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YOU ARE HERE. John Lennon’s first major art show at Robert Fraser Gallery, 1 July 1968.


John & Yoko (with Robert ‘Groovy Bob’ Fraser to the left of John) releasing 365 white balloons at the opening of his exhibition You Are Here. To each balloon was attached a tag encouraging people who found them to ‘Write to John Lennon, c/o Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke Street, London.’ 1 July 1968.

YOU ARE HERE.

John: After I first met Yoko, I sort of blasted open in my head. She encouraged me to make films, make more far-out music, gallery exhibitions, make more of the art I was doing privately. Anything I was doing, she encouraged me to do it.

So just after we met, I put on a gallery show at Robert Fraser Gallery in London, which is about one of the only sort-of swinging kind-of places London had. And I put on a show there called ‘You Are Here’. Out of the blue. I had never done anything like that before.

Invitation to John Lennon's 'You Are Here' show at Robert Fraser Gallery, 1968.
Photo & artwork © Yoko Ono Lennon.

It consisted of a bare gallery and a big white canvas that was round and it just had my writing on it: ‘you are here’ and I dedicated it to Yoko.

John & Yoko in front of John's artwork You Are Here, 1968, at Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke St., London, 1 July 1968. Photo: John Kelly.

You came in on the top floor of the gallery. You had to go downstairs.

The exhibition included sixty charity collection boxes, a white busker’s fedora hat labelled ‘FOR THE ARTIST’ and a jar full of ‘you are here’ badges to take away. Exhibition view, Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke Street, London, 1 July 1968.
Photo: Iain Macmillan ©Yoko Ono Lennon.

And down at the bottom of the stairs were lots of different charity cans like RSPCA, animal and cancer funds and dogs and people – the room was full of them.

You Are Here, 1968, exhibition view, Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke St., London, 1 July 1968.
Photos: Iain Macmillan ©Yoko Ono Lennon.

And you had to get through all these different charity cans – you know, to put money in. And people put money in.

You Are Here, 1968, exhibition view, Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke St., London, 1 July 1968.
Photos: Iain Macmillan ©Yoko Ono Lennon.

I wrote to a lot of charities telling them about the exhibition. I had a lot of nice letters and a lot of charity boxes back. There are no hidden secrets. My art is in fact displaying these boxes for charity.

You Are Here, 1968, exhibition view, Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke St., London, 1 July 1968.
Photos: Iain Macmillan ©Yoko Ono Lennon.

And you got to the other end of the room and on the left side of the wall was this big, big canvas with ‘You Are Here’.

John & Yoko in front of John's artwork You Are Here, 1968, at Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke St., London, 1 July 1968.
Photos: Andrew Maclear © Getty Images / Iain Macmillan © Yoko Ono Lennon.

We did a ‘Candid Camera’ film of it, of people’s reactions, ‘cos as you got to the canvas itself, there was just a hat to put money in for the artist. They all reacted to that (laughs) and a little bowl of badges, little teeny white badges that said ‘you are here’, very tiny, that they got. They put some money in the hat and they got a badge, you see.

You Are Here, 1968, exhibition view, Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke St., London, 1 July 1968.
Photo: Iain Macmillan © Yoko Ono Lennon.

And we were filming them from behind a dark window – the English ‘Candid Camera’ team. And it’s just a documentary, you know, it’ll be around.

Still frames from the movie of the set-up and opening of John’s exhibition, You Are Here, 1968. Among those attending are: Richard DiLello inflating balloons, Kevin Harrington, Steve Brendell, Alex Mardas, Robert Fraser, Derek Taylor, Jill Johnston, Jonathan Cott, Victor Spinetti, Paul Nicholas, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton and many members of the British and International Press. Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke Street, London, 1 July 1968. pp202-3, John & Yoko / Plastic Ono Band, published by Thames and Hudson, 2021.
Stills: William Wareing & Dick Lorriemore ©Yoko Ono Lennon.

