The new ABBA exhibition opened today in London – so, of course, I had to go. My love for the Swedish supergroup is undeniable. Having been a campy queer teenager in Australia when Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert were released, I feel like their music almost unavoidably forms part of my identity. So, I was very excited when I saw that the new ABBA Super Troupers exhibition was opening in London this month.
Having missed the Southbank Centre exhibition about the band in early 2018, I was determined to catch this one as soon as it opened. This new exhibition is an expanded version of the previous one at the Royal Festival Hall. So if you loved the original one, you’ll probably enjoy this one even more. I’ve included all my own photos from the ABBA exhibition below and you can also check out my Instagram Story to see my videos.
The ABBA Super Troupers exhibition opened today in London and will run through until 31 August 2020.
The exhibition is open seven days a week, from 10am till 7:30pm Saturday-Wednesday and till 8:30pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Last entry is 90 minutes before the exhibition closes. The exhibition will be closed on 25 December and 1 January and will close early on 24 and 31 December (at 4:30pm).
ABBA exhibition location
The new ABBA Super Troupers exhibition is at The O2 London, directly opposite the ABBA restaurant experience, Mamma Mia The Party, so you can easily pair these two events.
The O2 is located at Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX in South East London. It’s a bit of a way out of Central London, so the easiest way to get there is on the Underground. North Greenwich station on the Jubilee Line (Zones 2/3) is only a few minutes walk from The O2. You can plan your journey on TFL’s website.
Being inside The O2 means there are plenty of places to eat or go for drinks near the exhibition. See their website for more details on the options available. However, I did spy a very surprisingly fabulous branch of the Slug and Lettuce pub chain a few doors down from the exhibition. It was all quite gorgeous and glam – trust me, I am as shocked as you are. Probably the best location for a pre or post-ABBA cocktail at The O2.
My experience of ABBA Super Troupers exhibition
If you’ve ever been to The O2 before, then you’ll know how massive it is. Think of a huge shopping centre with a live music venue in the middle of it. So if you’re bringing a bag, even a small one, it will be scanned as you enter the building. I was also surprised that there weren’t any signs pointing towards all things ABBA, but that could have been because it was the first day. Either way, I followed the signs around to the ‘exhibition space’ and found it there.
To enter, take the escalators adorned with 70s-styled legs up to the top. Here you can pick up your free audio guide. I was so excited when I turned mine on and discovered it is narrated by none other than 6 Music presenter and all-round legend, Gemma Cairney. Her cheery voice was exactly the vibe I needed for this campy exhibition. The audio guide is really well put together, with different audio options depending on what you want to listen to in each room. You can hear the curators perspective, loop in with the projected videos or hear what Benny and Bjorn have to say.
On that note, why are the guys from ABBA the only ones who ever seem to be the ones who talk to the public/press etc? From the Mamma Mia musical to the voiceovers in this exhibition, it’s a little weird that it’s always the guys. Yes, I know that Agnetha and Frida didn’t write the songs or the musical but they’re still a very integral part of the music. It would be nice if they didn’t seem so voiceless in their own history. Perhaps at ABBA The Museum in Stockholm they contribute more? If you know, comment below 👇🏽
Upon entering the exhibition, I was struck by the fact that you never really know what you’re going to get with exhibitions like this. Sometimes you pay an extortionate amount of money and it ends up being three rooms with no curatorial flow. So, considering this was at The O2 I was a little hesitant about what to expect. But once inside I discovered that this was a very well-structured exhibition that appealed to the history buff in me. I love a timeline and this experience is purely the ABBA story from start to finish.
It opens in a slightly weird room, covered in TV screens that are projecting British shows from 1974. It’s an attempt to contextualise how bleak everything was here then and why their euphoric slices of bubbly pop were so warmly received on the first UK tour that year. While it is an interesting point, it’s a bit of an odd start that doesn’t necessarily work but, let’s be fair, no one is visiting for a British history lesson and you can whizz through this room pretty quickly.
After this you a whisked through a vibrant history of everything ABBA-ness. Starting with a beautiful room that looks like a park, you are taken through the individual histories of each member. It was really interesting to see their musical output before they became a band, look at how they all met, fell in love and started what became ABBA. The rest of the exhibition glides through Eurovision (both their first failed attempt to represent Sweden and then their iconically successful second victory) followed by a room dedicated to each album. I really loved this approach, possibly because I own lots of their records on vinyl so I am very attached to the artwork, which was blown up as a central feature in each room. They also tried to recreate elements from the covers too, such as the helicopter from Arrival.
Obviously, a huge part of ABBA’s appeal was their costumes, so I really loved the fact that most rooms had some of their iconic outfits in them. I think most of them were copies though. The ones from the Super Troopers music video definitely were (the originals are in the ABBA Museum in Stockholm) and the ones from the Eurovision looked too well preserved to be from the early 70s – but I could be wrong. There were some individual pieces, such as Agnetha’s gorgeous cape from the Voulez-Vous tour, that are originals though.
One of my favourite parts of the whole exhibition was the dancefloors. Both in the Voulez-Vous album room and again at the very end of the exhibition, there are huge disco dancefloors with their music pumping, which was really cute. As I went on opening day, the exhibition was basically empty apart from me and two very fabulous, slightly older gay men. I really appreciated seeing an exhibition in London that wasn’t packed with people for once, but I imagine the disco elements of the exhibition will be lots of fun when it is busier.
Overall, I really loved the exhibition. For any ABBA fan, I think it’s definitely a must-see. Also, any general pop history fans will love it too. If you like some of ABBA’s music but don’t know that much about them then I think you’ll probably find the exhibition really interesting and, at the very least, have a lot of fun either way.
Good things to know about the ABBA exhibition
There is no coat check at the exhibition or in The O2 generally, so make sure whatever you bring with you can be carried around. There also didn’t seem to be any toilets in the exhibition space, but I could be wrong.
The exhibition is two floors up, with escalators at the start and stairs at the end. For a more disability/mobility-friendly entrance, I think there was an elevator at the exit that could be used but best to check with the venue before booking. There were also flashing lights in different sections of the exhibition but these were clearly signed.
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