“You Say You Want a Revolution?”

If you didn’t go to the new V&A exhibition yet, don’t waste more time and go to visit it until the 26th of February. It is more than worthy!
Exploring all the themes which characterized the Revolution of the late 1960s, the exhibition brings you into an extraordinary world of music, beliefs, colors, fashion styles, social and political activism that make you entirely feel part of that generation of great changes, even if you weren’t there at the time.

Until 26 February 2017


“You Say You Want a Revolution: Record and Rebels 1966-1970”, the latest exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, perfectly recreates the process of ideological transformations initiated by 60s youth fighting against Western world’s traditional values. What you experience is a multidimensional art itinerary through the time that shaped our way of living, involving music, posters, design, LP collections, original fashion outfits, projected videos and films. At the entrance, visitors are given headphones that accompany them throughout the whole exhibition, automatically changing songs according to the room they are visiting. From I Can’t Get No by The Rolling Stones to Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction, The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel to Daydream by Lovin’ Spoonful, you pass through the years of “Youthquake” listening to the music that drives this period.

The Rolling Stones, Terry O’Neill, V&A, 2016-2017 ©timeout.com

Imagine…” is the evocative incipit of the contextualizing description of different rooms, introducing visitors into the cultural changes that have transformed people’s common beliefs until today; we are invited to imagine a time in which established social structures, such as capitalism, imperialism, racism, are totally reversed by the works of artists, which express their strong commitment for a free, peaceful and revolutionary world. Accordingly, the exhibition concludes on the tune of Imagine by John Lennon that leaves open the question on how contemporary society still has to deal with radical changes for a global peace.

The plenty of interesting objects and information that fills the exhibit rooms makes your journey into the 1960s incredibly vivid, engaging, and also very intensive. So I strongly recommend to not bring with you heavy bags or to be running out of time as the experience requires at least one hour to be fully appreciated. Actually, I haven’t been so lucky as when I went to visit it, the rooms were very crowed and sometimes I had to wait in a short queue to see certain artworks; I spent there nearly 2 hours, but they really worth it.

Dedicate this hour to enjoy a striking adventure through time. Let yourself be captured by the magic of the Grain of Sand, combining psychedelic images of popular culture, religions, race and sexuality with traditional painting techniques. Lost yourself through the era of “London swigging”, when Mayfair was filled by the colors of street style clothing, new boutiques, and by Twiggy’s boyish haircut and heavy eye-lashes. Give in to the voice of rock music’s pioneers, reading George Harrison’s messy handwriting when he wrote the lyrics of Taxman, seeing the pictures of the 1968 Indian meditation travel of The Beatles, and, then, immediately recognizing the extravagant tour jumpsuit of Mick Jagger.

Fashion Mannequins, You Say You Want a Revolution, V&A, 2016-2017 ©cityam.com

Take some time to discover the fusion between art and music of the sixties, when the Manifesto “Fluxus” aimed to create an international community of artists bringing to the opening of the popular Indica Gallery, where John Lennon met Yoko Ono for the first time in 1966. Explore the experimental art space also through photography that, as expression of young counter-culture, documents new styles and celebrities. Surrounded by the sound of Jimmy Hendrix’s electric guitar, let yourself be “inebriated” by the psychedelic stores selling music, clothing and drug-related paraphernalia.

Photographs of Christine Keeler by Lewis Morley, V&A, 2016-2017 ©musemagazine.it

Look at the historical transaction from mainstream media, newspapers, TV, radio, controlled by Western corporations, to new inspiring, colorful and eye-catching posters. Participate into political activism and social solidarity, meeting Angela Davis and the Black Panthers, supporting feminist waves and gay liberation, fighting alongside Martin Luther King for human rights equality and, in May ’68, occupying Paris’ universities with counter-culture students against capitalism and the Vietnam war. Then investigate the controversies of an era where the baby-boom and the economic expansion highlight the significance of advertising and consumerism.

Black Panther Party logo ©pinterest.com

And finally, you can rest yourself, laying on green pillows over a grass-like-floor, and imagine to be a free-spirited hippie immersed in the nature among a huge crowd, enjoying the bucolic atmosphere, full of music, colors and hope at the 69’ Woodstock festival.

Echoing a sense of nostalgia for the heated 1960s through their enchanting artistic connotations, “You Say You Want a Revolution: Record and Rebel s1966-1970” is an unmissable experience.

Should I go?

Absolutely unmissable!

Rating: 10/10 (considering variety of exhibit objects; rooms design; accompanying historical information and contexts; crowding; price; enjoyment)
Cost: £16 or £12 if you are a student.

