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Tuesday, 23 March, 1999, 16:23 GMT
Making art, not war
john and yoko
John Lennon and Yoko Ono start their "bed-in" in March 1969
Amsterdam is marking 30 years since John Lennon and Yoko Ono's famous "bed-in" with an exhibition of the late Beatle's art.

On 26 March, 1969, the newlyweds took to their bed in room 902 at the Dutch capital's Hilton Hotel for a week to promote world peace - an event seen by many as summing up the era of flower power and making love, not war.

Now the Lennon estate and the Hilton are staging the largest exhibition of his art ever shown.

"At a time when violence rages in Kosovo and elsewhere around the world it seemed appropriate to remember what John was trying to do," said exhibition organiser Abigail Esman.

Wanted to be recognised for art

yoko ono
Yoko Ono: Backing the Amsterdam exhibition
"Yoko is very enthusiastic about the initiative as a reminder of their protest in an era of such great violence. The memory of what John was trying to do is still very important to Yoko."

Before Lennon's murder in 1980, it was one of his ambitions to be recognised for his art as well as for his music. Ms Esman said the exhibition was part of Yoko Ono's efforts to achieve that goal for him.

The exhibition includes pieces from the Bag One series - erotic and humorous drawings made by Lennon during their week in bed as a gift to his wife. When they were first exhibited in London in 1970 they caused uproar - with police confiscating and burning some of the prints.

"They're lovely, witty and intimate drawings showing scenes from the couple's wedding and their honeymoon - it's great to be able to show them in the context they were first created," Ms Esman said.

Now the prints have been bought by galleries around the world, including New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Some of Lennon's lyrics are also on show, with Day Tripper and Nowhere Man reflecting his Beatles days, and Woman, Real Love and Beautiful Boy marking his solo career.

'People are moved to tears'

john lennon
John Lennon: "He always wanted his work to be seen and appreciated."
Esman said: "I've seen people so moved by these lyrics they've grown up with they simply stand there and cry. It's a really intimate thing, as if John were speaking to them personally."

On show for the first time are sketches drawn by Lennon for his son Sean when he was small. They will soon be published in a book with an introduction by Yoko Ono.

Half the works on show are for sale, with one to be raffled for charity.

Artwork from the recent Anthology compilation album is also on sale - but Ms Esman denies the marketing effort contradicts the spirit of Lennon's work.

"Everyone bought the Beatles' albums - the music world is a commercial one and the Beatles market is a strongly commercial one," she said, adding most of the proceeds would be going to charities.

"Lennon always wanted his work to be seen and appreciated. I don't think there's anything being done in his name he would not have been doing more effectively himself."

The John Lennon exhibition runs at the Amsterdam Hilton from 26 March to 5 April.

See also:

29 Dec 98 | Entertainment
A real Hard Day's Night
27 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Drinking coffee with the Beatles
29 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Fab Four tribute raises the roof
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