A review by Jade Cuttle for The Times of London.
“Let’s get together and feel all right” is the infectiously charming spirit of the Saatchi Gallery’s first post-lockdown show. The musical exhibition celebrates the reggae phenomenon Bob Marley (1945-81) through unseen photographs, family memorabilia and rare footage, but it’s the multisensory interactivity, capturing his unifying legacy, that sets the show apart. It’s one for music lovers of all types, not just diehard fans.
The retrospective gets off to a jarringly stiff start in the One Love Music Room, despite the reggae soundtrack. A scratched guitar and handwritten lyrics offer an insight into Marley’s songwriting process, but marvelling from behind a mirrored-glass casing and golden plaques feels like an out-of-character introduction to the iconically easygoing musician.
The mood loosens up in the One Love Forest, where a bean bag corner beneath a fake canopy of cannabis leaves and chirping sound effects create a more laid-back experience. The rolling mist is a clever curational smoke signal to the spliff-themed portraits that follow, which illustrate Marley’s support of the legalisation of marijuana.
A silent disco takes place in the Soul Shakedown Studio, where strangers don headphones and dance to live concert footage beneath a giant spinning disco ball before posing in a photo booth with a guitar, maracas or sunnies. The amusement peaks with a lifesize penalty shootout after games of table football and pinball (you’re allowed to get stuck in) in the Beautiful Life Zone. Visitors can choose the Marley soundtrack on a jukebox.
The most poignant exhibit is a pair of Marley’s trainers from the 1970s donated by his daughter Cedella Marley — the scuff marks, tangle of laces and dirt still on the soles finally take us that one step closer to the musician.
After wandering through the jumbled recreation of life backstage on a Marley tour, the show ends with an eclectic collection of fan art by Thierry Guetta, aka MrBrainwash, the French-born, Los Angeles-based street artist, and work submitted by the general public, from puzzling collages to toothy caricatures.
While the display on Rita Marley, Bob’s widow and backing vocalist, is a welcome surprise, the exhibition could have showcased more of Marley’s political impact, beyond the odd quote such as, “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold,” written on the wall.
There are elements of this touchy-feely exhibition that are a little clichéd and even cartoonish. Ultimately, however, this a lighthearted show in which the focus is on the joy that listening and chilling out to Marley’s music brings.
To April 18, saatchigallery.com