Seattle | Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses

Place: Seattle, Country: United States
Text by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit
Photos courtesy of EMP Seattle and Zahner

EMP museum Seattle Frank Gehry entrance

The EMP main entrance, photo EMP Museum

Seattle | Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses at EMP Museum

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, which 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 museum Seattle Frank Gehry aerial

Aerial view, photo courtesy Zahner

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EMP museum Seattle Frank Gehry

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 and roll plays a pivotal role.
Few artistic phenomena have had a larger impact on the 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 the 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 “.

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Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain, and Krist Novoselic boarding an airplane. Australia, circa February 10, 1992. Courtesy of Shelli Hyrkas.

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Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, installation view. Courtesy EMP

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Nirvana’s first demo recording, 1988. Photo courtesy EMP

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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
www.empmuseum.org/

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1991 Black Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, smashed by Kurt Cobain during the recording of “Endless Nameless”. Photo courtesy EMP

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Kurt Cobain at the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video shoot, Los Angeles, CA, August 18, 1991. Photo courtesy EMP



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