Exhibition aims to focus on singer as a ‘music intellectual’
A major retrospective of Amy Winehouse’s life and career will cast her as a “music intellectual” and feature personal items displayed for the first time, including her first electric guitar and handwritten notebooks, and an immersive tour.
Amy: Beyond the Stage, which opens at the Design Museum in London on 26 November, is the first such survey of her life in the UK, and comes 10 years after her death at the age of 27.
Priya Khanchandani, head of curatorial at the Design Museum, said the show would focus on Winehouse’s musicianship, fashion sense and the dozens of stylistic influences, from Dinah Washington to Frank Sinatra, that she drew on during her career.
Khanchandani said: “It felt as if there was something that had been left unsaid about Amy’s story and about her as a serious musician. The way she’d been reflected in the media had really diminished her legacy. There’s a lot of noise surrounding her story that has engulfed it and I’ve been trying to pick away at the layers and make sure we tell the right story.”
The immersive exhibition will include a presentation of Winehouse’s clothes and an exploration of her aesthetic, with items including the red Moschino bag and the yellow Preen dress she wore to the 2007 Brit awards, plus handwritten notes and lyrics.
The show includes an installation inspired by Metropolis Studios, where Winehouse recorded, designed by the artist Chiara Stephenson, and rooms focusing on her music, style and influences. The “finale” is a semicircular space where multiple computer-generated figures of Winehouse and handwritten material from her archive are turned into an animated experience by Studio Moross.
Items include her first electric guitar, a Daphne blue Fender Stratocaster, used during the release of her debut album, Frank. The show will cover how Winehouse wrote and recorded the album Back to Black, which made her an international star.
Her friend and creative director Naomi Parry, who worked as a special adviser on the project, said she hoped it would clearly define who the singer was as an artist rather than as portrayed by the media.
“I hope this is the definitive narrative and that it gives her younger audience the opportunity to experience her, because they’re never going to see her on stage,” she added.
In 2020 the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles held the exhibition Beyond Black, which looked at Winehouse’s fashion sense, but this is the first significant look at her life and work in a British institution.
Amy: Beyond the Stage is the latest cultural event to mark the 10-year anniversary of Winehouse’s death and comes after a BBC documentary, Reclaiming Amy, which gave her family’s take on her life and legacy.
The documentary was seen as a riposte to Asif Kapadia’s 2015 documentary Amy, which was critical of her family and was labelled “a disgrace” by her father and “a tragic masterpiece” by the Guardian.
Winehouse’s estate is working on releasing early music by the singer, as well as a stage musical and a biopic.