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Great Moments in Popular Music - Snap Galleries

Exhibition preview

SNAP Galleries is presenting Great Moments in Popular Music, the inaugural London gallery exhibition by Pete McKee – from Saturday, September 10 to Saturday, October 29, 2011.

The exhibition will feature approximately 40 new works by renowned Sheffield based artist McKee, and will combine original paintings, ink sketches and screenprints.

Great Moments in Popular Music is a wry look at the events in rock ’n’ roll that shaped lives and inspired generations to form rock ‘n’ roll bands and make history. As well as retelling tales of vinyl gods and goddesses, the exhibition also takes a look at fandom – the clothes, the hairstyles – all done with the wit and reverence that are Pete McKee’s trademarks.

Explaining the title, McKee says: “Coming up with a title for the show, I went through a number of puns and clever references: “Sound and Visions”, “Walls of Sound”, “Stop/Pause/Rewind”, “This Is It” and numerous others.

“I settled on Great Moments in Popular Music as it’s very grand and to the point but it also allows me to be cheeky with my choice of subject matter. A great moment in music is a totally subjective point: Is it your first record? Is it the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl?”

In a bold and innovative development as part of the build up to the launch, Pete McKee is providing an access-all-areas pass to all the planning that goes into the exhibition. He has set up a dedicated blog site where, through a series of regular blog entries, he will go behind the scenes on the production of the show.

As he explains: “As part of this exhibition I want to do something unique. I want to take people on a journey by documenting the whole creative process of producing an exhibition – from the original concept for the exhibition to the final painting, and everything in between. This will be done as part of a regular blog update featuring sketches, musings and video clips.”

The blog site is live already and contains a number of posts by McKee, at

One of the new paintings, The Beatles Get a Haircut neatly sums up the essence of the exhibition. It features one of the most important groups in the history of popular music, but captures a left field moment which you won’t find in any standard Beatles biographical text.

The painting depicts the moment as imagined by Pete, when the Beatles first acquired their moptops, and, as Pete puts it – paraphrasing John Lennon – “changed from Rockers to Mockers”.

Gallery owner Guy White says: “ Pete’s work brings a smile to your face, and the subject matter of this exhibition is clearly close to Pete’s heart, and mine. The Beatles piece is classic McKee – George and Paul have been ‘mopped’, John and Ringo await their turn, their final few minutes as bona fide rockers preserved for posterity.

“Of course this isn’t exactly how it happened, but that’s not the point – it’s how Pete’s imagination works that is the point here, and how he applies his trademark wit to the subjects we know and love, reminding us to expect the unexpected.”

Another new painting, Jimi Starts a Fire, depicts a lavishly attired Hendrix buying lighter fluid in a local shop before one of his trademark incendiary performances. One of McKee’s first paintings from the exhibition, it shows a different side to Jimi Hendrix – it’s not the flaming guitar that gets the spotlight but the corner shop selling the lighter fuel.

Great Moments in Popular Music Gallery

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm.

Snap Galleries, 8 Piccadilly Arcade, London, SW1Y 6NH