​Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions

Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions. [The Exhibition!] has positioned itself as an art show.

Virgin Records
Punks outside Virgin Records by Frank Passingham and Simon Edwards

An art show as opposed to what it calls ‘a few sweat-stained stage clothes, a battered guitar and a couple of gold discs’.

The exhibition – put together by a team including Adrian Shaughnessy and George Lee of This is Real Art – revels in Virgin Records’ beginnings – and most notably its carefully built outsider counter-culture status as a backer of ‘mavericks, misfits, rebels, geniuses and nonconformists’.  

History tells us it did this rather well. Having started out by bringing the world Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells in 1973, it got behind the Sex Pistols, Boy George, The Spice Girls and Daft Punk.

Virgin Records
Boy George photographed by Paul Gobel – cover of Blitz magazine, 1986

Heaving all this into the mainstream brought all manner of aesthetic interpretation through art direction, photoshoots and album art.

Original record art will be displayed alongside alternative or rejected versions.

Sketches and original art for the Roger Dean-designed ‘twins’ logo and Virgin script logo will also be exhibited as well as various press ads, logos and poster curios.

Virgin Records
The Human Legaue, Smash Hits Cover, October 1981

Press releases, passes, and even invoices, (such as for Mike Oldfield’s hired instruments) give an insight into the spirit of the times, and there are a bunch of press and tabloid cuttings from the likes of Smash Hits, Melody Maker, NME, The Face, Blitz and others showing the highs, the lows and the bust-ups.

An AV element will see a mashup of videos projected onto a giant screen and accompanied by a soundscape incorporating clips from interviews and TV appearances.

There will also be separate listening posts with headphones where you can watch videos.

Some installations have been made by Virgin recording artists, including The Chemical Brothers and Massive Attack.

Virgin Records
Janet Jackson photograph from album Janet, 1993

Unseen archive photographs include pictures taken behind the scenes in the early days of the label, showing its HQ and hippie staffers, and later identifiable moments in time like young punks outside a Virgin Record shop.

Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions. [The Exhibition!]  runs from 24-29 October at Studio B1, Victoria House, Southampton Row, WC1.

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