WHEN BRITAIN WENT POP – BRITISH POP ART – THE EARLY YEARS – AT CHRISTIES TO 23 NOVEMBER
2013 POP ART – BRITISH POP ART IS ALIVE AND WELL
There is an excellent exhibition on at Christies Gallery, New Bond Street, London.
But before you visit, first walk up to it from Old Bond Street. Get a look at the flash premises that are lined up there, this is where the big money can be found, this is where the top fashion houses and the ultra chic jewellers now hang out.
Take a look at the photos I made yesterday afternoon. There is bling kerb to kerb. You see, this part of Mayfair has changed dramatically from the time when the young Pop Artists were producing their work, back in the early 60s.
Then I remember London, in the 1950s, as being a rather drab place. I worked in Mayfair, I remember Mayfair as being particularly grey and enlivened only by advertising, and at the periphery, the music scene, which was clinging on at its edges, in Soho at Ronnie Scotts, and the 100 Club in Oxford Street. The Marquee club was the place to be seen, also in Oxford Street.
By the 1960s dress fashion was all happening in Carnaby Street in Soho of course, and in the Kings Road, Chelsea. I think some of these artists, some of them at the Royal College in Kensington, were hanging out after college or work, at the clubs and top dress shops – all exciting places if you were on the grapevine.
BREITLING AND KEVIN KELLY
So, back to present day Bond Street, its pretty buzzy now, and I was excited by the display at Breitling, the Swiss company, on the left. Here is where I first noticed Pop Art being a strong influence on the advertising scene still. Indeed the two creative forms are so closely linked,
The art work in Breitlings was done by an American, Kevin Kelly , here is a link to the Gallery which has a piece about Kelly. This blog The Rake also mentions Kelly and the Breitling boutique.
The advertising has a theme of aviation in line with the original business of this company, providing chronometers to the RAF.
I also saw this photo when I went into Fenwicks fashion store (to use the excellent loos). See what I mean? Recall Allen Jones?
THEN GO INTO CHRISTIIES AND RETURN TO THE SWINGING 60s
It is a big exhibition, on three floors. It is arrange chronologically. Starting in 1950. There is a film in black and white, being shown continuously in the basement which you can sit in comfort and watch. It is called Pop Goes the Easel, by Ken Russell, shown on ITV in 1962.
What I noticed was the strong presence of work by Allen Jones, now a Royal Academician…….. You can see that not all his work was of voluptuous and sexy girls, some of it is purely abstract and, as are the girl-pieces, brightly coloured. I wonder why his influence is so strong, his images so memorable compared to some of the other artists, such as Peter Blake?
Perhaps it is because it is of very symbolic female figures, almost fertility objects with large bottoms, large bosoms, I bet? Curves everywhere.
There is also an excellent selection of the work of sculptor and print-maker Edward Paolozzi. In fact the standard of work on display is of high quality and it is well hung without all the long, impenetrable ‘art speak’ labels on the wall which is now the curse of most gallery exhibitions I visit now.
There are a lot of photos at the end of this blog. So I hope they are self-explanatory. Here is a link to Christies.
The artists I particularly admired are Derek Boshier and Peter Philips. The Hockneys were familiar and for that reason attracted the eye. They are bright and in good condition still, compared to some paintings by Peter Blake which I thought had not aged well, these seemed a bid dull and grubby, dusty almost, although of course they were not really dusty.
Pauline Boty whose work was represented by only two works, that I could see, apparently made a large number of collages and painting which have disappeared. Here is an article from The Guardian which writes at length about here. She features in the Ken Russell film
Pauline was the only woman artist associated with the British Pop Art movement. She died very young, aged 28 in 1966. There is an interesting account of her short working life here: Pauline Boty
This exhibition is of mixed quality, but all of great interest especially if you recall the 1960s. They are all British artists – a few found fame and are known now, such as David Hockney, Peter Blake and Allen Jones.
Quite a few of the artists are dead now, mores the pity. I hope the present day ‘Fine Art’ students are inclined to go along and get a good look. I bet most modern art students will not have heard of the men and the woman represented in this show.
At the time, in the 1960s, when these young men and one woman were working, the dull grey 1950s had passed, luckily. Comics and TV in black and white flooded into the ordinary homes. Art schools and technical colleges filled with, in the majority, grammar school kids. Colleges were no longer the preserve of kids with money. You got grants, a county grant, you paid no fees. You could work in the vacation and work was relatively easy to get, even if it was not well paid.
The music industry was also the preserve of the young talents, with rock and roll joints and coffee bars all over London, and probably in other big cities. Theatre produced ‘Oh what a lovely war’. and ‘Look back in anger’. The seaside, such as Brighton, attracted Mods and Rockers on their motor bikes and Vespas.
All this change and movement must have helped to trigger fun painting. From the film shown at Christies those talking seemed to be having a thoroughly jolly time and were confident in their creativity, however revolutionary. Those who were taken up by the art establishment, such as Peter Blake (so well known then for the designs of The Beatles album cover), must have given impetus and hope to all the many others, of which only a few are in this exhibition.
This is a link to a piece from the Royal Academy magazine which is featuring the Pop Art Exhibition.
And finally, this picture of Kate Moss was in yesterday’s Metro newspaper. Are you watching, Allen Jones?