Ian Curtis’s iconic Vox Phantom VI guitar returns to Manchester for major music exhibition

Curator installing Ian Curtis's Vox Phantom VI guitar into the museum exhibition
(Image credit: Science Museum Group)

After it was sold at auction in October 2020, Ian Curtis’s famed Vox Phantom VI electric guitar is set to make a show-stopping return to Manchester, England, for a new temporary exhibition.

The guitar in question, made famous for its appearance in the music video for Joy Division’s mammoth hit Love Will Tear Us Apart, will feature at the Use Hearing Protection: the early years of Factory Records display at the Science and Industry Museum from June 19.

Not only will it be the first time the guitar has been seen since its $228,474 sale to a private collector, it will also be its first appearance at a major public display in over 30 years.

Purchased in 1979 by late Joy Division manager Rob Gretton and extensively used by Curtis during the band’s 1980 European Tour, the iconic Vox also made its way onto the studio recording of Heart and Soul.

In terms of specs, the instantly recognizable model sports a pentagonal mahogany body, Jennings Bigsby B5-type tremolo and tune-o-matic roller bridge. Other appointments include a trio of pickups, six onboard buttons and five rotary controls.

The exhibition in which it’s set to appear will take a deep dive into the history of Factory Records – the label behind Joy Division – and will feature rare archive material and artifacts relating to famed Manchester bands such as New Order and The Durutti Column.

Such items include a hand-written, illustrated document outlining Joy Division’s live gear setup, gifted to the museum by Gretton’s estate for the exhibition. 

Said Jan Hicks, lead curator, “This is an unmissable exhibition for anyone eager to explore the origins of this influential label and its long-lasting legacy. 

“The early years of Factory Records did so much to influence the city and the UK’s contemporary creative industries,” she continued. “This exhibition explores why its unique development could only have happened in Manchester at this time and involving this group of people.”

Use Hearing Protection: the early years of Factory Records will be open to the public from June 19 2021 to January 3 2022.

For more information, head over to the Science and Industry Museum.

Ian Curtis Vox Phantom IV guitar

(Image credit: Bonhams)

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.