The touring exhibition Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones has just opened in Sydney's International Convention Centre and offers an immersive experience, with 3D cinema, faithfully recreated band spaces and innovative remix games.
Containing more than 500 rare items relating to the band, Exhibitionism covers every step of the legendary group’s journey from a now laughable incarnation as a besuited, squeaky clean boy band to the disreputable stadia-filling rock beast they soon morphed into.
It contains lovingly detailed recreations of the group’s early living quarters, all cigarette-stained squalor and machismo, and progresses through to a detailed, life-size model of the backstage areas which acts as a kind of sanctuary in the adrenaline-fuelled moments before a show.
— ICC Sydney (@ICCSyd) November 16, 2018
Exhibition covers the band’s work with fashion designers and film directors
Several years and a string of seminal blues-rock records later, the band was comfortably one of the biggest live bands that had ever existed and their elaborate, grandiose live stages are reproduced to scale here. The line between rock band and This is Spinal Tap! style self-parody becomes thin, but the Stones were always an act to embrace the ridiculous and the self-mythologising.
As well as displays elevating Keith Richards’ guitars to the status of objets d’art, there are scores of iconic photographs of the group and a fascinating gallery of their outfits which show the band in all its strutting, dandyish glory. Ossie Clark’s skintight sequin jumpsuits for Jagger and an Alexander McQueen designed silk coat are among the sartorial highlights.
The fashion gallery hints at the group’s collaborative nature and ability to inspire creatives of all stripes, a theme expanded upon in a video interview with Hollywood icon Martin Scorsese, who discusses how he has often used the band’s songs in his work. To the young Scorsese, the Stones were thrilling and aspirational, conveying a sense of menace and danger that informed his film-making.
Snapshots of rock and roll history on offer at Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones
Rock historian Glenn A. Baker was on hand for a preview of the exhibition and told The CEO Magazine his favourite part of the exhibit is the recreation of the Olympic Studios. It’s a fitting inclusion as you couldn’t tell the story of rock music without this place; along with the Stones, The Beatles, Morrissey, Björk, Prince and Brian Eno, among many more, all cut records there.
Elsewhere, there are reproductions of the setlists guitarist Ronnie Wood faithfully records at every practice session. While the other band members initially ridiculed Wood as a nerd for carefully logging each rehearsal, they later came to appreciate the comprehensive record of the group’s behind the scenes activity he built up.
The exhibition is also very much a hands-on affair, with visitors able to try their hand at remixing a Stones classic and being immersed in a 3D cinema room for a rousing take on ‘Satisfaction’ at the exhibition’s end. In the latter space, you look around a sprawling crowd (and dodge a still sprightly Mick Jagger lunging and thrusting) and see people of all generations singing along and in some cases moved to tears by the occasion. By then, the full extent of this remarkable band’s cultural impact becomes abundantly clear.
Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones is open until 3 February 2019