Marvin Gaye to Blondie: musicians we’d like to see exhibitions about

Last week, we wrote about a new Pink Floyd exhibition set to open at the V&A in May. We ask designers which musicians, alive or deceased, they’d love to see immortalised in a museum.

Wayne Hemingway, co-founder, Hemingway Design

Soul music

“In these politically-troubling times, maybe it’s apt to take an in-depth look at some of the black soul musicians who came out of the 1960s positive upheavals like Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye. It would be great to have an exhibition that thoroughly mined this wonderful seam of soul music and reflected it with a positive human message. From Sam Cooke’s Change is Gonna Come in 1964 to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On in 1971 via Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in 1970 and The Impressions’ People Get Ready in 1965, these tracks have even had a massive influence on a boy from industrial Lancashire. With the combination of social politics and soul grooves, there wouldn’t be any dry eyes or still feet left in the V&A . Boy, would I like to go to that – and get involved in it!”

Jon Daniel, independent creative director © Alexis Chabala

George Clinton

“It’s got to be George Clinton aka Dr. Funkenstein, Star Child, the Lollipop Man, alias The Long Haired Sucker. One of my greatest heroes and creative inspirations, this living legend is more alive at 75 than most people are at 25. Unquestionably one of the world’s greatest ever musical showmen, his life is every bit the ‘rock and rollercoaster’ that you experience when he brings his extra-terrestrial, pure uncut funky musical circus to your town. With his legendary mothership already installed in the Sir David Adjaye-designed, monumental architectural feat in Washington (aka Chocolate City) that is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), an exhibition that celebrates his huge and influential contribution to popular culture is a must. Let’s take it to the stage…”

Pippa Nissen, co-founder, Nissen Richards Studio


“I’d like to see the history of the band Blondie brought back to life through an exhibition – and I would love to design it. It would have to include all the background to the time in the 1970s when I used to listen to the albums. Perhaps it could chart both their American home plus their success in the UK. Debbie Harry’s iconic look, style, and sound would obviously be centre-stage; but I would like to feel the low-tech quality and fabulous naivety of their videos, the excitement of when the band would come on Top of the Pops (as there was no VHS or YouTube to re-watch). The colours, sounds and smells of the 1970s and the backdrop of a changing politics and fashion. I’d love to tell this story through their music, and their gritty glamour which brought together punk and disco.”

Ian Anderson, founder, The Designer’s Republic (photo by Shaun Bloodworth)

The Pop Group

“I already have the show planned – we’re just waiting for commission and budget. The ongoing incendiary The Designers Republic (TDR) work responding to the lyrics to ‘We Are All Prostitutes’ would form the centrepiece for a series of newly-commissioned/curated print and video work inspired by the god-like genius of Mark Stewart. In the mix would be an archive of existing The Pop Group artwork complimented by three propaganda wagons circling the streets around the facility 24/7, each with one of the three best singles ever on repeat: She Is Beyond Good & Evil, We Are All Prostitutes and Where’s There’s A Will (There’s Got To Be A Way).”

Matthew Beardsell, operations director, Music

Ennio Morricone

“Ennio Morricone’s influence spans music, film, television, and sport. He defines the word ‘innovator’ and an exhibition dedicated to him would be a visual treat as much as it would be an audible treat. Few artists can claim their work has touched so many people. His belief that music is an experience rather than a science explains why one of his best-known pieces is performed by a coyote.”

Gordon Reid, founder, Middle Boop

Portishead and William Onyeabor

“I guess if I wanted to see an exhibition about a band or musician it would be because I loved their music (obviously). I’d want to learn about their early days and how the scenes they were in developed and inspired the musicians beyond that. So I’ve got two names – Portishead and William Onyeabor (RIP), basically because I find them both so fascinating. I love the Bristol dub/reggae scene that spawned Portishead and trip-hop and I know so little about Onyeabor but think a show based around his career and the Nigerian psych scene in the 1970s would be so vibrant and exciting.”

Which musician would you like to see an exhibition about? Let us know in the comments section below.

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