Seattle | Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses
The EMP main entrance, photo EMP Museum
Seattle | Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses at EMP Museum
Update: the EMP museum was renamed MoPOP (Museum of POP Culture) in 2017.
The semi-permanent exhibition “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” reopened at the museum in 2018 after touring in South America.
EMP is certainly one of the most original museums in the United States.
Devised 15 years ago by Microsoft’s co-founding father Paul Allen, the museum is a manifold institution dedicated to the multiple facets of what today we call pop culture.
The EMP building, designed by Frank Gehry, reflects the spirit of the museum through its “dramatic” exterior, whose fragmented appearance was reportedly inspired by a shattered Jimi Hendrix’s Fender Stratocaster guitar. The building skin is composed of over 21,000 metal sheets, all different from one another, produced by American company Zahner and made in aluminum, soft gloss stainless steel, and red-coated stainless steel.
EMP exterior and interior views; photos EMP Museum
Among the many themes presented at the EMP – which include science fiction, horror movies, computer games, cartoons, sports, and so on – for sure rock & roll plays a pivotal role.
Few artistic phenomena have had a larger impact on mass culture than rock music, since the day guys like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley came into the limelight in the early fifties.
And, despite being the hometown of Hendrix too, when thinking about rock and Seattle, no doubt a name immediately comes to mind: Nirvana.
The exhibition Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, a semi-permanent section of the EMP museum, relies on the impressive collections of objects related to Seattle’s grunge band, by far the largest in the world, including artifacts, clothes, musical instruments, original tape records, drawings, photographs, footages, posters and memorabilia of the band that, as the exhibition introduction says: “transformed Seattle and the Pacific Northwest from a faraway backwater to the epicenter of popular music culture “.
Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain, and Krist Novoselic boarding an airplane. Australia, circa February 10, 1992. Courtesy of Shelli Hyrkas.
Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, installation view. Courtesy EMP
Nirvana’s first demo recording, 1988. Photo courtesy EMP
The sweater Kurt Cobain wore in the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,”. Photo courtesy EMP.
Indeed, The exhibition portrays both the story of Nirvana and that of the musical and cultural context in which the band and the so-called “Music of Seattle” movement developed.
Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, along with an extensive set of 150 objects and 100 oral stories, including those by Nirvana’s members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, features five interactive installations, with live performances videos, listening stations, original films produced by EMP, and a recording area where fans can share their thoughts and memories.
Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses
EMP Museum – Seattle
1991 Black Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, smashed by Kurt Cobain during the recording of “Endless Nameless”. Photo courtesy EMP
Kurt Cobain at the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video shoot, Los Angeles, CA, August 18, 1991. Photo courtesy EMP
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