‘Exhibitionism’: an homage to The Rolling Stones (and, just possibly, the best exhibition I’ve ever been to)

Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are my favourite band of all time. Always have been, always will be. So when I heard that the Saatchi Gallery was turning its entire building into a treasure trove dedicated to all things Stones, I knew that I would have to pay it a visit.

‘Exhibitionism’ is formed of nine themed gallery spaces containing 500+ items: original stage costumes, rare musical instruments, lyric books, backstage & touring paraphernalia, album art, photography, stage design, personal diaries and previously unheard/seen audio and behind-the-scenes footage. To call it a comprehensive overview of the band’s history would be doing this exhibition a disservice. I went from being sceptical as to how much new there really was to learn about Mick et al, not to mention slightly resentful at the exorbitant (£25) entrance fee, to being bowled over by what I was seeing & hearing.

Where to start? With the exquisite, decadent, memorable clothes – including the eight different outfits that Mick wears during ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, which he says enable him to take on different personas? Or with the room dedicated in its entirety to the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo – surely one of the most iconic logos of all time? The room about the Stones’ musical collaborators is particularly interesting – these are musicians and singers who can more than hold their own against one of the world’s most successful bands – and the Stones understand that, and acknowledge it. There’s a generous nod, too, to their blues roots, in the form of interviews with the likes of Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters.

I have to say that the room about the staging of the Stones’ legendary concerts is mind-blowing. I had no idea how much detail goes into their design & execution and stood, open-mouthed, in front of the various 3D set designs, drinking in their intricacies. But then, that’s why The Rolling Stones, for me, remain unsurpassed. More than anything, ‘Exhibitionism’ demonstrates how the band marries film, music, art, theatre, video, design and fashion – and how they were the first band to understand how all these elements work together.

As is the Stones’ wont, though, they save the best until last. You leave the exhibition via a 3D performance of ‘Satisfaction’ during which you genuinely believe you are on stage with the band. A rare glimpse into what it’s like to experience the energy & adoration of a packed stadium – and what an addictive feeling it is.

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