The Wonderland Collective
The Royal Albert Hall, London
22 June 2009 – only!
The Royal Albert Hall has an almost un-paralleled status in the history of high-brow entertainment and in its’ 138 years has hosted some of the truely iconic performers. And my kids did a percussion workshop and this is the story of how a troupe of stencil based urban artists came to together to pay tribute to them.
Under the Albert Hall is one of those backstage areas most of us never get to see, a place where artic lorries transport huge stage sets and overblown egos, also known as a loading bay. The Wonderland Collective were commissioned to create an enormous freize in the loading bay, hence the title of the opening, as tribute to the hall’s own history and today the fruits of their squirts were on show to the public for one day only.
The beauty of this work is that the real legends, those icons from the pioneering days when British bands ruled the world and American torch singers and balladeers found their audience in the UK remain legends to many generations. Their famous poses and celebrate moments from the archives still have the power to thrill.
The installation splits into four distinct elements. There is the Icon wall featuring a montage of giants and Jay Z. Painters on this wall included Grafter and Eyesaw.
Opposite this curve piece is an elongated timeline featuring luminaries such as Paul Weller, Elton John, Jimi, Mick, The Beatles, Eric Clapton and Einstein, the last somewhat out of context but apparently he spoke at the Albert Hall before the outbreak of World War II.
The third wall looks somewhat spartan, with a collection of translucent Union flags arranged either side of a silhouette of Henry Wood conducting the BBC Proms under a large RAH motif and some popular classical musicians.
Apart from the stars from the entertainment business, the mural also pays homage to the many others who have used the RAH either temporarily as a passing moment in history or routinely as a local albeit remarkably specialised amenity – the suffragettes, majorettes and brass band competitors, children and ….er…. sumo wrestlers.
The turnout was impressive and varied, opening a behind the scenes space in a location like the Royal Albert Hall to show new paintings of everyone’s heroes draws a fresh crowd considerably different to that found slumped in the gutters in Shoreditch after a Pure Evil opening on a Thursday night.
The illuminations were a tribute to the fact that one of the first displays of electric lighting was held at the Royal Albert Hall and also explain the eery bluish tint in the pics.
The work will remain on the walls for ever, locked behind the private doors and out of sight from the public. You have to envy the sense of historic achievement The Wonderland Collective must enjoy, they have created something that is destined to last, something to be viewed for decades and decades by generations of roadies and drivers.
For the record, street/urban artists who contributed to this wall, the members of The Wonderland Collective (and possibly some friends) were: Ben Slow, Snik, Blam, Finbarr DAC, Grafter, Eyesaw, DanK, DBO and Babel.