Terminated the tour, I suggest you to have a look at the gallery’s bookshop and absolutely buy the book of the exhibition (here you can check the link on Amazon); it is a 320-pages-book (not particularly cheap, it costs £26 in hardcover) in which you can go through all the exhibit objects with more information, including historical introductions, critical views on the 60s counter-culture, substantial descriptions of artworks, and biographical presentations of the artists.


You Say You Want a Revolution: Record and Rebels 1966-1970 by Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, 2016



“South Africa: the art of a nation”

The British Museum hosts an exhibition all dedicated to South Africa, exploring the art of this nation from 100,000 years ago to the present-day.
Even if you are not an amateur of African artworks, I really suggest you to visit this varied and thoughtful exhibition not only for its artistic relevance but especially for the historical, social and political issues raised from the collection.

Until 26 February 2017


The Creation of the Sun, 2015

When I go to visit an exhibition, I usually expect either to please my personal taste of art and beauty or to satisfy curiosity towards something that I don’t know very well. Though I have never been fascinated by the “tribal” art style of South Africa, I found the new collection hosted by the British Museum inspiring and particularly enriching. The well-designed and cosy rooms completely immersed me in a good reproduction of the long historical process that has shaped different artistic connotations within South Africa. As I am not an expert of the African culture, I could acquire accurate notions that I used to study at the high school, refreshing my memory on how the European Imperialism and the apartheid legislation influenced the national art production.

In a mixture of rock painting, wood engraving and sculpture, textile decoration, photography, and other incredible objects, the collection juxtaposes historic and contemporary artworks. Despite common beliefs, as the professor John Picton underlines in his review of the exhibition, South Africans have been producing art much longer than any other population around the world, going back to millions of years ago: the oldest exposed object is the three-million-year-old Makapansgat Pebble. From ancient times in fact, their traditional art has been developed through different aesthetic criteria.


The Makapansgat Pebble, Ca. 3,000,000 BP

Some figurative wood sculpture, backdated around 30,000 years ago, perfectly reflect the way South African artists gave meaningful association to the human body, highlighting for instance female breast to symbolize fertility and prosperity. They gave extreme importance to the body, even producing objects marked by bodily features. However, with the beginning of colonialism in the country by the Dutch in 1652 and later by the British during 1800s, many of these objects were destroyed as considered expression of “exoticism” by the new settled governments. In the late 1800s then, European references emerged in the art of this colony. In fact, as we can see within the exhibition showcases, to produce wood headrests, extremely meaningful for the combination of functional and spiritual values in the traditional South African artworks, sculptors incorporate European symbols such as their sophisticated weapons.

Emphasizing how African artists reacted against Western political control over the nation, the collection presents pieces of contemporary artists describing the impact of colonization. The canvas Pantomime Act Trilogy (1999) by Johannes Phokena, referring to the 1599 Allegory on the Equality of all Mankind in Death, portrays a crucified black child carrying a firearm with a red comic relief nose. This artist indeed is popular for his reworked operas from 1600s, aiming to represent the controversies of the European settlement. Another crucial event in history, artistically analyzed through the “South Africa: the art of a nation”, is Apartheid (1948-1991). A whole room is dedicated to the so-called “resistance art” gathering artists that attempted to challenge the brutality of racial segregation and discrimination. The 1975 A South African Colouring Book is a collection of prints of Gavin Jantjes that condemns the laws of apartheid by using the ironic concept of whites “colouring in” black people.


Pantomime Act Trilogy, Johannes Phoeka, 1999

Then moving to the last room, the exhibition concludes with the “period of transformations”, started from the dismantlement of apartheid in 1991, that celebrates the “unity of diversity” within South Africa. However, this social and cultural renaissance, still existing today, is not free from obstacles, but it has to face struggling issues like the diffusion of AIDS and the political contrasts. Art became then a significant expression of the “dark side” of changes, such as the diffusion of AIDS and the political contrasts. In her 2013 A Reversed Retrogress, the South African artist Mary Sibande reproduces two mannequins of herself, one wearing a Victorian dress and the other as a purple octopus. The first one represents the apartheid era in which her grandmother worked as a maid for a white family and the second one referring to the 1989 “purple rain protest” reflects the empowered black women. Raising questions about the future of her country, the artist contrasts a historical time that records repressive policy against black people, where the majority of black women were exploited as housemaids, with a new struggling period where they are empowered and called to fight for their nation.


A Reversed Retrogress, Mary Sibande, 2013

The new British Museum exhibition is a short journey through long historical steps that characterize the South African artistic culture. In no more than 30 minutes, visitors can enrich their knowledge on over 100,000 years of history, deeply immersed in a dynamic and diversified itinerary of art.

Should I go?

I suggest you to not lose this surprising experience, even if, as me, you are not usually attracted by the African art movements.

Rating: 7/10 (considering variety of exhibit objects; rooms design; accompanying historical information and contexts; crowding; price; enjoyment)
Cost: £12 or £9 if you are a student.