In 1989, Britain had lived through a decade of Thatcher’s rule. While society was hungry for change, to a generation of young people, it felt as though nothing would. But during that summer, a new underground dance scene changed everything.
Acid house had migrated from post-industrial Detroit to the dance floors of gay clubs in London and to illegal mass gatherings in aircraft hangers and farmers’ fields across the UK. The youthquake that would break down Thatcher’s class-ridden Britain had arrived. Britain’s homegrown revolution was here.
Now you can enjoy looking back, as an epic survey of rave culture launches this month at Saatchi Gallery in London. Opening on 12 July, Sweet Harmony: Youth of Today relives the ‘Second Summer of Love’ on its 30th anniversary through the revolutionary voices, artwork, graphics and the lenses of those who experienced it.
Dave Swindells Shoom at FC Sacha Souter (1988) Photograph © Dave Swindells, 1988 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Ewen Spencer Girl W Fan (1990) Photograph © Ewen Spencer, 1990 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Ted Polhemus Nice Tripsies (1993) Photograph © Ted Polhemus, 1993 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Dave Swindells The Future (1988) Photograph © Dave Swindells, 1988 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Photographers Tom Hunter, Vinca Peterson, Ted Polhemus, Derek Ridgers, Matthew Smith, Ewen Spencer and Dave Swindells, Chelsea Louise Berlin and Seana Gavin will transport you through one of the biggest countercultural movements of the 20th-century.
Meanwhile other pivotal figures of British art such as Conrad Shawcross and emerging artists James Alec Hardy and Dominic from Luton will further explore the underbelly of the British rave scene.
Saatchi Gallery Director Philly Adams is the brainchild behind the new show. He has wanted to produce a retrospective of the glory days of rave culture for many years whilst also taking the opportunity to highlight the dynamism and creativity of youth culture today.
“It brings together contributors from past and present, championing new, celebrating current and re-positioning revered artists closely linked to the story,” says Philly. “I’ve long been thinking about creating this exhibition for its historical importance and relevance to the music scene today. It will explore the underbelly of the UK rave scene, how it arrived, how it exported and morphed across Europe and beyond, looking to the ever-evolving scene’s future.”
Dave Swindells Tribal Dance Joe Bloggs + Baseball cap (1990) Photograph © Dave Swindells, 1990 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Chelsea Louise Berlin
Matthew Smith Reclaim The Streets at Trafalgar Sq May (1997) Photograph © Matthew Smith, 1997 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Dave Swindells Trip Street Party (1988) Photograph © Dave Swindells, 1988 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
At Sweet Harmony (running until 14 September), the acid house evolution will be charted through impactful typographic accounts, photo stories, live music events, talks and panel discussions by the movements’ architects and influencers, video installations and contemporary art, exploring how acid house shaped the culture and outlook for the next generation – and generations to come.
Philly adds: “Acid music and rave culture continue to be celebrated today. Comparing then and now, the fast-paced rate of change that followed rave means we’re due something incredible soon.”
Vinca Petersen Bus And Rig from ‘Raves & Riots’ (1990-2004) Photograph © Vinca Petersen Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Seana Gavin New Years Day, Barcelona (2000) Photograph © Seana Gavin, 2000 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Tom Hunter Bather from ‘Le Crowbar’ publication (1993) Photograph © Tom Hunter, 1993 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Adrian Fisk From the series London Acid City (1997/98) Photograph © Adrian Fisk, 1997/8 Image courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London
Sweet Harmony: Youth of Today, opens on 12 July 2019 and runs until 14 September 2019 at Saatchi Gallery in London. Discover more: saatchigallery.com.