Shakira Exhibit at Grammy Museum Expertly Captures Singer’s Cross-Cultural Origins and Impact
With international hits like “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Waka Waka” that have endured the test of time, Shakira and her unmistakable vibrato are a fixture of pop culture. Still, even the most die-hard fans will surely find something new to admire in her freshly unveiled exhibit at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
Shakira Mebarak Ripoll is renowned for the global trajectory of her career, and the showcase — which officially opens today in the museum’s Latin music gallery, and runs through 2024 — gives a closer look at the decades-long journey of the Colombian superstar with displays including rare mementos and instruments, costumes, a short film and more.
The exhibit was co-curated by Ernesto Lechner, whose ultimate vision “was to not only display her as a pop artist, but as an explorer,” he tells Variety. “This process took about six months to complete and in our very first meetings, I suggested we start with an atlas.”
The beginning of the exhibit is designed with the intention of understanding and honoring the cultural lineage behind the chart-topper’s most beloved hits. Starting with her native Barranquilla, Colombia, an interactive map pays tribute to her biggest influences, like tropical star Joe Arroyo, and also runs through her interests in Afro beats, Bollywood, classic rock and Arabic pop.
“When we were first getting into the process, the word fusion kept coming up because she draws in so many elements,” adds Jasen Emmons, the museum’s chief curator and vice president of curatorial affairs. “How can you do away with really making a statement about Shakira’s career trajectory in a digestible way?”
He continues, “We talked a lot about the fact that Shakira is always in motion. And there are different textures and designs that pay homage to that — from the gold and pink curtains at the beginning to the text boxes that are underneath every artifact.”
Shakira also appears in a short film to chronologically break down her career as a multi-layered recording artist. She details how writing poetry as a child led to her first record deal with CBS (now Sony Music) when she was 13, and how eventually she was able to put out her first English-language record, “Laundry Service.”
To complement her skills as a bilingual lyricist, the museum proudly displays the songwriting notebook she used during the sessions for her 2017 album “El Dorado,” along with a rhyming dictionary.
“The notebook was something we really fought to get because we wanted to show the impact of her writing,” says Lechner. “We traveled to her home in Barcelona where we collected all of the artifacts you see here. We wanted to get our hands on everything we could get to truly expand the lens of her artistry — even for those who may not be totally familiar.”
The exhibit also includes an interactive display that breaks down the stems and production behind “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” “Empire,” “Chantaje” and “Te Felicito,” with commentary from mixing engineer Dave Clauss.
Around every corner, Shakira’s most recognizable costumes are showcased along with guitars and other instruments decked out in sparkling Swarovski crystals that she used while on tour. Both of her sequined Super Bowl outfits are on display along with a Taylor guitar she uses for songwriting, and the leaf-covered ʙικιɴι she wore on the cover of her 2005 album, “Oral Fixation, Vol. 2.”
Closing the walk-through is a small theater with surround sound that projects a montage of Shakira’s best live performances (several are from her 2018 “El Dorado” world tour) with the striking nature of her one-woman choreography taking center stage. For Lechner, this was just one of the many ways the exhibit attempts to capture and distribute the spellbinding magic he felt when he first saw the singer in concert for her “Anfibio” tour.
“I remember just being completely transfixed by her,” he says. “Shakira shines on her own. We wanted to really showcase how she went above and beyond the label of pop artist. A Shakira song will get you through your darkest days — she’s a poet and an entertainer, and we hope that message comes across to everyone who adventures through those halls.”
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