Experience Music Project (EMP) announced today the 2011 opening of the world’s most extensive exhibition of memorabilia celebrating the music and history of Seattle grunge luminaries, Nirvana. Curated by EMP’s Jacob McMurray, and featuring rare and unseen pieces from the band, their crews and families, Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses runs April 16, 2011 – April 22, 2013.
Nirvana singer, songwriter and guitarist Kurt Cobain “was a visionary artist who touched people all over the world,” said Krist Novoselic, the band’s bassist and co-founder. “It’s great that there will soon be a collection that celebrates that contribution to music and culture. There’s a story with Nirvana at its center, but it’s a story that also includes the many people, bands and institutions that make up a music community. The show is a celebration of Northwest music.”
Below: Chad Channing – drummer, Nirvana 1988-1990 discussing the early years of the band and touring behind the album Bleach:
More than two years in the making, Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses features 200 artifacts tied to the band and the independent punk rock music community that nurtured it. Among the many pieces of music history included in the exhibition are:
Kurt Cobain’s never-before exhibited, high school painting of two aging, Reagan-era punks in the post-apocalypse, informally known as “punk American gothic.”
The Teac reel-to-reel tape machine owned by Mari Earl, Cobain’s aunt, on which a young Kurt recorded material for his early bands, Organized Confusion and Fecal Matter.
Cobain’s handwritten lyrics for Nirvana songs including “Spank Thru” and “Floyd the Barber.”
Numerous instruments, including pieces of the first guitar Cobain destroyed onstage (a Univox Hi-Flyer); Dave Grohl’s Tama Rockstar-Pro drum kit; and Krist Novoselic’s Guild acoustic bass guitar and Buck Owens American acoustic guitar used during the recording of “MTV Unplugged.”
The yellow cardigan worn often by Cobain between 1991 and 1994.
The winged angel stage prop featured on Nirvana’s In Utero tour.
Scores of candid snapshots capturing the band’s early years, from their beginnings in Aberdeen, Washington to the media frenzy that erupted after Nevermind.
“Most people know Nirvana as mythologized rock stars; this exhibit balances that understanding with a tangible, human look at their journey from Aberdeen to the world stage,” said Jacob McMurray, senior curator at EMP, who envisioned and assembled the exhibition.
Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses tells the public and personal story of Nirvana within the context of the independent, underground music scene that evolved in the United States throughout the 1980s and culminated with the 1991 release of Nirvana’s ten-times platinum album, Nevermind.
“I’m really excited for Nirvana to be a touchstone for this exhibition – and especially proud that it’s happening at Experience Music Project,” Novoselic said. “In addition to their great work presenting artists and music, EMP has a comprehensive educational component that makes it so much more than ‘just a museum.’ It’s a technology-based invitation to anyone who might be interested – the more you’re interested in something, the more information on that topic becomes available.”
The exhibit contains more than 100 new and archived oral histories from key figures in the independent music scene of the late 1980s and early ’90s, including: Novoselic; Mark Arm and Steve Turner of the band Mudhoney; Jack Endino, who produced Nirvana’s first album Bleach (1989); Steve Albini, who recorded their third album, In Utero (1993); Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, co-founders of Sub Pop Records; Seattle scene photographers Charles Peterson and Alice Wheeler; Nirvana drummer Chad Channing; and Earnie Bailey, Kurt Cobain’s guitar tech.
Steve Fisk, who co-produced the band’s Blew EP (1989), created the ambient soundtrack fans will hear as they move through the exhibition. Visitors eager to dig even further into the vast store of images, audio and video that informed the collection will be able to explore them in detail at media kiosks.
To highlight the integral role that fans played and continue to play in relationship with Nirvana, the exhibit will also include a “confessional” in which fans can record their own stories, memories, poems and other thoughts about the band, its music and its members. That footage will be woven into concert film and interviews that screen continuously during the exhibit.
Concurrently with the exhibit launch, renowned Seattle publisher Fantagraphics Books will release Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind, a 250-page, full-color exploration of grunge’s explosion, set within the cultural environs of the punk underground that developed in the U.S. in 1970s and ’80s.
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