Review of ‘Kylie: The Exhibition’ – Manchester

Confide In Me – By Stuart Ian Burns

Passing through Kylie: The Exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery today was like time traveling back to my early to mid-teens. Inevitably, Miss Minogue was my first pop star crush and it’s a pretty unique situation to see photographs of and costumes from a hundred school boy fantasies actually on display with other people gawking at them.

Across one of the walls is a chronology of the singer’s single and album releases with a short bit of historical information highlighting whether a particular 7″ or cd broke record or not. Rather like an evolutionary wall chart, it’s possible to see the different stages of Kylie’s career from S/A/W through the mid-career indie dip through to her rediscover as a dance diva. The last single I bought was Tears on my Pillow before I entered my Debbie Gibson period (oh yes) and I could almost detect an invisible line penciled on the wall.

Everything you’d want to see if you’ve ever been a fan is included. There’s a display of the period circa Neighbours — Charlene’s dungaree’s appear as do an array of acting awards and such things as the Smash Hits award (I voted for her — she knew I’m sure); plenty of photographs from album and tour shoots to magazines and occasions when a respected snapper has simply wanted to record that face.

Giant projections display a rolling programme of her promos from The Locomotion through to Chocolate and a live concert and I have to admit to singing along and almost dancing in that way you do when you’re not actually dancing and hope that no one is noticing you’re not actually dancing.

The centre pieces are the costumes and again they span the popstrels career and even a Man at Asda like myself could see the progression in style and design philosophy from the late eighties through to the present day and also different challenges presented in creating something to be worn for a photograph, a pop video and night in and out on tour.

Ironically though, legend has it the gold lamé hotpants that she wore in the Spinning Around video, and it’s been said rekindled her career in just three minutes, where bought at somewhere like Hackney Market for fifty pence. Something that is obvious is how perfectly proportioned Kylie must be but delicate — some of dresses look like miniature versions of what the real thing should be like.

When this exhibition originally appeared at the V&A, I remember the somewhat predictable band of naysayers who couldn’t understand how something like this could possibly appear in a museum. I thought they were wrong then, and I’d tripple my disagreement now. If this had been a slapdash affair, throwing up some pop videos and copies of some of her dresses there might have been a cause for concern.

But this is meticulously curated and as I’ve already mentioned is as much a presentation of contemporary fashion design and costume as about the person. But even on those terms, why not celebrate someone who’s become something of a British icon even though she’s not originally from around these parts and at the same time, yes, attract people who otherwise might not visit an art gallery?

Because the flip side of that is me wondering why I only have two Kylie tracks in my cd collection and thinking about collecting a few albums, especially the indie period which looks really interesting and judging by its popularity is particularly cheap to buy. That said, the exhibition didn’t entirely strangle me with nostalgia — as soon as Can’t Get You Out Of My Head appeared on the big screen I remembered that there is a video somewhere of me line dancing badly to it at a corporate event I attended once when I working in a call centre …