Review: Rolling Stones Exhibition Gives Us Plenty Of Satisfaction

Exhibitionism, Saatchi Gallery ★★★★☆

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 17 months ago
Review: Rolling Stones Exhibition Gives Us Plenty Of Satisfaction Exhibitionism, Saatchi Gallery 4
Image by Helmut Newton

Milk turns to cheese in bottles. Stacks of mouldy dishes teeter in the sink. Someone's formed a modest-sized hill out of smoked cigarettes on their bedside table. It's as if Mick and Keef have extended a grubby paw apiece, and pulled us into their seedy world: welcome to Edith Grove, circa 1962.

In their Edith Grove days the band were 'too busy' to do the chores

The idea of Exhibitionism — the new Rolling Stones blockbuster strewn over the whole of the Saatchi Gallery — is to give you the full-on rock n roll experience. It pays off, too.

Aside from the lifesize mock-up of the band's fetid Chelsea flat (recreated from the Stones' collective memory, as they never bothered to take a photo), you get to mix your own Stones track in a mock-up studio, and even hang out backstage before stepping into the 'crowd' and witnessing a stadium show in 3D.

Ronnie Wood creates a huge hand-written set list for each gig

But it's not all in-your-face immersiveness; a trove of smaller, personal gimcrack is on display; in notes scribbled down by the boys for their fan club, Keef states his eye colour is 'brown and bloodshot' while Brian Jones claims his taste in music is 'very Catholic', 'explaining further "I hate brass bands".

The holy grail for many here will be the sacristy of guitars — some hand painted during spells in jail, some with snapped necks, others still strummed by the boys to this day. To think these very inanimate objects have made you shuffle awkwardly on a dance floor or do an impromptu headbanging session on the way to work is more than a little humbling.

A mock-up studio, based in part on Olympic Studios in London, where the Stones often recorded

The Stones have always been much more than their music. In one section, John Pasche describes how Mick Jagger came to him with the idea for a logo based on the Hindu god Kali, and they ended up with the famous lips and tongue logo — now the unofficial symbol of rock 'n' roll.

Elsewhere, Martin Scorsese hails the band's endless ability to look as interesting as they sound, and we're bowled over to learn that none other than Delia Smith baked the cake that features on the cover of Let It Bleed. Is there anyone who hasn't worked with the Stones?

A huge, colour-changing tongue, and why not

When money is no object, you can afford to realise some pretty outlandish ideas. Things admittedly get a bit Spinal Tap with some of the later concepts — take Jagger's plan for a million dollar cantilevered walkway for the Bridges to Babylon tour. Whether or not you think that kind of thing is grandiloquence with an extra topping of cheese, you have to admire the sheer ambition of it.

One of the stranger displays: getup as worn by Charlie Watts for the cover of Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! We don't think it's the original donkey

That the show is sanctioned by Mick et al largely works in the show's favour. They've donated generously with instruments and clothes (Keith claims his wardrobe has been raided for the cause) turning Exhibitionism into a museum with a heartbeat (some might say that's what the band is too).  

Designs for the Bridges to Babylon tour

The only down side to the Stones' involvement is that they haven't exactly laid their cards on the table, and the wackier antics of the band (say, Keef snorting his dad, their tax-evading exploits in France, or the many many things they got up to with female fans) are somewhat brushed under the carpet. For a show that oozes rock and roll, there's scant sex and drugs.  

Although seeing as they're selling family tickets for this show, maybe it's for the best.

Exhibitionism is on at Saatchi Gallery, Duke Of York's HQ, King's Road, SW3 4RY, from 5 April-4 September. Tickets £19-£21 (adults), £12-£15 (children)+ booking fee. For more details and to book visit the website.

Last Updated 06 April 2016