How the Turbulent 60s revolutionized the World

Richard Burnett

The blockbuster exhibition Revolution explores the ideals of the late 1960s as expressed in music, film, fashion and design, and how it all came together during this era of heightened activism. The exhibition runs at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts until October 9, anchored by a greatest-hits musical soundtrack of the era.

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The Turbulent 60s

The title of this musical exhibition refers to the words of the Beatles’ song Revolution, composed by John Lennon in 1968 in response to violent political protests that year, including the May 68 protests in Paris.

Sings John Lennon, “You say you want a revolution / Well, you know / We all want to change the world.”

This comprehensive and well-thought-out exhibition explores the transformations in Western society driven by young people seeking change and freedom.

Initiated by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts has also put its own stamp on this exhibition with a special focus on the roles of Montréal and Expo 67 in these révolutions.

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Miniskirts to the First Man on the Moon

The exhibition is divided into eights sections and features more than 700 works and documents – clothing, designs, posters, album covers, publications, works of art, photos, archival documents, film clips and music – chronicling the youth-oriented movements that occurred between 1966 and 1970, from Flower Power to the Black Panthers.

The MMFA version also includes a number of works from the museum’s own collection, as well as audiovisual material from such famed 1960s Québec events as the John Lennon and Yoko Ono Montréal Bed-in, L’Osstidcho, the Quiet Revolution and the October Crisis.

Make Love Not War

The centrepiece of the Montréal exhibition is the expansive and mind-blowing multi-media Gatherings and Festivals gallery that screens footage from the mythical Woodstock of 1969 on a massive wall-to-wall screen.

Here visitors will also find the drum kit of Keith Moon of The Who, as well as eye-popping outfits worn by Jimi Hendrix.

Soundtrack of the 60s

The Revolution exhibition is also a musical odyssey anchored by a superb greatest-hits soundtrack of iconic songs from 1966 to 1970 by such hitmakers as the Beach Boys, the Beatles, David Bowie, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and the Who, not to mention classic tracks by such Quebec icons as Robert Charlebois and Leonard Cohen.

Revolution offers hi-fi headphones for visitors following a circuit that synchronizes sound and image depending on where the visitor is located in the galleries, ensuring visitors will be swept away in a well-laid out exhibition that allows everybody plenty of room to soak in the sights and sounds.

Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane once famously said, “If you can remember anything about the sixties, you weren't really there.”

But this exhibition takes visitors back and makes you feel like you really are there. Visitors will truly feel like they are travelling in time, from the streets of Swinging London to the Summer of Love in San Francisco.

Take the Revolution home

The Revolution exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated 320-page coffee-table book that is available at the Museum’s Boutique and Bookstore ($64.95).

The Revolution exhibition runs at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts until October 9.