Pete McKee: Great Moments in Popular Music

10th September to 29th October 2011

Welcome to our latest exhibition: Great Moments in Popular Music, as seen through the eyes of incredibly talented Sheffield based artist, Pete McKee. The ”Great Moments” exhibition is an exciting one for us as it marks the start of a broader approach for the gallery to popular culture beyond photography. This show is a wry look at the events in rock ’n’ roll that shaped lives and inspired generations to form rock ‘n’ roll bands and make history. As well as retelling tales of vinyl gods and goddesses, the exhibition also takes a look at fandom – the clothes, the hairstyles – all done with the wit and reverence that are Pete McKee’s trademarks.

If you are not familiar with Pete’s style then you’re in for a treat. Emotions are often conveyed in a single brushstroke, and while many of his paintings show off his natural wit and sense of fun, he is not afraid to deal with difficult subjects; the death of Buddy Holly is the focus of one of the paintings in the show, the haunting ‘Winter Dance Party’.

For Pete, the destination isn’t as important as the journey. He explains: “What interests me more is not that the Rolling Stones are the biggest rock ’n’ roll band in the world, but that, once, they were spotty teenagers with greasy hair and a dream.” Likewise, in the painting ‘Jimi Starts a Fire' it’s not Hendrix’s flaming guitar that gets the spotlight, but the corner shop selling the lighter fuel. Of course this isn’t exactly how it happened, but that’s not the point. It’s how Pete’s imagination works that is the point here, and how he applies his trademark wit to the subjects we know and love, reminding us to expect the unexpected. That’s a theme that runs through the work on show.

Pete continues: “Coming up with a title for the show, I went through a number of puns and clever references. I settled on “Great Moments in Popular Music” as it’s very grand and to the point but it also allows me to be cheeky with my choice of subject matter. A great moment in music is a totally subjective point: Is it your first record? Is it the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl?”

This exhibition has been a complete pleasure to put together. Every few days for the past couple of months an email from Pete would arrive with another classic piece for the show completed. My excitement has been building over time as the overall shape of the exhibition has come into sharper focus with the revelation of each successive painting.

The exhibition takes up all three floors of the gallery. Visitors will see 28 original paintings on the ground floor and downstairs, while upstairs we feature a selection of 11 original pencil drawings and handpulled screenprints. 

If you've never owned a unique, original piece of art, a McKee is a great place to start.