|When John Met Yoko
November 9, 1966 at Indica Gallery
by Joe Neumaier (Entertainment Weekly, November 5, 1999)
Instant Karma: Something about Yoko Ono intrigued
John Lennon when they met at an art gallery on
November 9, 1966. The following is a summation
of what took place that night (and later), along with
some background information on Yokos infamous
When John Lennon was invited by friend, John Dunbar, to an exhibit at Dunbars Indica Gallery in London on November 9, 1966, the intellectually hungry, emotionally restless 26-year-old Beatle reportedly thought the avant-garde show might involve drugs, an orgy, or any of the things that made swingin' London swing. In fact, what was happening at the Indica was a conceptual-art show called Unfinished Paintings and Objects, exhibiting the work of Yoko Ono, a 33-year-old Japanese artist who created things like transparent homes, imaginary music, and "underwear to make you high."
Ono was yin to Lennon's yang: She was a well-born daughter of a bank president with a minor following in the art world; he was a working-class Liverpudlian who became one of the most famous people in the world. Yet that night, Lennon climbed a ladder to the ceiling to see one of Ono's installations: a placard with a tiny word on it--"Yes." She gave him a card reading "Breathe;" and requested five shillings to hammer an imaginary nail into the wall. His famous retort: an imaginary five shillings to hammer the imaginary nail. The connection was instantaneous
The details--some believe them apocryphal--have taken on the glow of their romance. When they met, the two were married to other people, but still became inseparable, and the songwriter in Lennon became less interested in wanting to hold hands and more interested in revolution.
In 1968, when they released their first collaboration--an album of cacophonous sounds called Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins--the controversial cover showed them naked for all the world to see (the world wasn't impressed). After tumultuous divorces, they married in 1969 (at which time he legally became John Winston Ono Lennon). They held "bed-ins" for peace and mounted a joint art show. Many fans saw Ono as a divisive force, adding to the already fractious mood between him and the other Beatles in the years leading up to their breakup.
But Lennon envisioned the two of them as "the Romeo and Juliet of the 1970s," as Ono recalled to her husband's biographer Ray Coleman. And as their relationship matured, so did his solo efforts; instead of ambient noise and railings against God, Lennon crafted albums like Imagine, Mind Games, and Double Fantasy, with hummable tunes, ample humanity, and valentines to Ono and their son, Sean. Despite a brief separation in the mid-'70s, their love story endured until his murder in 1980. Though John and Yoko's ballad ended on a tragic note, it began, at the Indica Gallery, on a properly imaginative one.
Copyright 1999 Time Inc.
About the Historic Indica Gallery Show
Location: Indica Gallery, 6 Masons Yard, Duke Street, St. James's, SW 1
Most likely one of Yoko Ono's most famous art shows, due primarily to the fact that it was where she first met John Lennon, Yoko at Indica has reached mythical status in Lennon/Beatles history. John was introduced to Yoko by Indicas owner, John Dunbar, who was among the underground avant garde art crowd that The Beatles and other swinging Londoners ran with at the time. Taking place early in the British phase of Yokos career, there has been some confusion over the years as to what the official name of the show actually was. Some sources state that the title of the show was A One-man Show of Instruction Paintings by Yoko Ono, while others say it was simply called Unfinished Paintings. It has also been referred to as Unfinished Paintings and Objects by Yoko Ono. Perhaps the clearest indicator of the name of the show appears on the cover of the catalog from the exhibit: it reads "Yoko at Indica."
Yoko at Indica included Yoko's first all white chess set, which was at that time simplistically called Chess Set. Accompanying the work was the following explanation: "For playing as long as you can remember where all your pieces are." It would show up many years later as Play It By Trust, and continue to be one of Yoko's most recognized pieces, due to its inclusion in several Lennon films and videos.
Other pieces exhibited include: Balance Piece, Ceiling Painting, and Apple, again all having become iconic Yoko artworks through the years. As was usually the case, Yoko also performed several events, or happenings, one of which was called Hide-Mouth. A photo of the event was used on the shows catalog cover.
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