EMP to feature Nirvana exhibit in 2011

Hundreds of rare Nirvana artifacts will be on display next spring as part of an exhibit at Experience Music Project titled Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses.

The exhibit, scheduled to open April 16, 2011, will be the world’s most extensive Nirvana exhibit according to museum officials and unoffically marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of Nevermind. It will be on display for two years and was curated by EMP senior curator Jacob McMurray.

Krist Novaselic, Dave Grohl and Courtney Love were involved in the creation of the exhibit, which is meant to tell the public and personal story of Nirvana within the context of the independent, underground music scene that evolved throughout the 1980s and culminated the 1991. Two hundred pieces of memorabilia and artifacts will be in display including:

  • 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 Cobain 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 often worn by Cobain between 1991 and 1994.
  • The winged angel stage prop featured on Nirvana’s In Utero tour.
  • Candid snapshots capturing the band’s early years, from their beginnings in Aberdeen, Wash. to the media frenzy that erupted after Nevermind.

As part of the exhibit there will be video confessional booths where fans can talk about the impact Nirvana has has on their lives. Clips from the confessionals will be interspersed between various Nirvana clips shown throughout the exhibit. There will also be oral histories by Novaselic, Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, Steve Albini and others talking about the importance of the band on display. Steve Fisk, who co-produced Nirvana’s BlewEP created a soundtrack of ambient sound that museum visitors will hear as they walk through Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses.

“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,” Novaselic said in a news release announcing the exhibit.

Although Kurt Cobain died nearly 17 years ago his reach is still widely felt by musicians worldwide and interest in his life and Nirvana’s music has not subsided since the days of grunge. The EMP exhibit marks the second museum gallery dedicated to Nirvana in as many museums in Seattle in the past two years. The Seattle Art Museum’s Kurt explored the influence Cobain had on artists in various disciplines in 2010.

The exhibit will be housed in the space where the Northwest Passage currently resides. That exhibit explored the history of music in the Northwest dating from the 1940s to 2000. It has been on display since the museum opened in 2000 and has received minimum, if any noticeable, updates in the past decade.

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