Review: Sweet Harmony at Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery’s latest temporary exhibition is all about rave culture – we sent Neil Simpson to Sweet Harmony: Rave Today to check it out.

When I heard that the Saatchi Gallery was putting on an exhibition about rave culture, I made sure to take a former raver with me: our very own sub editor, Anna Frame. Rave culture was a big part of Anna’s London social life in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, so I was keen to find out what she would make of Sweet Harmony.

Sweet Harmony is primarily a photography exhibition about the people who took part in the rave movement that emerged during the ‘80s and ‘90s. There are all sorts of shots to see, from large, professional images of dancers lost in the lasers, to small amateur photographs that have been taken from a personal diary. For Anna, these pictures were an evocative trip down memory lane and for me, a fun and intriguing look at the thrill of underground culture.

The exhibition is described as ‘immersive’, but there are only a few parts where this is the case: it begins with a neon-glowing petrol station installation (above), followed by a very dark passage with a dim light at the end – ‘it’s like finding a rave!’ exclaimed Anna. Through a ripped-open chicken-wire fence, you walk up to and through a curtain made of hanging strips of rubber, which has a massive smiley face painted on it (see our Instagram post at the bottom). This is where the immersive part ends and a traditional exhibition begins.

As well as photographs, there’s a wall covered in lovingly preserved rave flyers, a room with a mini record shop and DJ booth in the middle, a booming ‘Rave Room’ (above), several video installations to watch and lots of other artefacts – there’s a lot to see and you could spend several hours inside.

While the Saatchi Gallery is making an effort to organise a schedule of late-night events with guest DJs (the final Sweet Harmony Saatchi Late is 6 Sep, 6.30pm-9pm), don’t expect this exhibition to be a mini-rave – it’s an art gallery in one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods, after all.

What Sweet Harmony does brilliantly, however, is suggest that at the heart of rave culture is a desire to live in a system built on love, rather than money and possessions. It’s easy to dismiss ravers and nomadic party people as drugged-up maniacs, but this show argues that such desires are more important today than ever. For that, I enjoyed Sweet Harmony just as much as Anna did.

Sweet Harmony: Rave | Today is open until 14 Sep 2019
Tickets £11.20 | Daily 10am-6pm
Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Rd, SW3 4RY
020-7811 3070 |
Times and prices correct at time of publishing

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