The Rolling Stones were in London yesterday for a private preview of a major career-spanning exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.

Exhibitionism, which opens to the public today, contains more than 500 artifacts from the band’s archives spread over two floors. The interactive tour through the Stones’ 50 years uses stage designs, dressing room and backstage paraphernalia, guitars and other instruments, costumes, audio and video, personal diaries and correspondence, and original poster and album cover artwork.

Mick Jagger says, “We’ve been thinking about this for quite a long time, but we wanted it to be just right and on a large scale. The process has been like planning our touring concert productions. I think that right now it’s an interesting time to do it.”

And Keith Richards tells London’s Sun: “The idea came up a few years ago. We were in Belgium and these guys came by and showed us how the exhibition might work. It’s not my area of expertise, but it was intriguing and we kind of said, ‘OK, go ahead.’ Within a few months, they were coming up with some great ideas. I’m dying to see the reproduction of our first flat together in Edith Grove.”

Asked if the exhibition has re-kindled the memories of those early days, Keith says, “You don’t dwell on all that, but yes, in a way. It’s like we’re in the middle of World War One and we’re looking at crap from the American Civil War and just trying to get a perspective.” But he adds there is a downside. “This thing is going ’round the world for four years, which pains me a little because there are a couple of jackets I let in there that I ain’t going to see for a long while.”

Exhibitionism runs through September 4th before touring the world.