Exhibition SmackDown: Rolling Stones vs Bowie

Yesterday afternoon I saw the Rolling Stones’ Exhibitionism at the Saatchi Gallery. As I left the final room of the exhibition, I felt as keyed up and excited as if I had been to a Stones concert. The exhibition was an immersive musical and visual spectacle. I didn’t feel the same way, however, when I left David Bowie at Martin-Gropius-Bau last year. Instead of feeling concert-goer giddiness, I felt more reflective, curious and admiring of Bowie’s music. Herein lies the difference in the exhibitions. The Bowie exhibition, originally curated by the V&A, sought to reveal the significance of David Bowie as a musician and performer by positioning his work within the social, political and economic context of the times. Exhibitionism seeks to bring you deep into the Rolling Stones’ world (there is a full scale reconstruction of their first flat, complete with dirty dishes), and as a consequence, largely removes all external historical context. What you do get, however, is to see Ronnie Wood’s colourfully hand written set lists (which also include the key of each song, as band members tended to forget) and a chance to remix Sympathy for the Devil as part of a gallery interactive. Nothing wrong with that. Woo woo.

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