A guitar painted by Keith Richards will go on display for the first time in The Rolling Stones – Unzipped at the Groninger Museum. This exciting exhibition makes clear that the Stones are about more than just music. From rare instruments, audiovisual footage and album covers to personal possessions, stage designs and fashion, Unzipped has it all. The exhibition opens at the Groninger Museum – its final location ever – on Friday 30 June. After stops in London, Sydney, the United States and Asia, the tour ends in Groningen.
The handpainted Gibson Les Paul is a new addition to the show. Richards decided to decorate the guitar in 1967 or 1968 out of boredom while waiting to serve a prison sentence. After painting his shoes, he moved on to his white boots, and finally his guitar. Richards can frequently be seen playing the instrument in the Jean-Luc Godard film Sympathy for the Devil (1968). This iconic guitar now takes its well-deserved place in the exhibition.
Hilfiger, Clark, Warhol: designers for the Stones
The Stones have always understood the power of fashion, photography, film, art direction and stage design. Artists, filmmakers and fashion designers have played a significant part in building the band's image. According to creative collaborators like the fashion designers Anna Sui and Tommy Hilfiger, however, the Stones refused to be designed. They designed themselves, and the task of the artists and designers they hired was to finish the job.
A striking outfit worn by Mick Jagger on a 1969 US tour illustrates this. A black T-shirt with an omega on it, sourced by the singer, is combined with a red cape. The cape was created by the designer Ossie Clark, who worked with Jagger beginning in the late 1960s. It’s the most significant, trendsetting garment in the exhibition.
The Stones also sought out famous figures such as Andy Warhol for creative collaboration. The artist designed covers for their 1971 album Sticky Fingers and 1977’s Love You Live. The Sticky Fingers cover depicts a pair of jeans and features a real zipper. ”I immediately loved Warhol’s design,” Mick Jagger told a Dutch magazine. “Of course, Andy was a commercial illustrator before becoming an artist. So he knew all about how to package things.’’
A standout exhibit in Unzipped is a diary Keith Richards kept for a year beginning in January 1963. Part of the guitarist's private collection, it provides insight into his thoughts at the time. Richards wrote about rehearsals, concerts, audience numbers, whether the band had played well and how much they had earned. The diary contains a wide range of anecdotes. For instance, on 14 February 1963, Richards proudly wrote that the recording engineer Glyn Johns was planning to smuggle the Stones into a studio a week later with the aim of selling a song to Decca Records.
Dirty dishes; grimy beds full of litter; leftover food and cigarette butts everywhere. The flat the Rolling Stones shared in London’s Edith Grove wasn't a pretty sight. ‘’You didn't go in the kitchen,” Keith Richards recalled. “It was even worse than the bathroom. It was a pigsty.’’ The young musicians’ home has been reconstructed for the exhibition as a reminder of their origins and the context in which they made music. Visitors will feel as if they've stepped back into the Stones’ 1960s world.
John Pasche’s tongue and lips may be the most famous – and greatest – band logo in the world. Designed for £50 in 1970, it’s of incalculable value today. It appears on a wide range of merchandise and can be seen in a range of places in and around the Groninger Museum during the show.
The first international exhibition by and about the Rolling Stones pulls back the curtain and takes visitors on a trip through the rock band’s history and incredible career. The show features more than 400 original objects from the Stones’ personal archive, including instruments, stage designs, album covers, iconic costumes, and rare audio and video material. A drum kit played by the late Charlie Watts, who died in 2021, will also be on display. Other highlights include a reconstruction of the band’s studio and a spectacular Dolby Atmos experience at the end of the exhibition. Visitors get to experience the Stones live on stage, close up, in a 2016 concert in Cuba.
Image : Gibson Les Paul Custom, 1957, painted by Keith Richards
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