From guitars to sketches for iconic album artwork, an immersive Pink Floyd retrospective at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum traces the half-century career of the famous British band.
Featuring around 350 objects including instruments, musical scores and album covers, the show is the “biggest exhibition ever” about the group, curator Victoria Broackes told AFP.
The Pink Floyd, Their Mortal Remains retrospective, running from May 13 to Oct 1, has been timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the band’s album: The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.
It was 1967 and the world was awakening to the progressive rock created by the foursome: Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason and Syd Barrett, who was replaced in 1968 by David Gilmour.
The band’s early days form the first part of the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, taking in the scene of the British capital in the 60s.
On the wall of a room illuminated by psychedelic colours and patterns, visitors can see a poster advertising a Pink Floyd gig at the UFO club, a short-lived underground music venue.
“We were living the hippy life, experimenting with LSD, we were smoking cannabis, reading Kerouac,” said Aubrey “Po” Powell, the band’s creative director who helped visualise the exhibition.
“They were playing whatever, call it an amateurish way, but in a very English way, a very eccentric way … they were the darlings of the London underground scene,” Powell told AFP, recalling Pink Floyd playing at the UFO club.
“I never envisioned for one minute that 50 years later, we’d be having an exhibition here.”
The early years were also marked by the erratic behaviour of Barrett, with his sensitive personality, fragile health and drug-taking, which combined did not respond well to Pink Floyd’s growing popularity.
Included in the exhibition is a 1967 letter from the BBC, demanding the band explain his “unexplained” disappearance while recording a programme.
Thought up as an “immersive” and “multi-sensorial” experience, the exhibition allows visitors to don headphones with music and audio which changes as they walk through different rooms.
Passing through a room dedicated to the 1975 album Wish You Were Here, the headphones switch between interviews by Waters and Gilmour explaining how they came up with the song.
The track is one of the group’s most celebrated and was written as a tribute to their former bandmate Barrett.
“(It’s a) very simple sort of country song. Still, because of its resonance and the emotional weight it carries, it’s one of our best songs,” said Gilmour.
A centrepiece of the exhibition is a huge installation dedicated to Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall, over which hangs the terrifying schoolmaster who terrorised children in the band’s celebrated rock opera.
Last but not least
The exhibition concludes in a vast room dedicated to the band’s last concerts as a full line-up, in 2005, with 25 speakers giving visitors the feeling they are at the heart of the show.
The Pink Floyd exhibition follows the Victoria and Albert Museum’s hugely successful 2013 show dedicated to David Bowie, which embarked on a global tour and has been seen by 1.8 million people. – AFP