THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: EXHIBITION NEW YORK EXTRAVAGANZA 31 MARCH – 21 AUGUST 2016 VENUE: PHILHARMONIE DE PARIS
It’s been just over 50 years since the Velvet Underground not exactly burst onto the New York music scene but produced their debut album Velvet Underground & Nico with the infamous peeling banana on the cover. The avant-garde, rock-punk band comprising Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen “Moe” Tucker (the drummer who liked to stand up playing) met during the years 1964-66.
The introduction of German born sultry singer Nico (who briefly lived in Salford, Manchester in the 1980s) and their then manager, the legendary artist Andy Warhol (creator of Pop Art) helped seal them a record deal and the whole crazy legend was born. Whilst, not gaining much commercial success at the time they are now widely recognised as one of the pioneers of alternative, ahead-of-their-time music with their droning sound and dark lyrics.
Now to celebrate their influence on music culture the Philharmonie de Paris concert hall is running a major multi-media exhibition: The Velvet Underground: New York Extravaganza. It opened on March 30th and runs until August 21st and includes a concert series, musical workshops, films and videos and kicked off with a concert by John Cale and guests playing the “Banana” album amongst others. The exhibitions covers an array of media including audio visual (six films produced and directed specifically for the exhibition, underground art films and TV archives), musical (with live music spaces and an area where visitors can “plug in” for personalised listening), photography (including a vast array of images of the band who witnessed their rise such as Adam Ritchie and Donald Greenhaus to name but two), and rare archives from collectors. There are also portraits of the band’s members as well as those familiar on the New York underground scene at the time including Allen Ginsberg, Candy Darling, Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgewick amongst others. Finally there is a collection of work by contemporary artists inspired by the band including Nan Goldin, John Giorno and Gus Van Sant.
At the time 1960s Greenwich Village south of Manhattan was recession hit and in crisis. Seen as a shady, unsavoury area it became the hang-out for students, artists and intellectuals with insidious ideas. Decadence and repulsion were all part of its attraction and so the Village became a breeding ground for experimental musicians, underground film-makers and people challenging the so-called view of the norm. This hotbed of talent, the New York Underground scene full of artists with conceptual ideas rubbed off on two friends and musicians who had met in December 1964: Brooklyn born Lewis Reed and John Cale from Wales. Reed, having moved into Cale’s Lower East Side apartment three months after meeting and playing together. The exhibition charts their meeting and the whole New York spirit as well as the Factory years: Andy Warhol’s studio loft where a lot of this creativity was encouraged.
By August 1970 Lou Reed had left the band, relatively unnoticed by the media. It took another two years and a man called David Bowie whose own meteor was on the rise to commend the band and suddenly they were on everyone’s lips. Previous unreleased material became available and the music press jumped on the bandwagon. The Velvet Underground has not only influenced a wide range of musicians in the last 40 years or so but have been icons to the world of art, photography, cinema and fashion and this exhibition is a testament to their endurance.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: EXHIBITION NEW YORK EXTRAVAGANZA 31 MARCH – 21 AUGUST 2016 VENUE: PHILHARMONIE DE PARIS, More info HERE