By Susan Emerson Nutter
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Medieval to Metal: The Art & Evolution of the Guitar, a traveling exhibition created by the National GUITAR Museum, will be on display through April 16 at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio.
On display at the Butler are 40 instruments, ranging from the intricately inlaid Moorish oud and 6-foot long Renaissance theorbo to the modern Italian design of the Eko and transparent acrylic bodies of California’s B.C. Rich guitars. The Butler will also show videos of legendary performances of iconic guitarists throughout the run of the exhibition.
Never heard of the National GUITAR Museum? That is understandable as it is a relatively new entity and currently has no actual location. The National GUITAR Museum was started by H.P. Newquist in 2009, when the former editor of Guitar magazine (and a guitar enthusiast, collector and historian in his own right) realized no such museum existed.
The economy was not the best when he decided a guitar museum was needed, so Newquist took his museum “on the road,” beginning with the first exhibit, Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World. This educational display was, and continues to be, quite popular with science centers and history museums. It is currently on display through May 7 at the Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, N.Y.
“It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been affected by the guitar, whether as players or just fans of all types of music,” says Newquist, executive director of NGM. “And while this may be apocryphal, it’s a widely held belief that the two most recognizable man-made shapes on the planet are those of the Coca-Cola bottle and the electric guitar.”
The NGM’s initial exhibit not only attracted the attention of exhibit attendees, it sparked interest in the art world. Newquist was approached by museums with a proposition: Create a smaller exhibit that focuses on the art aspect of the guitar, and we will show it. So Newquist did.
Culling select objects from the collection that defined how the guitar’s design evolved from the days of lutes and ouds to present-day modern guitars resulted in the exhibit now known as Medieval to Metal: The Art & Evolution of the Guitar.
Newquist had plenty of pieces from which to choose. When first pulling together ideas for the National GUITAR Museum, the curator created a list of about 270 instruments he felt should be acquired by the museum. To date, 200 of those listed instruments have been found. Choosing the 40 examples for Medieval to Metal was made easier because of this inventory.
Instruments are not the only items that make up Medieval to Metal: The Art & Evolution of the Guitar. Included with the guitars on display are images from legendary photographer Neil Zlozower, who many consider the ultimate concert photographer in the U.S. Twenty photographs of acclaimed musicians and their guitars by Zlozower bring a sense of intimacy to the exhibit.
Also included are life-size photorealistic illustrations of historically important guitars by Gerard Huerta. Known for creating the distinctive logos for rock legends such as AC/DC, Boston, Blue Oyster Cult and the Charlie Daniels Band, Huerta has also created images of classic instruments from the 1950s. Additionally, historical nuggets of intriguing information concerning the guitar and its evolution are found throughout the exhibit.
Still the stars of the show are the instruments. Displayed in this manner, in a museum setting, these string instruments become beautiful works of art as the craftsmanship, designs and the materials used become focal points.
“Over the past several years, interest in the guitar as an icon has grown significantly,” Newquist said. “The guitar has been a signature element of world culture for more than 500 years; now visitors can explore the design history and artistry that has played a major role in the guitar’s evolution.”
The National GUITAR Museum is the first museum in the United States dedicated to the history, evolution and cultural impact of the guitar. Its touring exhibitions, launched in 2011, will be installed in more than two dozen different cities before becoming the basis of The National GUITAR Museum in a permanent home – the location of which will be announced in 2018.
The next and final stop of the Medieval to Metal: The Art & Evolution of the Guitar exhibit will be Vero Beach, Fla., from January 2018 through May 2018.
Contact: (330) 743-1107