Monday, June 23, 2008

The Supremes at the Victoria and Albert Museum

I have heard Oprah Winfrey say in the past that the first black person she remembers seeing on television was Diana Ross when she performed with the Supremes on Ed Sullivan. This was before my time and so it never really sunk in how significant that could be. The V&A Museum had a special exhibit of Mary Wilson’s Supremes costumes so A and I went. I didn’t quite know what to expect but the museum did a nice job of telling a bigger story with the display. The costumes were displayed in chronological order describing the rise of The Supremes along with the story of the civil rights movement in the United States. A of course wasn’t interested in the historical context, she was just interested in the beadwork. I tried to force the issue but when I asked her what the civil rights movement was anyway and she gave me a satisfactory answer, I let it rest. It was interesting to see a British museum tell an American story and to also read about the impact that Motown made on England, especially in the north. About the beadwork, it was also spectacular, and of course the music throughout the exhibit had everyone singing along. One interesting fact, the girls wore wigs which modeled the white hairstyles of the day when they were performing because Berry Gordy Jr. wanted them to have a wider appeal than just a black audience.

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