Amy Winehouse was larger than life, but Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait, on view at the Jewish Museum in London, offers a more intimate view of the mercurial pop star, courtesy of her family, who up until now have remained very quiet about her death in 2011. The exhibition, which was co-curated by her brother Alex Winehouse, features snapshots and artifacts, including her first guitar, her CD and book collection, and a photograph of her dressed in her school uniform, revealing Winehouse not as a mega-celeb but–in the words of her brother–“simply a little Jewish kid from North London with a big talent.”
Amy outside her grandmother Cynthia’s flat. Her grandmother influenced Amy’s style and her love of jazz.
‘From such an early age, Amy stood out just because of her attitude, like a beacon, completely … It’s her grandma Cynthia who was a really huge influence on her in lots of ways. They were very close. If you look at the pictures of Cynthia in the exhibition you can really see a lot of where Amy got her ideas and her style. In fact, Amy had an image of Cynthia and her name tattooed on her arm. Apparently Ronnie Scott asked Amy’s grandmother to marry him. I don’t know if that’s true, but they certainly dated.’ – Abigail Morris, Director of the Jewish Museum, London
A family snapshot of Amy as a teenager at a family function at her parent’s home in South Gate.
‘There’s been lots and lots written about her as a star and I think it’s really interesting to see her and her roots—the girl and the stuff behind the headlines. You get a sense of the brother, sister thing. It’s sad that somebody so talented died so young, but also more than that. It’s just sad that somebody so loved died so young. That’s what comes across is her family … This picture shows the beginnings of her. It shows her trademark hair. It’s the beginnings of her creating the image that she became and obviously you can see the tattoo. She looks very young and fresh faced and innocent.’—Abigail Morris
Amy’s home, 2004
‘It is a photo shoot as opposed to a natural pose. She looks much more aware, much more self-conscious, not necessarily in a bad way but much more self-conscious.’—Abigail Morris
‘These are the passes she kept of her performing. They’re the record of all the gigs she did. You can already see she was a bit of a hoarder. She really was. One of the things that makes the exhibition so successful is that she’s kept loads of stuff.’—Abigail Morris