The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains. V & A Museum, London (until 1 Oct 2017)
Pink Floyd were formed in 1965 and have made 15 studio albums including era defining records such as Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. But where do you start with a band like Floyd? They were never the stereo-typical rock stars leading a life of total hedonism and no one was ever interested in their girlfriends. Pink Floyd were always about the music and quite sensibly the V & A have curated the exhibition around their tremendous back catalogue.
This exhibition celebrates 50 years of their music and takes you on a chronological tour beginning in 1967 with their first album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Pink Floyd were pioneers of psychedelic/space rock and were one of the first bands to put on elaborate light shows. This is very much a multi-media exhibition where you can enjoy the music using headsets (included in the admission price). As I move from one zone to another, the headset automatically switches to the next album. There are a considerable number of artefacts including musical instruments, posters, album cover artwork and stage props, backed by many videos of the band performing along with interviews.
The album covers are works of art in their own right. Dark Side of the Moon’s famous prism being one of the most recognisable album covers in music history. All albums before Animals (1977), were designed by their old school friend Storm Thorgerson of the Hipgnosis art group. There are plenty of giant blow ups of the covers together with initial design drawings for those interested in album art.
This is a vast display which will take a couple of hours to navigate if you want to see everything and watch all of the videos. Pink Floyd undertook 12 major tours between 1968 and 1994 which themselves were ground-breaking in terms of theatrical performances. Many props and stage designs are included in the exhibition including a lot of material around the Animals album. This was launched by flying a large inflatable pig over Battersea Power station. The inflatable broke adrift from its moorings and potentially was a major threat to aircraft until it eventually ended up in a field in Kent.
As we enter each era there are telephone boxes which contain newspaper cuttings, leaflets and other ephemera from the period when the album was released. This helps set the scene and remind one of the political and social environment when the album was released. The exhibition is an immersive experience which is not like a typical museum event. The music is all around you, together with intense visually imagery of the band performing with their elaborate special effects.
At the end of the exhibition there is a large Performance Zone where you can sit on the floor and watch Pink Floyd concerts on huge video screens. And of course there is a special Pink Floyd shop on site selling vast amounts of merchandise including CDs, vinyl albums, T-shirts, posters and postcards. The official catalogue of the exhibition will set you back £25 for the softback or £35 hardback. The layout was excellent and had 10 distinctive zones.
I have never seen Pink Floyd play live but I think this exhibition is probably the next best thing to seeing them perform. It must have been a huge task to have curated this exhibition, pulling together so many artefacts and then co-ordinating the music and videos. If you are Floyd fan then this is a truly memorable experience and worthy of a 10/10 rating. If you are not convinced about the music, the exhibition itself is still a very worthwhile audio-visual experience.
Tickets cost £20 – £24 depending on the time and day you wish to visit. Exhibition runs until 1 October 2017 and more info is available here. Entry to the rest of the museum is free. Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London (nearest tube South Kensington) open daily 1000 – 1730 (Friday 1000 – 2130)