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Heir to Punk Royalty Will Burn $7 Million Worth of Punk Memorabilia

Son of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren says it’s to spite the Queen

(Romain Fellens/dpa/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Forty years ago, the Sex Pistols released its first single, “Anarchy in the U.K.”, arguably kicking off the punk movement of the 1970s. Now, Joe Corré, the son of the Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren and punk fashion queen Vivienne Westwood has vowed to burn his vast collection of punk memorabilia to protest the popularization of punk in mainstream culture.

In a statement sure to raise the ire of archivists and cultural historians, Corré announced that he will build a bonfire out of his personal collection of punk clothing and memorabilia in Camden, London, on November 26—on the anniversary of the release of “Anarchy in the U.K.” Corré, a businessman and environmental activist, says he was inspired to torch his approximately $7 million collection to protest the Punk London, which is being put on by organizations such as the BFI, the British Library and the Design Museum, as well as endorsed, at least according to Corré, by Elizabeth II, herself, ​Sammy Jones reports for Crack magazine.

“The Queen giving 2016, the Year of Punk, her official blessing is the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard,” Corré said in a statement. “Talk about alternative and punk culture being appropriated by the mainstream. Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a [expletive] museum piece or a tribute act.”

According to Corré, Punk London, which is planning a series of events around the city to celebrate punk’s 40th anniversary, is an affront to the cultural movement it wants to honor. Corré believes that celebrating punk as a cultural institution goes against its anti-establishment spirit, Hili Perlson reports for artnet News.

“When the Queen gives a [expletive] nod to punk's 40th Anniversary Year, you know something has gone seriously wrong," Corré said in a statement.

Punk has come a long way since the Sex Pistols caused an uproar with the release of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols in October 1977. The band already carried a controversial reputation before the album debuted, and the title was considered too vulgar for some record stores and music charts to even display. While the Queen’s support for “the Year of Punk” is unconfirmed, it would mark a drastic change, considering the Sex Pistols’ song, “God Save The Queen” accused her of running a fascist regime and even called her humanity into question, Tim Jonze reports for the Guardian.

Punk culture has undeniably hit popular culture, and it's been on display in some of the art world's most lauded venues, including a 2013 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Some of Corré's critics say that the show of protest is little more than a show, though, given his family background and business success. In one instance, New York magazine’s Véronique Hyland called the multimillionaire fashion designer’s announcement “a move that's arguably as punk as North West wearing a Thrasher shirt to Build-A-Bear Workshop.” Regardless, Corré is moving ahead with the planned bonfire, and is even calling for other punk fans to join him in burning their own memorabilia in effigy.

“A general malaise has now set in amongst the British public. People are feeling numb. And with numbness comes complacency,” Corré said in a statement. “People don’t feel they have a voice anymore. The most dangerous thing is that they have stopped fighting for what they believe in. They have given up the chase. We need to explode all the [expletive] once more.”

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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