From the sixties to the present, the Velvet Underground’s career trajectory is one of the most fascinating stories in the history of art, music and popular culture: how did a band who never found success during its brief existence (1965-1970) gradually develop into the rock legend par excellence it is today? Too ahead of its time, too transgressive, too in-your-face, too rebellious, it soon became the go-to model for other movements in the following centuries, from the explosion of punk to the present day. With time and the aid of a few prestigious admirers (David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Étienne Daho, among others), the famous ‘banana album’, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, established itself as the new matrix for modern rock.
It all started with the improbable encounter between Lou Reed and John Cale, a supremely talented, albeit unlikely, team, in the only city likely to let them grow together: underground New York of the early 60s, a time when it was the artistic elite who decided that ‘anything goes’. The poet-rocker and avant-garde musician built a group around them from some of their most fervent supporters – Sterling Morrison, a literature student and rock’n’roll fan; Moe Tucker, an androgynous-looking drummer from the suburbs driven by tribal rhythms; and Nico, the blonde iceberg whom Andy Warhol made lead singer of the Velvet Underground.
This exhibition retraces the Velvet Underground’s journey from the street to the highest echelons of New York society, from the pop music world to that of film, painting and literature. Half a century after the encounter between the founding members, the Velvets are still the most modern and mysterious band in the history of American rock.
Our review : As soon as you arrive, you feel that you got teleported to New York! There is a lot of information when you come in with many screens and posters everywhere so it’s a lot to take in! It is built vertically to remind you of New York so you have the feeling of being lost at first and then it all makes sense. Choose a quiet day to see the exhibition as it’s hard to read everything when it’s busy (it was extremely busy on the opening night!). There is a corner dedicated to each member of the Velvet Underground and the people who gravitated around them. You can also listen to a lot of music by the Velvet Underground with headphones that you can plug pretty much everywhere. It is a must-see this season!
If you are a fan of The Velvet Undergound, don’t miss the special edition of Les Inrocks dedicated to the band. You will also see a lot of great books in the shop at La Philharmonie at the end of the exhibition.
Practical Information :
Philharmonie de Paris
221, avenue Jean-Jaurès
Metro : Porte de Pantin (l.5)
Through August 21st (school holidays excepted)
Tuesday – Thursday: 12 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday: 12 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Adult full price: €10
Under -26s: €5
Reduced rate: €8
Free admission (Children under -6s, Friends of the Musée de la Musique, Friends of the Philharmonie de Paris, Visitors with disabilities and the persons accompanying them.)