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Landmark Exhibition Marks 50th Anniversary of the Isle of Wight Festival

Wight Spirit, 1968–70 is comprised of new sculptures by Guy Portelli and a selection of photographs — some never seen before — by the late Charles Everest.

Masterpiece Art present Wight Spirit, 1968–70, an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the seminal Isle of Wight Festival. 

The show is comprised of new sculptures by Guy Portelli and a selection of photographs — some never seen before — taken by the late Charles Everest. In addition, the gallery has created a feature-length documentary which will bring to light the festival’s history and legacy. 

When it began in 1968, 10,000 people attended the event, but by 1970 this had swelled to 600,000. That year the line-up included Jimi Hendrix, The Who and the Doors, and was a landmark in Britain’s cultural history, as well as serving as the progenitor for countless other open-air festivals. 

Guy Portelli, who has curated the show, says: “The Isle of Wight Festival is Europe’s Woodstock. You could argue it has more significance, and yet it isn’t venerated in the same way. I am not sure why that is, given the bands that played there and the huge number of people it attracted. My hope is that this exhibition, along with the accompanying film, will help redress that.”

The centrepiece of the exhibition is Portelli’s large-scale glass mosaic panel, Wight Spirit, which features the handprints of more than 80 musicians who performed at the festival, including members of Jefferson Airplane, Free, Pretty Things, and The Move. 

Showing alongside the sculptural works are over 60 photographs taken by Charles Everest (1929–2015) at the 1970 event. A highly successful newsreel cameraman and stills photographer, Everest worked as a press liaison for the festival organisers. In return for his services, he received unparalleled access to the performances on stage. Realised in collaboration with CameronLife Photo Library, this exhibition will see limited editions of Everest’s work available for the first time. 

WIGHT SPIRIT, 1968–70, The Documentary has been made in partnership with Blood Orange Film and features archival footage and interviews with eminent figures connected to the festival’s legacy. It will also include live shows performed by some of the musicians who played at the festival. These will take place at the central London studio and showroom of guitar brand Gibson in August. Masterpiece Art will also stage a one-day exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death on 18 September. 

Wight Spirit, 1968–70 runs at Masterpiece Art from 27 July – 5 September 2020. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the exhibition is by appointment only: telephone 020 3946 7881. 

Image: Guy Portelli, Wight Spirit. Photograph by Rabah Ichadadene.

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