The Velvet Underground Experience

Grandlife culture

The Velvet Underground Experience

back to list

Curator Christian Fevret on the new art and music exhibition that pays tribute to the Velvet Underground in frontman Lou Reed’s native New York.

Christian Fevret is an independent curator based in Paris. He is the founder and former Editor in Chief of the magazine Les Inrockuptibles, which was first published in 1986. The magazine focuses on movies, literature, and rock ’n’ roll, so it’s no surprise that its founder also happens to be an expert on the Velvet Underground. With his knowledge of the band, along with co-curator Carole Mirabello and designer Matali Crasset, The Velvet Underground Experience was born, an exhibition that started in Paris and is now in New York at a pop-up venue on Broadway. We met on the second floor of the exhibition, a soundtrack from the Velvet Underground playing in the background, and sat, surrounded by vintage records.

Katy Diamond Hamer: What has it been like for you to bring this exhibition about the Velvet Underground to New York City?

Christian Fevret: Bringing it to New York is incredibly important to us as everything began here. I think for young New Yorkers, I don’t know if it will be a discovery, but it will show what happened and how much [the band’s] influence reached outside America. A lot of bands from Japan, England, and Brazil were formed because of the Velvets. It doesn’t mean they have the same sound but in terms of freedom of spirit, speech, and creation the Velvets were pioneers. Seeing this in New York now is quite fantastic for us.

KDH: Is the layout the same as it was in Paris?

CF: The exhibition was first shown at the Philharmonie de Paris and we had to adapt it to bring it to New York. In Paris, all of the exhibition was on the same level and here we have three levels. So we had to reinvent part of the exhibition but used the same scenographer, Matali Crasset. We shipped quite a lot of the custom display furniture and adapted it to this fantastic, New York space. It has an underground and sub-basement. It feels very New York to me and when we are downstairs we can often hear the subway below. Also, I think it works well to not recreate old New York but have a contemporary point of view on the story we are telling.

KDH: How did you get involved in this particular project? Did you originally approach it as a fan?

CF: I was the editor of Les Inrockuptibles for 25 years and during that time, I had multiple occasions to meet the Velvet members, Lou Reed, of course, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Moe Tucker. I did interviews with the four of them and little by little I was also involved with other people from that scene, who were close to the band and are still close to John and Moe, for example, Sterling’s widow Martha, Jonas Mekas and many of the photographers. We first had the idea for an exhibition about five or six years ago, it was before the Bowie exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. It took us some time to have it produced because it’s a lot of work, including three years for Paris and two more in order to bring it to New York. The Velvets were not only an important influential band but [their music] resonates today. The story behind the band, their music, friends—Andy Warhol and Nico, for example—is an important story to tell and that is what we are trying to do with the exhibition.

KDH: How has the exhibition been received so far in New York?

CF: The reception is way beyond our expectations. It was very well received in Paris but we can feel here that there is really an excitement and surprise when people visit the exhibition. I’m not sure that before entering, they imagine how interactive it is—the way we display the pictures, movies, etc. We produced six movies for this exhibition and are showing them in unusual ways. People visiting the exhibition can feel not only the work that we did but something special in the atmosphere. From what I’ve gathered, people leaving the exhibition are very happy about it.

KDH: You had to aggregate quite a lot of material for the exhibition. What would you say was the most difficult to get?

CF: Well, initially one of the most difficult things, that turned out well in the end, was the involvement of Lou Reed’s sister, Merrill Reed Weiner. It was difficult for her because as a family member she loved and always loves her brother and she wanted to set up things about their childhood and this famous story of electroshock therapy that Lou Reed went through. In the end, I persuaded her to read and us to record a text that she wrote about this. For the first time, the family accepted that pictures of Lou Reed as a child could be shown. Merrill agreed to give us a few very interesting photos of Lou in his young years, which is very special.

KDH: The exhibition is on view in New York until December 30, will it continue to travel?

CF: We are in discussions with three cities at the moment. The plan is to do five additional cities in North America in the next five years, so yes, my hope is that the exhibition will reach the West Coast, maybe Chicago, and also Canada.

WORDS Katy Diamond Hamer
PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of The Velvet Underground Experience

You May Also Like

Downtown Vintage Treasure Troves

Downtown Vintage Treasure Troves

fashion
stories
Victorian blouses, sequined disco tops, perfectly worn 501s—these emporiums will sort out any gaps you might have. 
Get Lost in Chinatown

Get Lost in Chinatown

coffee & cafés
fashion
food & drink
reading
stories
From a family-run tofu shop to a private hair studio—our favorite under-the-radar spots.
Supporting Ukraine Through Its NYC Roots

Supporting Ukraine Through Its NYC Roots

art & design
bars & nightlife
coffee & cafés
food & drink
stories
Our favorite Ukrainian spots in a city that boasts the largest Ukrainian population in the country. 
On Show: New York Art World Icons Warhol & Basquiat

On Show: New York Art World Icons Warhol & Basquiat

art & design
stories
If you only catch a few exhibitions this spring, make sure it’s these ones...
Weekends in SoHo

Weekends in SoHo

art & design
bars & nightlife
fashion
food & drink
stories
Combining heritage with a new age of restaurants, bars, cafes, and boutiques, explore the neighborhood with this curated guide.
The Originals: NYC Institutions Still Worth a Visit

The Originals: NYC Institutions Still Worth a Visit

bars & nightlife
food & drink
stories
From an essential NYC Jewish deli to a chemist to a comedy club with anecdotes and fun facts from those who were—or still are—there.
Best in Class: NYC Concept Stores

Best in Class: NYC Concept Stores

fashion
shopping
stories
In typical New York fashion, a class of concept stores has raised the bar for what you can expect from a clothing boutique.
New York Spring Gardens Downtown Elizabeth Street Garden Gramercy Park Washington Square Park

Diggin' It: Downtown Garden Escapes

food & drink
stories
Lunch date, garden party, solo respite—these 5 outdoor spots have your alfresco needs covered this spring.
Best Rate Promise
Soho Grand Hotel

310 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013

(212) 965-3000
The Roxy Hotel New York

2 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10013

212.519.6600