Written by Georgina Langford
Posted 02/07/2013
Walking into ‘Amy Winehouse – A Family Portrait’, the new exhibition just opened at Camden’s Jewish Museum, you are met by the sound of ‘Back to Black’ and projections of the late star performing. There’s an immediate sense of melancholy, which is most acute standing in front of her tiny, pale grey Arrogant Cat dress, one of Winehouse’s most favourite, worn in the ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ music video. Coupled with her battered ballet pumps, it’s a heartbreakingly sad artefact.

Two years after Winehouse passed away on 23 June 2011, her family and the Jewish Museum have put together an exhibition “that hopefully portrays Amy in a different way to the paparazzi images and stories we as the public were bombarded with,” says Janice Lopatkin, curator of the exhibition. “The images and objects we have here show the real Amy in her private moments.” From her record collection to her first guitar, her school uniform to the Luella dress Winehouse wore to perform on stage at Glastonbury 2008, ‘A Family Portrait’ gives fans an unparalleled insight into what she was like as a person, as well as an artist. Her brother Alex has written many of the captions for the exhibition, including the opening text that reads “This is not a shrine or a memorial…this is a snapshot of a girl who was, to her deepest core, simply a little Jewish kid from North London with a big talent.”

Janice went on to explain that many of the artefacts the family gathered for the exhibition triggered memories they had themselves forgotten – an inscription in a Jewish cookery book from Alex to his sister, for example. Images of Cynthia, Amy’s grandmother, with Ronnie Scott, show how jazz was in her genes and also where Winehouse got most of her style inspiration. The many, many family photos, including those stashed in a vintage suitcase on show, demonstrate “just how cherished and close Amy was to her family,” says Lopatkin. “It seems like she held on to everything, and I think other people can really relate to that.”

The entire show is linked together by extracts from Amy’s Sylvia Young Theatre School entrance essay, which details, in the young star’s handwriting, how she wants to be famous “just for being…me.” In short, the exhibition is thoughtful, personal and respectful; a beautiful insight into a much loved daughter and sister.
For more information visit ww.jewishmuseum.org.uk/Amy
Photography: Lara Piras