Virgin Records: 40 years of disruptions

Virgin Records’ 40th birthday is being marked by an exhibition reminding us of the contribution it made not just to music but also to the visual culture of the past four decades

Virgin Records’ 40th birthday is being marked by an exhibition reminding us of the contribution it made not just to music but also to the visual culture of the past four decades

 

 

Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions [The Exhibition!] is at Victoria House, London WC1 until October 29. It’s the culmination of a series of projects marking the anniversary led by creative studio This is Real Art and organised around the idea of Virgin as an agent of disruption: “No other label has had so many tabloid front covers,” says TiRA’s Adrian Shaughnessy. “Disruption is [Virgin’s] hallmark.”.

Earlier this year, TiRA designed a 40th anniversary version of Virgin’s famous logo (see our story here)

They then designed a commemorative book which told the label’s story through the decades

 

The exhibition is in the basement of an old insurance company in London’s Holborn. TiRA worked with architectural designers Parachute Design Collective on the show which uses scaffolding poles and boards to display key images which tell the label’s story.

 

A major part of the show is an audio-visual piece by Kelvin Brown, Chris Paul Daniels, Sam Meech and Lumen, which mixes snatches of Virgin tracks and music videos with BBC news footage and even recordings of Virgin shop staff. The piece plays throughout the gallery as visitors make their way from decade to decade.

 

 

Choice quotes about Virgin artists are pulled out on black and yellow posters. Much of the imagery is printed out on paper and hung off the structure with bulldog clips.

 

TiRA say they were keen to avoid the usual music show tactics of displaying lots of guitars in glass cases. There is some memorabilia on show however (and the odd guitar), a particular favourite being this PiL collection from their 1986 Album, er, album

 

And, a bit more up to date, two of DeadMau5’s heads

 

Virgin Records has become thoroughly absorbed into the mainstream music business now, of course and, unfortunately, the show’s content becomes perhaps a little less interesting the closer you get to the present (par for the course for the entire music industry you could say), but it’s still a fantastic show and a real tribute to the many designers, directors and assorted iconoclasts the label has worked with over the years.

Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions [The Exhibition!] is at Victoria House, London WC1 until October 29, see virgin40.com

The November issue of CR includes a special feature on Virgin Records including interviews with photographer and designer Brian Cooke (who worked on all the Sex Pistols material) and video commissioner Carole Burton-Fairbrother. See our post here, or buy it from us here

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