Though the Velvet Underground is a quintessentially New York band, its roots were in Long Island — something the new Velvet Underground Experience is careful to point out.
There’s a shot of guitarist Sterling Morrison graduating from Division Avenue High School in Levittown with his friend Jim Tucker, the brother of Velvets’ drummer Maureen Tucker. There are pictures from Lou Reed’s Freeport High School yearbook. And yes, there’s even a bit on Massapequa Park’s Candy Darling, the Factory regular who inspired a character in “Walk on the Wild Side.”
Even the introduction to Reed’s section of the exhibit makes it clear, stating, “In the boredom of Long Island, the young Lou Reed was something of a walking enigma: a school kid passionate about rock ‘n’ roll and a literature student crazy about transgression, a natural provocateur and caring brother, an outsider and unstable misfit.”
However, the bulk of the exhibit, which spans three floors in at 718 Broadway in NoHo, is dedicated to the group and its legacy. The centerpiece is a screening room created by French designer Matali Crasset, where visitors can lay on cushions and watch films of the band’s performances and interviews.
It is the films, many of which were created for the exhibit when it opened in 2016 at La Philharmonie de Paris in France, that make the biggest impact, showing how “I’m Waiting for the Man” fit in with the scene at Andy Warhol’s Factory.
“Whatever was created in the Factory did not stay in the Factory,” the band’s co-founder John Cale said in a statement. “What Andy had started at the Cinemateque by projecting film onto the Velvet Underground became exponentially more complex… These historical visits are contained in their raw energy in the current rooms of the exhibit. They show the progress in personal expression not only in the disciplines of music, art and film, but the political servitude of the day.”
The exhibit also shows how the Velvet Underground inspired others, including a wall of musicians’ works, from The Smiths to Nirvana, as well as magazines and art displays.
Curators Christian Fevret and Carole Mirabello say they wanted the exhibit to show “the creative effervescence of the '60s NY from which the Velvet Underground emerged to achieve mythic status and change the face of pop culture.”
The Velvet Underground Experience, 718 Broadway, Manhattan, is open Tuesdays through Sundays until Dec. 30. Tickets are $25-$30 through velvetunderground-experience.com.