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Curators Zoe Whitely and Mark Godfrey subdivided a mass of 150 works from as many as 60 to occupy 12 rooms at the gallery. They also set an austere tone for the exhibition, as if to prepare the visitor’s mind, placing five screens at the entrance with each one playing, on a loop, speeches any luminaries including King, Malcolm X and James Baldwin.
Before becoming hairdresser to the stars, Vidal Sassoon had a hithero unknown life as a Jewish streetfighter.
“Their speeches and their literature depicted us, the Jews, as coarse, ugly caricatures with long beards and dirty fingernails, dressed in black gaberdine. And they hurled the same abuse that I remembered from the1930s. I was too young to do anything about it then but I had never forgotten the fear. When you’ve got a thousand throats all screaming ‘Yids, yids, we’ve got to get rid of the yids’, it’s pretty terrifying. They’d wear uniforms, insignia, the whole thing.
“I don’t remember when we decided to fight back but the pictures we were seeing from Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau gave the slogan ‘Never again!’ real meaning.”