“Play it Out Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll”
April 8–October 1, 2019
The Met Fifth Avenue
Floor 1, Gallery 199
New York City
“Instruments are some of the most personal objects connected to musicians, but as audience members we are primarily used to seeing them from far away, up on a stage in performance. This exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to examine some of rock and roll’s most iconic objects up close.” -Jayson Kerr Dobney, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge of the Department of Musical Instruments.
The first major exhibition in an art museum dedicated entirely to the iconic instruments of rock and roll will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning April 8, 2019. Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll will explore one of the most influential artistic movements of the 20th century and the objects that made the music possible.
Through more than 130 instruments dating from 1939 to 2017—played by artists such as Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Don Felder, Kim Gordon, Jimi Hendrix, James Hetfield, Wanda Jackson, Joan Jett, Lady Gaga, Steve Miller, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Kate Pierson, Elvis Presley, Prince, Keith Richards, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Eddie Van Halen, St. Vincent, Tina Weymouth, Nancy Wilson, and others.
Organized thematically, Play It Loud will explore how musicians embraced and advanced emerging technologies; the phenomenon of the “Guitar Gods;” the crafting of a visual identity through the use of instruments; and the destruction of instruments in some live performances, one of rock’s most defining gestures.
The exhibition will include many of rock’s most celebrated instruments, including such guitars as Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar “Love Drops,” originally decorated by him; Eric Clapton’s “Blackie,” Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstein,” Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf,” and Joan Jett’s “Melody Maker,” and drums from Keith Moon’s “Pictures of Lily” drum set. By displaying several rigs used in live performances and sound recordings, the exhibition will also demonstrate how artists created their own individual sounds, and some 40 vintage posters, costumes, and performance videos will illustrate key components of the musical movement’s visual style and impact.
Additional highlights of the exhibition will include: Chuck Berry’s electric guitar ES-350T (1957), which was his primary guitar from 1957 until about 1963 and was used to record “Johnny B. Goode”; James Jamerson’s upright bass, which he likely used on many early Motown hits; Lady Gaga‘s custom-designed piano, which she used in her performance of ARTPOP on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in 2014; Keith Richards’s guitar known to have been used when the Rolling Stones appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1966 and later hand-painted by Richards; the elaborately hand-embroidered suit that took over a year to complete and Page wore it during Led Zeppelin’s live performances from 1975 to 1977. The exhibition will also include a sculpture made from what was left of one of Pete Townshend’s electric guitars after he smashed the instrument during a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, published in Rolling Stone as “How to Launch Your Guitar in 17 Steps.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to one of the world’s most diverse and important collections of musical instruments. With over 5,000 examples from six continents, it is unsurpassed in its scope and includes instruments from nearly all cultures and eras. The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments consists of five rooms: two large-size galleries—Mapping the Art of Music (gallery 681) and The Art of Music through Time (gallery 684)—and three smaller-size galleries—Fanfare (gallery 680), Instruments in Focus (gallery 682), and The Organ Loft (gallery 683). The nearly three-year project to renovate and reinterpret the André Mertens Galleries has been completed recently and now the entire galleries are open to the public. For more information about the department, click here.