The V&A has acquired the Felix Dennis Oz Archive, marking 50 years since the first UK publication of underground magazine, Oz. Felix Dennis was co-editor of the magazine, which was published between 1967 and 1973 and the publication “sought to challenge the establishment and encapsulated the spirit of the 60s and 70s counterculture”.
The archive not only houses Oz’s 48-issue history but also “chronicles the most politically and socially revolutionary periods in world history”. The magazine tackled subjects including gay rights, the environment, feminism, the pill, acid, rock music and the Vietnam War and was produced in a basement flat in Notting Hill Gate by Richard Neville, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis. Oz was known for its psychedelic covers by pop artist Martin Sharp and its cartoons by Robert Crumb, as well as a plethora of articles that “called into question established norms of the period”.
The archive also includes items relating to the Oz Obscenity Trial, a long legal battle over issue 28 of the magazine which was guest edited by school kids. It was targeted by the Obscene Publications Squad for its risqué and lewd content and protests broke out on the streets of London over the charges of obscenity and conspiring to corrupt public morals the editors were being tried against. The protests were famously joined by John Lennon and Yoko Ono and the archive contains Lennon’s typescript God Save Us as well as materials distributed at the time including badges, shirts, stickers and flyers.
Also part of the V&A’s acquisition are personal correspondences, diaries and cuttings belonging to Felix during his Oz years, as well as rare artworks, posters and layouts by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, Michael English, Martin Sharp and David Hockney.
Geoffrey Marsh, director of the V&A’s Department of Theatre and Performance said of the acquisition: “50 years on, Oz forms an important time-capsule of revolutionary ideas of the period. This material deserves to be preserved at the V&A because the magazine and eventual legal battle over Oz represented a much broader and fundamental shift in British society in the 1960s.”
He continues: “It raised the question: should, or even, could ‘The Establishment’ dictate what ordinary people saw, read and thought, or would the public be left alone to make up its own mind? Through a wealth of visual material, the archive chronicles this key turning point in British culture and offers a reminder that the powerful never relinquish control without a struggle.”
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