an this morning the queen diesArt collectors Paul Stolper And the Andrew Wilson She happened to stare at the picture of her face. It is a piece of card, smaller than vinyl LP, any artist Jimmy Reed Produced for concert by the Sex Pistols. Taking Cecil Beaton classic photopersonalize it with a safety pin through her lip, print it on the union flag, and later pierce it for possible use as instruments on the infamous band Jubilee boat trip on June 7, 1977, although it was never used. This is the piece that seeded the world A great set of visual icons related to the most important punk rock band. Today you fill a room in a west London storage facility Sotheby’sbefore it goes up for auction next month.
It started in 1990. Stolper and Wilson were visiting Christie’s to see a painting Patrick Caulfield. Stolper is now a successful art dealer and Wilson was until recently Senior Trustee at Tate Britain, but at the time they were young men on tight budgets and Caulfield was out of reach. Before leaving empty-handed, they scanned the sale of rock and pop memorabilia, and a bunting card caught their attention.
“We thought he’s cool, we can stand this, he speaks to us in terms of visual language, and he’s immersed in the cultural history of the twentieth century,” Stolper recalls. “We understood early on what we wanted to collect and how to do it. We were in time to build a really important group, which rarely happens. You can’t put this group together now.”
Most items in the Stolper Wilson collection cost only tens or hundreds of pounds. In the ’90s, coveted, expensive artifacts like signed records and guitars didn’t matter to them, while things are she did Cares – posters, flyers, letters – did not excite punk collectors. In fact, there is no music on the set at all. “The Sex Pistols were not like any other band, in any other position, because from the start it was art as living life,” Wilson says. “Yes, it was music, but it was also about the way of being in the world.”
The two friends visited auction houses and souvenir dealers while scouring the walls of record stores in search of old Blu-Tacked papers. As soon as word spread, characters from the band’s inner orbit began coming forward with items for sale. ‘I would come home with pieces of paper and my wife would say,’what or what did you buy? “And I say: This is really important,” Stolper recalls with a laugh. It’s the first press release for Pistols! “
Although Stolper and Wilson can’t fault their aging villains, they were fans at the time. Wilson, who was 14 in 1976, remembers buying him God Save the Queen on release week. Stolper, aged 11, used to live in Sloane Square, not far from sex boutique, owned by Sex Pistols director, Malcolm McLaren. “I was walking up and down Kings Road and seeing all the bad guys. I was so young that I didn’t understand her politics, but I got the culture because I was there.”
By 1996, the collection was large enough to merit an exhibition entitled “I groaned in pain”…sex, infatuation and the sex pistols, at the Eagle Gallery, above a pub in Clerquenwell. Stolper and Wilson chose clean white frames on blank walls to indicate that this is about art, not rock. Among the visitors were many young British artists, who have often been compared to the villains of the time, though less so now. “Every contemporary artist I know came to this show,” says Stolper. “Everyone of our time was very familiar with visual images.” Damien Hirst even named a set of medicine cabinets after the songs of the Sex Pistols.
McLaren came in too, overwhelmed by this monument to his youthful endeavours. He moved so quickly after the Sex Pistols ended in explosive acuity in 1978 that he never thought about caring for this period of his life. “It was an ephemeral culture,” Wilson says. “These things were not as valuable back then as they are now.”
The collectors sat with him in a long conversation. “We weren’t interested in asking how Master was really?” Stolper says. We wanted to ask, where did this come from? We finished the interview with a great question: “So, Malcolm, do you think it’s art?” There was a long silence, then he said: It was somehow Larger of art. “
if Pistol, Danny Boyle’s latest TV series, was the story of a rock band, This group is the story of an idea: a collaborative multimedia art project in which Reed and McLaren, who met at Croydon School of the Arts, were at least as important as Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. “They all brought their own unique insights, and the Sex Pistols were the pot that everyone threw in everything,” says Stolper. Many of the images, ostensibly created to promote gigs and recordings, hold up as works of art in their own right. You can see them without ever hearing about the music of the Sex Pistols and know that they represent a fundamentally important moment in British youth culture. “It’s all in the service of something else,” Wilson says, “and working out what that other thing is is the interesting part of it.”
The two men circle the room, proudly explaining the stories behind their favorite handicrafts. The group defines iconic images by contextualizing them as the product of a high-speed, low-budget experience. A flyer for 100 Club offerings in 1976, with just 10 weeks apart, shows how Helen Wellington-Lloyd’s original capital logo led to Red’s ransom letter group. Reid’s tatty Lion Brand exercise book charts the final days of the project, with ideas drawn for the brutally satirical 1980 compilation album. dead horse skin And written reminders to chase the money owed by McLaren. The lyrical pink foliage of Vicious’s debut band, Flowers of Romance, reveals surprisingly delicate calligraphy, all I was dotted with a glowing globe. The broad poster for the band’s first and only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s Sex Pistols, is the copy that Vicious hung on the wall of his room in New York’s Chelsea Hotel before his death in 1979. It still bears stains. Since he cleaned out his heroin syringes.
As for McLaren, his determination is to position the band within a long tradition of English dissidents and unruly boys. It was vividly expressed in his handwritten poster for their last concert in the UK, on Christmas Day 1977. “This true and dirty tale continued through 200 years of teenage chaos,” he wrote alongside a George Cruikshank illustration of Dickens’ hedgehogs. McLaren and Reed’s shared love of poses led to the cancellation of a poster for the Belgian tourism industry in an advertisement for the caustic single, Holidays in the Sun. “It takes something familiar and presents it in a way that changes your attitude to the world you live in,” Wilson says. “It was not all necessarily about rejection but rather about reflection.”
Perhaps the funniest element of the group is the press kit assembled by Warner Bros Records for the US version of Never Mind the Bollocks, with its upside-down T-shirt and comics retelling the band’s story. Her establishment’s derision of the sex pistol’s consumer aesthetic foretold all the subsequent artificial credits of punk indicators, from advertising to boutique hotel rooms. “Images are constantly being reworked,” says Stolper. “If there was a new young pop star who was ‘rebel’, there would be punk style. It’s rebellion by numbers. That’s the touchstone of it all.”
Stolper and Wilson considered their work done by 2004, after they had obtained the original lyrics for Holidays in the Sun, No Feelings and Submission. That year they had two more exhibitions, at the Hospital Gallery in Covent Garden and Orbis in Manchester. In the spirit of punk, they felt it had become too big and commercial, so they did nothing else. “The audience at Eagle was an artistic audience and the audience at the hospital was everyone,” Wilson says.
However, they have loaned objects to museums all over the world. The work of taking care of the group and traveling to supervise the installation is one of the reasons they sold it. Having made the difficult decision to break it up, they now talk about it like proud parents watching their children fly into the nest. “You have to live another life now,” Wilson says. “A collecting arc inevitably leads to distraction—that sense of being abandoned in the world so that others can enjoy the fun we had.”
This, then, is their last chance to see the whole group and think about the story they tell about the Sex Pistols, and in their own lives. “When I was a kid, music seemed really important,” Wilson says. “Now I find it very difficult to listen to some music. But this is– ‘wiping his hand across the room -‘ I still find endlessly fascinating and exciting. It’s more than just music. And it’s more than just pictures. It is a complete art.”