A celebration of art, pop music and the life of one of Britain’s most influential and best loved artists opens at The Lowry, Salford Quays between Saturday 10 November 2012 – Sunday 24 February 2013.
Helping to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Godfather of Pop Art, Sir Peter Blake, a collection of the artist’s most iconic paintings, collages and prints, inspired and created in collaboration with some of pop music’s most legendary performers, are being shown in Salford.
Spanning Blake’s career, from the 1950s to the present day, and inspired by his lifelong love of music, Peter Blake and Pop Music will feature original artwork and prints of album covers such as Paul Weller’s Stanley Road, Oasis’ Stop The Clocks and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, plus works inspired by his own rock and roll heroes, including portraits of Sammy Davis Jnr and Elvis Presley.
Recent prints produced in collaboration with Manchester’s renowned NME photographer, Kevin Cummins, using photographs of the late Joy Division singer, Ian Curtis, demonstrate Blake’s on-going exploration of music as a major theme for his work. The celebrated British band, Madness that performed at the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics and on top of Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, have announced that a Blake-designed cover will adorn their new album, Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da.
Sir Peter Blake has been closely linked with pop music since his emergence as an artist during the 1950s, and has since contributed to the imagery many music fans associate with landmark moments in British pop. Not restricted to album sleeve designs, the presence of post-punk legend, and former student of Blake’s, Ian Dury’s Rhythm Stick (featured in the video for the 1979 number one hit of the same name) has been borrowed from the artist’s own memorabilia collection. The prototype for the Blake’s Brit Award design, handed to winners at the 2012 music awards ceremony, illustrates the importance of the artist in establishing and maintaining the special relationship between music and art.
Michael Simpson, The Lowry’s Head of Visual Art and Engagement, said: “The Lowry is developing a formidable exhibition programme looking at performance in its widest sense, featuring artists and performers from Annie Lennox to Andy Warhol. For any fan of classic pop and rock music, this has to be one of the most feel-good exhibitions of the year. Sir Peter Blake is a living legend and it is fitting that Salford – home to so many musical legends of its own – hosts this fabulous show”.
Blake’s passion for American music developed early, a result of discovering his father’s collection of swing records as well as evenings spent at the Dartford Rhythm Club from the age of 15. Part of the show will be devoted to the theme of Rock n’ Roll and will include Blake’s memorable paintings such as Girls and Their Hero’ (1959-62), capturing the mania surrounding The King in the late 1950s, and EL which features a lip-stick stained found photograph of the American singer.
It will also feature Blake’s Self Portrait with Badges which casts himself in the role of fan to the legend of Elvis. The image references Thomas Gainsborough’s famous portrait The Blue Boy, but Blake changes the fabric from silk to denim in an allusion to American youth culture. Blake’s use of American icons in his art preceded that of Andy Warhol by several years, fuelling his resentment of American critics who panned an exhibition of British Pop in New York in 1962, dubbing it a second-class imitation of the American version
An avid collector of pop memorabilia, the exhibition will also include examples from Blake’s extraordinary collection of Elvis ephemera as well as pieces inspired by other musicians and groups such as the American soul singers La Vern Baker and The Beach Boys.
Blake is perhaps best known for the world famous Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, which he designed with the artist Jann Haworth. The exhibition will feature the Snow White figurine and heads of the cardboard Max Miller and Richard Lindner cut outs used in the original photo shoot. Blake first met The Beatles in the early 1960s, before their acceleration to superstardom following the release of the No. 1 hit album Please Please Me in March 1963. The show also includes a memorable group portrait of the Fab Four, painted as if it was itself an album cover, further exploring the theme of album graphics as art and vice versa.
Moving away from the artist’s widely known work of the 50s and 60s, Blake’s depictions of musicians and performers from the 1970s to the present day are also explored, including appearances from the Spice Girls, Robbie Williams and the designs for the Live Aid and Band Aid charity events of 1984 and 1985.
The exhibition tours to The Lowry having been curated by, and shown at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, drawing on its extensive collection of British Pop Art, combined with works loaned specially from public and private collections across the UK.
To find out more about Peter Blake Pop Music, visit www.thelowry.com/peterblake