Design Museum, London
This collection of Amy Winehouse’s effects, from diaries to graffitied street signs and performance footage, makes you wonder if she would have survived in our more sensitive age
A lined A4 notebook is pinned open on a board, heavily doodled with love hearts and the random thoughts of an 18-year-old girl, not so different to every other 18-year-old girl in history. “Just plain fuckin’ nice” is the title of a list of four retro-classic songs, including Bobby Darin’s I Wanna Be Around (1965), alongside the words “Chris Taylor loves Amy Winehouse” (with loves scored out), “Paul Watson loves Amy Winehouse” (with loves scored out), meticulous notes on how to fill in the form and send a cheque to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea, a shopping list including “£200 – fridge, £40 – Shelley’s Shoes, £50 – Chanel No.5?”, and five significantly more ominous words floating out from a flurry of love hearts: “diet no dairy or carbs”.
It’s testament to the mystery and absurdity of fame how the scraps of ordinary life become archaeological treasures in death, but it’s these inner-world details that stay with you throughout Amy: Beyond the Stage, the Design Museum’s first exhibition dedicated to a single musical artist. More than a year in production and instigated by her dad, Mitch (who asked Amy’s stylist, Naomi Perry, to approach the museum), it’s a mesmerising celebration of a still painfully short life: early-years notebooks and photos gifted by Amy’s mum, Janis; walls alive with TV screens showing early interviews and acoustic demo performances (unleashing the full force of the Winehouse personality and staggering vocal talent); a classy reconstruction of London’s Metropolis Studios; handwritten lyrics from Frank and Back to Black – unflinchingly honest and often hilarious – now under glass like exotic butterflies.