The world’s greatest rock guitar player will tour the United States this spring – more than two decades after his death.
The Jimi Hendrix Exhibition, a multimedia art show that successfully traveled across Europe last year, opens April 8th at New York’s Ambassador Gallery, with follow-up engagements confirmed for San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Possible future stops include Los Angeles, Cleveland, Chicago, Boston and Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle.
“This is a way of putting Jimi on the road again,” says U.S. exhibit representative Kirby Veevers, adding that the New York show will be free to the public.
Anyone expecting a display of smashed guitars is in for an entirely different experience. Rather than the usual tattered relics, the exhibition showcases 100 works ranging from psychedelic posters and candid photos to more avant-artwork such as collages, computer-enhanced pieces and a bizarre sound sculpture that blasts Hendrix guitar samples when people place their hands inside.
“A memorabilia show would have been too obvious,” says Neil Storey, director of Partridge and Storey, a public-relations firm that was tapped by the Hendrix estate to handle the project after handling a similar Bob Marley retrospective. “I mean, if people want to see his jacket, they can wolf down a burger at the Hard Rock Café and stare at his clothes there.”
Like other posthumous Hendrix tributes, the exhibition has had its share of controversy. Former Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding boycotted the Dublin show, while drummer Mitch Mitchell told the BBC he wasn’t invited to the London opening. Caesar Glebbeek, editor of the Hendrix fanzine Uni-Vibes and an exhibition consultant, says he was disappointed by dark reproductions of some photos. Still others suggest the show is a ploy to boost sluggish merchandise sales and hype a new greatest-hits album, The Ultimate Experience.
“It is a perfect marketing device,” agrees Storey, who allows that record companies are underwriting the show’s costs. “But it’s also a way to take Jimi to the people.” After its initial 1993 American run, the exhibition could travel for several more years; negotiations are underway to bring the event to Japan, New Zealand and Eastern Europe.
“Jimi never got to tour Australia when he was alive,” says Storey. “Now, with the exhibition, he has.”
This story is from the February 18th, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone.