Lennon Meets Yoko
Swinging London was not just about fashion and music. Art was changing too, and the St James’s gallery Indica was for two brief years one of the focal points for everything new in that field. But the gallery off Duke Street is remembered most of all as the place where John Lennon first met Yoko Ono.
Lennon was friendly with Indica co-owner John Dunbar, at the time husband of singer and actress Marianne Faithfull. Dunbar invited the Beatle to a preview of an avant garde event at the space on November 9 1966. Legend has it Lennon was drawn by hopes the happening would entail drugs or sex. It involved neither, instead featuring work by Japanese artist Yoko Ono. It seems their encounter got off to a bad start when the musician picked up a ripe green apple from a plinth and took a bite out of it, thereby radically changing the work Apple. Other pieces included what became probably Ono’s most celebrated piece, an all-white chess set; another installation involved climbing a ladder to reach a small card on which the word ‘yes’ was to be found.
But the piece that created an instant bond between the two was called Hammer a Nail, a wooden board into which patrons would hammer a nail once the exhibition opened. Lennon wanted to do so, but was stopped by Yoko. When she had been told of his wealth and status – she then knew nothing of The Beatles – Yoko requested five shillings for the privilege; he offered five imaginary shillings to knock in an imaginary nail. A switch had flicked. Their relationship had begun.
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