Published: April 16, 2019
NEW YORK CITY – Rarely seen guitars, bass, drum kits, keys and horns from more than 80 renowned musicians celebrate the unique role of instruments in rock and roll in a new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art running to October 1. “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” is first in many ways: it is the first major exhibition in an art museum dedicated entirely to the iconic instruments of rock and roll, and with it, the Met is launching a new digital tool – called a primer – that provides a fresh and dynamic way for visitors to engage with an exhibition before their visit. The first primer in this new program, which will be offered with many of the museum’s major exhibitions, starts with “Play It Loud” and went live on April 1.
Through more than 130 instruments dating from 1939 to 2017 – played by artists such as Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Don Felder, Kim Gordon, Jimi Hendrix, James Hetfield, Wanda Jackson, Joan Jett, Lady Gaga, Steve Miller, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Kate Pierson, Elvis Presley, Prince, Keith Richards, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, St Vincent, Tina Weymouth, Nancy Wilson and others – the exhibition explores one of the most influential artistic movements of the Twentieth Century and the objects that made the music possible.
Organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, “Play It Loud” is co-organized by Jayson Kerr Dobney, Frederick P. Rose curator in charge of the department of musical instruments at the Met; and Craig J. Inciardi, curator and director of acquisitions of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where the exhibition will go on view in November.
“With its outstanding collection and comprehensive department of musical instruments, the Met has for decades exhibited, celebrated and contextualized the global artistic vision and extraordinary craftsmanship involved in developing musical instruments,” said Max Hollein, director of the Met. “‘Play It Loud’ celebrates a formative chapter in Twentieth Century art and culture, and the extraordinary objects featured in this presentation convey the innovation, experimentation, passion and rebellion at the heart of rock and roll. The exhibition allows us to appreciate the artistry of the instruments as well as their powerful role in the creation and expression of rock’s legendary sound and identity.”
Organized thematically, “Play It Loud” explores how musicians embraced and advanced emerging technologies: the phenomenon of the “Guitar Gods”; the crafting of a visual identity through the use of instruments; and the destruction of instruments in some live performances, one of rock’s most defining gestures. The exhibition will include many of rock’s most celebrated instruments, including such guitars as Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar “Love Drops,” originally decorated by him; Eric Clapton’s “Blackie,” Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstein,” Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf” and Joan Jett’s “Melody Maker,” and drums from Keith Moon’s “Pictures of Lily” drum set. By displaying several rigs used in live performances and sound recordings, the exhibition also demonstrates how artists created their own individual sounds, and some 40 vintage posters, costumes and performance videos will illustrate key components of the musical movement’s visual style and impact.
Additional highlights of the exhibition include Chuck Berry’s electric guitar ES-350T (1957), which was his primary guitar from 1957 until about 1963 and was used to record “Johnny B. Goode”; James Jamerson’s upright bass, which he likely used on many early Motown hits; and Keith Emerson’s keyboard rig, consisting of the customized Moog Modular Synthesizer, electric tone-wheel organ and rotary speaker. The exhibition also includes a sculpture made from what was left of one of Pete Townshend’s electric guitars after he smashed the instrument during a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, published in Rolling Stone as “How to Launch Your Guitar in 17 Steps.”
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Met will offer a variety of programs, including a “Conversations with…” evening featuring art historian and educator Emmanuel von Schack, presented in American Sign Language on May 17; a MetFridays evening celebrating rock and roll with performances, talks, lectures, screenings and workshops on September 13, and a specially themed Heart Strings Family Afternoon on May 12.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue. For information, 212-535-7710 or www.metmuseum.org.
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