I got the idea for the exhibition from a childhood memory, really. I remembered how excited I was when I found a balloon in a field when I was little.

John & Yoko releasing 365 white balloons at the opening of his exhibition. To each balloon was attached a tag encouraging people who found them to ‘Write to John Lennon, c/o Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke Street, London.’ 1 July 1968.
Photo: Andrew Maclear © Getty Images.

“I now pronounce these balloons high!”

John & Yoko (with Robert Fraser to the left of John) releasing 365 white balloons at the opening of his exhibition. To each balloon was attached a tag encouraging people who found them to ‘Write to John Lennon, c/o Robert Fraser Gallery, 69 Duke Street, London.’ 1 July 1968.
Photos: Andrew Maclear © Getty Images.

We let balloons off with: ‘Send your message back when you get it’.

Balloon tags and 'you are here' badge from You Are Here exhibition, 1968.
Photo: Iain Macmillan © Yoko Ono Lennon.

So it would land somewhere in a field 50 miles away and people would write back to me.

Returned balloon tags from You Are Here exhibition, 1968.
Photos: Iain Macmillan © Yoko Ono Lennon.

It would say ‘You Are Here’ when they found it and then it’d say, ‘write to me’ and then to write to tell me where it came from.

Karen O’Rourke, exhibition curator of ‘Double Fantasy: John & Yoko’ at the Museum of Liverpool tells the story of the balloon and tag on show – when two girls from East Grinstead received a surprise airborne message from John Lennon and sent him a letter in return.
One of the letters John wrote back to everyone who sent back a balloon tag message, 17 August 1968. Photo © Yoko Ono Lennon.

So that’s what ‘You Are Here’ is.

Added at the last minute was a black bicycle from students at Hornsey Art College with a note, ‘this exhibit was inadvertently left out’.
So John included it. John also added his shoes with a note, ‘I take my shoes off to you'.
Photo: John Goldblatt.

I cut the canvas down because they made it too big and it’s about 3 foot now. I’ll stick that in the corner somewhere in her [Everson] gallery show. As Guest Artist. And a few other things I’ve got.

You Are Here, 1968 (cut down version), exhibition view, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, 9 October 1971.
Photo: Iain Macmillan © Yoko Ono Lennon.

A lot of people went to India to find out they were here. Like Timothy Leary’s friend Richard Alpert (Baba Ram Dass). Peter (Bendrey) here, a friend of ours got a book of his, and George was telling me about it the other day. Alpert went to India and he saw all the gurus, chasing all over the place and then he finally met his guru and all the guru said to him was, “Remember now, be here, remember now, be here now.” That’s all them gurus will ever tell you: ‘Remember this moment now’. Well, I got it off Yoko. So ‘You Are Here’ is what the message is, you know. I was talking to George (Harrison) the other day and I forgot to say to him, ‘What are you searching for? You are here!’

YOU ARE HERE, 1973.

From Liverpool to Tokyo
What a way to go
From distant lands one woman one man
Let the four winds blow

Three thousand miles
Over the ocean
Three thousand light years
From the land of the rising sun

Love has opened up my eyes
Love has blown right through
Wherever you are, you are here
Wherever you are, you are here

Three thousand miles
Over the ocean
Three thousand light years
From the land of surprising sun

East is east
And west is west
The twain shall meet
East is west
And west is east
Let it be complete

Three thousand miles
Over the ocean
Three thousand light years
From the land of the morning star.

written by John Lennon

John Lennon: vocals & acoustic guitar
Ken Ascher: piano, organ, xylophone organ
David Spinozza: electric guitar
Gordon Edwards: bass
Jim Keltner: drums, percussion, congas
Sneaky Pete Kleinow: pedal steel guitar
Jocelyn Brown, Angel Coakley & Christine Wiltshire (‘Something Different’): backing vocals
Dr. Winston O’Boogie & Los Paranoias: extra sensory percussion, clavinet

Produced and arranged by John Lennon
Engineered by Roy Cicala & Dan Barbiero
From the album ‘Mind Games’.