For over five decades, the Rolling Stones have continually reinvented themselves as musicians, performers and cultural icons, transforming music, art, fashion and popular culture in the process. This incredible legacy is explored in “Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones,” a major exhibition opened at New York’s Industria Superstudio after a blockbuster run in London. The designers collaborated on the exhibition with producers Tony Cochrane and Thea Jeanes-Cochrane of iEC and curator Ileen Gallagher.
The exhibition is the most comprehensive and immersive insight to date into the career of the legendary group that has been called “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.” The designers worked closely with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts. Synthesizing environments, objects, media and sound, the designers have created a dramatic experience that captures the revolutionary spirit of the Stones. “Exhibitionism” is the largest touring experience of this kind to be staged by a band or artist and continues the band’s tradition of groundbreaking innovation combined with superior production values.
The exhibition presents an engaging narrative journey through the band’s 50-year career, told through a series of thematic installations. Visitors are immersed in the brand’s story through visceral experiences that include, among others, a recreation of their infamous first apartment on Edith Grove in Chelsea; a gallery that gives insights into the recording process, highlighting the studio environments where the Stones have worked and inviting guests to experiment with the band’s back catalogue; and a gallery that delivers a sense of the band’s incredible stage presence.
“Working closely with the band and curator Ileen Gallagher, we approached the space as if it were a set list for a concert, viewing it as a performance rather than an exhibition,” explains one of the two lead designers, William Russell. “There is a range of tempos, sensations, and emotions that build into one orchestrated experience: it is tactile, authentic, glamorous, messy and suffused with the sounds and images of the band.”
Weighing in, the other lead designer Abbott Miller, says, “The exhibition’s arrangement by theme allowed us to give each room its own design aesthetic: some are loud, others calm; some are bright, others dark; and some are dense with objects, while others are very singular. These deliberate shifts in mood are unified by the voices of the band. We wanted them to be the narrators of their own story, so their quotes and voices are everywhere.”
The exhibition embraces all aspects of art and design, sound, film, video, fashion and performance, encompassing more than 500 important and original artifacts from the band’s personal archives. Items from all phases of the band’s career are highlighted, including rare guitars and instruments, iconic costumes, rare audio tracks and unseen video clips; original posters and album cover artwork; stage and set designs; and sequences from films and videos. The Stones offer an intimate narrative in unique audio and video sources produced for the show.
Over the years, the Stones have worked with many musicians, producers, stage designers, clothing designers, filmmakers and other creative collaborators to realize their vision. This tradition continued with the exhibition, which in addition to Pentagram, Gallagher and the producers brought together the video and production designers FRAY studio (Finn Ross and Adam Young); the longstanding Rolling Stones lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe, his partner Adam Bassett and their team at Woodroffe Bassett Studio; the milliner Stephen Jones, who created unique head pieces for the mannequins; the filmmakers Sam Pattinson and Paul Dugdale and their teams; and Robin Brown and the scenic team at Paragon for the recreation of Edith Grove.
The immersive experience of Exhibitionism is mirrored in the accompanying book designed by Miller and his team. The beautifully produced volume documents the materials in the show, providing an in-depth look at the band and its impact. A series of portfolios showcase instruments, clothing, original art and sources from the development of the band’s album covers, and documentation of stage designs for tours.
With runs in both the UK and the US, the exhibition has been a tremendous success. It has received record numbers of visitors, as well as significant attention from major media outlets, including Creative Review, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.
Abbott Miller (partner in charge), William Russell (partner in charge), Sarah Adams (designer), Tiziana Falchi (designer), Jesse Kidwell (designer), Yoon-Young Chai (designer)
17,000 sq ft
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones; Tony Cochrane and Thea Jeanes-Cochrane (producers); Ileen Gallagher (curator)
Finn Ross and Adam Young of FRAY Studio (video and production design), Patrick Woodroffe and Adam Bassett and team at Woodroffe Bassett Studio (lighting design), Stephen Jones (milliner), Robin Brown and the Scenic Team at Paragon (set design), Benchworks (fabrication)