An open letter to New York Metropolitan Museum of Art about their punk exhibition

Dear New York Metropolitan Arts Punk Exhibition,

Being long time aficionados of the curious delights of punk rock we high tailed it down to your punk exhibition in New York City which detailed punk fashion from chaos to couture. We had already read about the celebrities turning up in their ‘punk costumes’ for the opening night but we didn’t let that put us off.

When we got there we had a long wander around the museum itself- which was mesmerisng- I can spend hours looking at Roman antiquities and weird statues and bits of broken pottery- love that kind of thing. I now find it fascinating that the backdrop to my youth of punk rock misadventures can now be stored or documented in a museum in the same sort of way- dusty relics of long gone bygone era- how cool is that!

Of course the Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren stuff was fantastic, their dark and erotic genius never fades through the decades and their densely packed portfolio of ideas ranging from the hilarious to the cruel and nasty were as were powerful as ever. I had a great time reading, in close up, the classic ‘You’re gonna wake up one morning and know which side of the bed you’ve been lying on! T shirt as well as the open letter t shirt to Derek Jarmen in which Vivienne lambasted the Jubilee film just produced by Jarmen and starring a young Adam Ant who duly wore the shirt on stage in a classic piece of punk rock situationism.

That after all these decades the Sex shop stuff can remains so powerful is a testament to its brilliance- what really grated and what would not sit very well when the exhibition is brought to the UK was the laughable attempts to design punk clothes by the so called best fashion designers in the world.

Running along the exhibition like a doleful queue of disastrously dressed idiots are a row of mannequins- each one with a punk outfit designed by famous ‘high fashion’ designers.
And if there was vey proof that the best clothes come from the street and from the fervent and stinking wild imaginations of the youth or from the contradictory genius of the likes of Malcolm and Vivienne with nothing to lose and not spectacularly rubbishly dressed fashion types then here it was in all of its gory glory.

Of course Metropolitan Art Museum you may have been taking the piss and for that we salute you- never has the naked emptiness of the fashion world been so cruelly exposed by this exhibition which had fashionistas thinking punk was a 100 dollar mohair pullover with one rip in it or some kind of expensive post Goth outfit with ludicrous over sized safety pins stuck in it.

Having it juxtaposed this next to the genius Sex shop stuff only made it worse and the great images of a cackling Johnny Rotten and a cool looking Sid flickering on the giant screen alongside the great clothes from Malcolm and Vivienne just underlined the huge and increasing gulf between the people with the ideas and the chancers who make all the money nicking everyone else’s ideas and then getting them wrong.

Maybe that was what was great about your exhibition- this culture clash. We do already know that Malcolm and Vivienne were contradictory in themselves with their clash between high and street fashion- but their genius was making the esoteric mainstream and making it look so damn good and also cutely dangerous- the mainstream fashion designers totally missed all the points and their sorry parade of mannequins looked ridiculous whilst surrounded by the unpinned grenade of danger fashion from the originators.

Good luck with your exhibition- maybe next time expand it to the true core of punk- the DIY street fashion and the fevered imagination of the people who lived it which beats the corporate designers hands down in terms of imagination and cool.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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