surprised many with a faithfully recreated, early day apartment. Living in squalor and surrounded by stacks of dirty dishes populated throughout the kitchen, a mountain of cigarette butts in every ash tray and mattresses scattered on the floor certainly didn’t inhibit their initial creative process. Although I must add, the woman in front of me touring the show, grew fidgety, joking her OCD was compelling her to want to wash those dishes. The next gallery featured a restoration of the Stones’ first recording studio, complete with their original instruments on display. Behind glass, Mick’s lyric book of hand written poetry and Keith’s 1963 diary punctuated the immersive exhibit. In total there were over 500 rare objects on display. In the next room, over 190 pieces of original works of art and album covers were featured, including drawings and photographs done by pop culture icons like Andy Warhol, David Bailey, Jeff Koons, Gered Markowitz and many more. The Warhol pieces hung in a gallery by themselves. Turning another corner, the impressive Guitar gallery collection featured a rosewood Fender Telecaster and a Maton Richard’s played on Let It Bleed. Strolling by over a dozen guitars behind glass, this room was an illustrious walk through of rock and roll history. An absolute must see for any fan.
It would be impossible to discuss the Rolling Stones without pointing out lead singer Mick Jagger, a modern day peacock of a front man. A series of over 70 anatomically correct mannequins were adorned in the flamboyant front man’s original jumpsuits, jackets, scarves and an unending array of all the glam and spectacle one could fit in an exhibit. Hewed by an echelon of the world’s top designers, the apparel featured included pieces from Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior, Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent Paris, Alexander McQueen and Gianni Versace. The clothing pieces dated between 1963-2014, a truly priceless collection of innovative costuming, absolutely impossible to replace. Strategically divided into succinct time periods, the viewer first walked into the early King’s Road days, filled with plaid suits and velvet scarves, to the more opulent Glam and Spectacle segments. Highlights for me included the breathtaking L’Wren Scott marabou feather cape from 2012, Mick’s black and lavender 50 & Counting tour beaded butterfly jacket, Charlie Watts crystal-embellished t-shirt with the iconic lips insignia, a Prada 2005 coat with a matching Stephen Jones hat worn during the A Bigger Bang Tour and the Silk Crinkle Cape from the 1997 Sympathy for the Devil and Bridges to BabylonTours. Any fashionista worth their weight will walk away significantly impressed. A true fashion wonderland with pieces from the A Bigger Bang, 50 & Counting, Voodoo Lounge, Steel Wheels and Bridges to Babylon tours that any Alice would be happy to fall through the looking glass for the opportunity to wear.
The final two rooms of the exhibit were off limits to photograph, but were produced to give the viewer the feel they were backstage with Jagger and the boys. Assorted guitars, a make up table and a rack of jackets for quick changes helped to set the stage. This sacred “backstage” area was to give any die-hard fan the feeling they were about to walk the same steps as Jagger and company, moments before taking the stage. Filing into the final room, the exhibit culminated with a “Live” 3D film piece that featured the Stones in their Hyde Park concert appearance, singing “Satisfaction” with each attendee a part of the massive audience turnout. One could almost touch the rainstorm of confetti that punctuated this concert film clip experience.
Created with full support of the band, The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism is a love letter to their masses of fans known the world over. Landing this exhibit in Chicago is truly is a feather in the cap of Rahm and company and truthfully is the must see pop culture exhibit of the year. This iconic band sharing their most treasured items with the world. While their soundtrack of hits included titles like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Beast of Burden,” “Under My Thumb,” and “Get Off My Cloud” the only tune playing through my head at the exhibit’s conclusion was “Satisfaction.” Navy Pier is additionally decorated with a multitude of six foot tall statues of the Stones’ famous lips logo, each painted with a different flag of origin for tourist photos and fun. For now, the British bad boys of rock and roll Exhibitionism display will call Chicago home, and we are all the better for it.
The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism is currently on display at Navy Pier through July 30, 2017