Magazine article The New Yorker

Memory Motel

Magazine article The New Yorker

Memory Motel

Article excerpt

Memory Motel

It is certainly possible to view "Exhibitionism," the travelling show of Rolling Stones artifacts, costumes, and memorabilia which recently opened in the West Village, as yet another attempt by the group--whose most famous song is a stinging critique of consumerism--to wring every last dollar out of that big, lascivious tongue. (Tickets are thirty-five fifty; V.I.P. treatment is seventy-six fifty.) But for the true Stones fan "Exhibitionism" also gives satisfaction, and a good deal of it comes from the immersive environments created by the show's curator, Ileen Gallagher.

A few days before the show opened, Gallagher, wearing a leather motorcycle jacket, was wandering through the event space looking for somewhere to sit.

"I know just the place!" she declared. Seventeen thousand square feet have been given over to "Exhibitionism," which began at the Saatchi Gallery, in London, and will remain in New York until March. The idea was to create real-seeming historical rooms in which artifacts from the Rolling Stones' archives could be "situated," and to employ state-of-the-art sound, video, and set design to heighten the experience. The result is something between Madame Tussauds and Tracey Emin's bed.

Here is Olympic Studios, where "Sympathy for the Devil" was created--Gallagher based the room on the film that Jean-Luc Godard made of the sessions. Here is the backstage area, where guitars are racked in the order in which they will be needed that night, and a stage manager's tense voice is saying, over the intercom, "House lights down in five, four, three . . ." Geeky? Perhaps. Sneakily thrilling? Fasho.

Gallagher turned a corner and arrived at her re-creation of 102 Edith Grove, the one-bedroom flat in Chelsea where Keith, Mick, and Brian all lived together, with sleepovers from Charlie, for thirteen months beginning in the late summer of 1962.

Gallagher, who was born and grew up in Stuyvesant Town, has been a Stones fan since the early seventies. Finding the spot she was looking for, she perched on a couch in the Stones' old sitting room. A 1958 Muddy Waters album sat on the table in front of her; there were beer bottles, and an ashtray brimming with butts.

She explained that she had honed her skills in the museumification of rock history as the director of exhibitions at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, during the nineties. …

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