The first major loan 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 8th, 2019. Through more than 130 instruments that were used by such artists as Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Steve Miller, St. Vincent, Metallica, The Rolling Stones, and many others, 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.

Drawn from 70 private and public collections in the United States and the United Kingdom, most of the objects in the exhibition have never been shown outside of their performance contexts. Organized thematically, Play It Loud will include many of rock’s most celebrated instruments, including such guitars as Eric Clapton’s “Blackie,” Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstein,” and Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf,” as well as Keith Emerson’s Moog synthesizer and Hammond organ, and drums from Keith Moon’s “Pictures of Lily” drum set, to name a few. By displaying several rigs used in live performances and sound recordings, the exhibition will also demonstrate how artists created their own individual sounds. The instruments will be complemented by some 40 vintage posters, striking stage costumes, and epoch-making videos.

With objects dating from 1939 to 2017, the exhibition, together with its catalogue, will examine many ways in which rock and roll musicians used their instruments. The exhibition will highlight themes such as emerging technologies and how they were embraced by musicians, the phenomenon of the “Guitar Gods,” crafting a visual identity through the use of instruments, and even the destruction of instruments in some live performances.

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; Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar “Love Drops,” originally decorated by him; James Jamerson’s upright bass, which he likely used on many early Motown hits; Keith Emerson’s keyboard rig, consisting of the customized Moog Modular Synthesizer, electric tone-wheel organ, and rotary speakers; a reconstructed performance rig from Eddie Van Halen as it appeared onstage in 1978; Steve Miller’s electric guitar that was painted with psychedelic designs by artist Bob Cantrell by 1973; Jack Bruce’s electric bass, which was painted for him by the artist collective known as “The Fool” in 1967 while he was with Cream; St. Vincent’s electric guitar, which Annie “St. Vincent” Clark designed in collaboration with Music Man in 2015; and Jimmy Page’s dragon-embroidered costume (Los Angeles, 1975)—the elaborately hand-embroidered suit 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, that was published in Rolling Stone as “How to Launch Your Guitar in 17 Steps.”

Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where it will travel to in November 2019. This is the second collaboration between the two after Rock Style, which was presented at The Met in 1999.

For more information, please visit metmuseum.org.

[Dana’s note: The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of my all time favorite museums, and along with Louvre in Paris, is considered one of the best in the world. My mother and I have been members for over 20 years, and she has been volunteering at the museum for 15. I highly encourage anyone that travels to New York to visit this wonderful establishment. I am very excited, and looking forward to seeing this exhibition when it launches.]

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  • RobT on

    I agree Dana. I was there twice along with the MOMA as well. After the first time I went, my feet were so tired from walking to and back from the Port Authority terminal and then spending about 4 hours in the museum, and I still didn’t cover it all. Favorites are the oil paintings & photography, but the first trip I made there, a gold plated Ludwig snare drum given to Ringo Starr from the company itself was on display as well as a nice display of archtop guitars crafted years before in the city. Fact I’m listening to the CD I purchased there coinciding with the jazz guitar collection as I write this. Looks like this Spring it’s time for another journey there.

    P.S- Listened to a taste of Airboourne, and although it seems like solid, old hard rock, it’s not my mug of java so to speak. Although they’re surely influenced by AC/DC, they’re not totally derivative of them either.

    • Dana on

      Hi Rob,

      I am so glad you enjoyed the museum. They have a permanent musical instruments collection, and I believe that is where the Starr drum may have been displayed. There are so many things I love at that museum, it’s crazy, but one that comes to mind is Franl Lloyd Wright’s Living Room from the Francis W. Little House. If you are interested, you view it online, here: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1972.60.1/

      As for Airbourne, no worries. I am glad you had an open mind about about them and were, at least, willing to give them a chance. BTW, did you hear this one? https://eddietrunk.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php

      D 🙂

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