No Stones unturned New downtown venue welcomes massive exhibition celebrating the 60-year career of British rock legends

A new exhibition and new venue at Portage Place mall aim to deliver satisfaction to Rolling Stones fans and Winnipeg’s downtown.

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A new exhibition and new venue at Portage Place mall aim to deliver satisfaction to Rolling Stones fans and Winnipeg’s downtown.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president, venues & entertainment of True North Sports + Entertainment, says the company has been in negotiations for months to bring the Unzipped exhibition to Winnipeg.
Unzipped, an international show focused on the 60-year history of the self-proclaimed world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, will open a seven-week run June 11 at Expo Live!, a 20,000-square-foot space built by True North Sports and Entertainment that was formerly home to a Staples store. The show continues until July 31.

”There are Stones fans everywhere and they come from all demographics and lifestyles,” Kevin Donnelly, True North senior vice-president of venues and entertainment, said at a pun-filled press conference Tuesday at Expo Live!. “You can’t always get what you want, but this show promises to get what you need.”

The Winnipeg showing will be Unzipped’s second and last Canadian stop before roadies pack up all the gear — nine semi-trailer trucks full of hundreds of artifacts and memorabilia, audio-visual presentations, and re-creations of a Stones’ recording studio and Edith Grove, their old flat in London’s Chelsea neighbourhood — and ship it back to England.

Supplied Recording equipment and instruments, including a drum kit played by the late Charlie Watts, are part of Unzipped.

Prior to arriving in Winnipeg, Unzipped was on display at The Museum in Kitchener, Ont., where Donnelly said he was “absolutely knocked out” by the exhibition and how it highlights the careers of the Stones: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood, as well as former members Bill Wyman, Brian Jones and Mick Taylor.

”The guitars, Charlie’s drum kit, all that sort of memorabilia,” Donnelly said of what impressed him of Unzipped. “The re-creation of their apartment is just priceless — cigarette butts, dirty laundry and dishes in the sink. The overall look, the authenticity of it… it really is astounding.”

Also included in the show are personal diaries, costumes, posters, album covers, videos and artwork, including paintings by Andy Warhol, who also created the notorious cover art for the Stones’ 1971 album Sticky Fingers.

Supplied A collection of guitars played by members of the Stones is part of Unzipped.

The Pittsburgh artist became famous for building the popularity of pop art in the 1950s and ’60s, and became friends with many rock stars, including Stones frontman Jagger.

Donnelly says there will also be an audio-visual element to the show, allowing visitors to create their own remixes of Stones recordings.

Expo Live! will also include a gift shop and a licensed snack bar during the exhibition, dubbed Voodoo Lounge after the Stones’ 1994 album.

Supplied Unzipped taps into the 60-year history of the Rolling Stones, including archival photos, diaries and other memorabilia.

True North has hosted exhibitions on the Titanic and Leonardo da Vinci in 2010 and 2011 at a temporary space that has since been replaced by the Alt Hotel and Stantec Building, and Donnelly says the company has sought a permanent space ever since.

“I’d actually hoped to have it open in early May, but COVID does what COVID does,” said Donnelly, who also said True North has been negotiating with Unzipped organizers for the past 18 months to bring the show to Winnipeg. “Having it over the summer months is still a win.”

Negotiations between True North and Portage Place have been going on for about a year to lease the old Staples location, Donnelly said, and workers were building and painting some of the 600 square feet of new gallery walls that will house the Unzipped exhibition and future shows.

Supplied Album artwork, photos and other memorabilia are part of Unzipped, an international exhibition devoted to the Rolling Stones.

“It’ll be a sporadic business that we hope will be long-term for us here,” he says.

Expo Live! should give a much-needed boost to Portage Place and downtown Winnipeg, both of which have struggled during the pandemic as many downtown office workers have worked from home.

“I think one of the most special things about our downtown is you can find unique experiences that you can’t find anywhere else,” Kate Fenske, chief executive officer of the Downtown Winnipeg Biz, said Tuesday. “When True North said they were thinking about the Staples space in Portage Place, I was like, ‘Let’s go.’ “

Unzipped will be open Tuesdays through Sundays during its run, with extended weekend hours. Timed-entry tickets, which go on sale Thursday, are available at unzippedwpg.ca.

Prices range from 27.49 to $46.99, with the adult weekday rate being $38.

Alan.Small@winnipegfreepress.com

Twitter: @AlanDSmall

PETER TAHL PHOTO Unzipped, an international exhibition devoted to the Rolling Stones, includes posters, costumes, videos and more.
Alan Small

Alan Small
Reporter

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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