A TV in the corner of the room shows John, Paul, George and Ringo, one by one, bowl haircut after bowl haircut, make their way onto a stage. It’s the iconic black and white footage of the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The show was one of the landmark events on the band’s 1964 U.S. tour, which is the subject of the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s newest exhibit, “Commemorating the Golden Anniversary of the Year America Met the Beatles.” The exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the visit that changed the nation’s popular culture forever, featuring images from photographers with intimate access to the group over the course of the two-week tour.
The images document some of the trip’s biggest moments, including The Beatles’ arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport, their performances in Washington, D.C. and Miami and even their encounter with heavyweight champion of the time Cassius Clay, now known as Muhammad Ali.
The 25 images on display include some of the best work from photographers such as Ken Regan, Charles Trainor, Curt Gunther, Robert Whitaker, Rowland Scherman and Terry O’Neill. All photos on display are available to purchase with prices ranging from $1,000 to $8,000.
The Morrison Hotel Gallery, a leading brand in fine art music photography, organized the event. Julian Lennon, son of John Lennon, curated the special event. Lennon hand-picked each of the 25 images, which he thinks best portray his father’s famous tour. Lennon is a world-renowned photographer himself and has been working with the Morrison Hotel Gallery for a few years.
“He’s a friend of the gallery,” said Gerry Baum, a sales associate at the West Hollywood Gallery. “I can’t remember who approached who about the exhibit, but it’s something we’ve been thinking of doing for quite some time.”
Lennon will not be in Los Angeles for the duration of the exhibit but will be promoting his sixth studio album Everything Changes, along with his documentary Through the Picture Window.
The exhibit, located in a side room of the lobby of the Sunset Marquis hotel in West Hollywood, is surprisingly small — all 25 images are located in just one room. But what the exhibit lacks in space and quantity, it makes up for in quality and ambiance.
Much of the 1964 tour was larger-than-life, but the behind the scenes look shows the humanity of the group. As much as stardom painted these figures as gods, photography can remind us of their mortality and vulnerability. Ultimately, The Beatles were just four talented guys from Liverpool, U.K.
Naturally, the exhibit caters to The Beatles fanatic more than the outsider. Some photos are easy to glance over, but in fact have a deep significance. One such photo captures an intimate moment between George Harrison and model Pattie Boyd who was engaged to another man at the time.
This is not to say, however, that you need to have studied The Beatles or even listened to one of their songs to enjoy the exhibit. If one does not know much about the band, he or she will after leaving. Much of this is due to the nature of the exhibit; the photos capture the group’s introduction to the United States for their grand unveiling.
The exhibit is a window into a time and place very different from the present. For those who experienced the 1960s, the gallery offers a nostalgic memory of the era. The clips of The Ed Sullivan Show call back the styles, sounds and personalities of the time.
For the younger crowd, the exhibit offers a cultural history lesson. It is hard to truly grasp the impact the foursome from Liverpool had on the world until you see the images of adult women crying at the sight of The Beatles, or hear their ovation on The Ed Sullivan Show. They are much more than a ’60s version of One Direction.
The setting of the exhibit alone is worth the price of admission. The location of the Sunset Marquis makes patrons feel cultured purely by virtue of the environment. The gallery sits opposite the hip Bar 1200 which complements the experience. The dimly lit bar plays Beatles B-side albums and radiates an aura of cool. The quality photography and the hip vibe make it a prime destination for L.A. cultural tourism.
“The Beatles: A 50th Anniversary Celebration of Photography” runs through the month of February.