David Bailey New London Exhibition

david bailey

Scream Gallery – a solo exhibition featuring new work by iconic British artist/ photographer  David Bailey

During a prolific career he has created countless images that are embedded in our cultural psyche.  ‘Hitler Killed the Duck’  features unseen mixed media images.  The new works are shown in public for the first time, and are an exciting departure from the photography for which the 73 year old Bailey is renowned.  A mixture of painting and photography using oils and pigment prints, canvas and silk, the exhibition will feature a mixture of portraits and paintings inspired by Baileys childhood, influences, inspiration, fears and desires.

As a child growing up in the East End, Bailey often went to the cinema with his family, because it was cheaper than staying at home and heating the house.  He loved watching cartoons featuring Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse et al, and  at the age of 12 won a City & Guilds competition for his drawing of Bambi.  During The Blitz The Luftwaffe bombed the cinema, and he couldn’t see his beloved films anymore.  So Hitler effectively killed Donald Duck for the young Bailey. 

“There was a cinema in Upton Park, an Odeon I think, and that’s where I saw Bambi and Mickey Mouse cartoons, and I thought that was the only place you could see them.  Hitler bombed it, so he sort of killed Mickey Mouse, Bambi and all those characters for me. Because all I did as a kid was draw Walt Disney characters.” David Bailey

Images of Hitler juxtaposed with Disney characters refer to Bailey’s upbringing in the East End of London, which was disrupted by the bombing during World War II.  Religious iconography is evident in other images, referring to the religious programmes that frequented the radio waves during his childhood.  Modern-day Angelic figures are depicted in some of the portraits, visualising Bailey’s love of Angels and the image of ‘The Annunciation’.  Bailey is a self-taught artist, so it is quite fitting that Primitivist influences are evident in several of the images, whilst his love of Picasso can also be detected as an undercurrent in the exhibition.  A striking image in the exhibition is a self-portrait of Bailey as Velázquez’s Pope Innocent X, a wry homage to Francis Bacon.

David Bailey was born in Leytonstone in 1938 but his family moved to East Ham when he was three after a WWII bomb destroyed their home.  He left school on his fifteenth birthday, and worked as a copy boy at the Fleet Street offices of the Yorkshire Post.  He was called up for National Service in 1956 serving for the Royal Air Force in Singapore. It was here that he became enamoured with photography and in 1957 he bought his first camera.  Bailey assisted David Ollins before securing a job as photographic assistant to John French in 1959.  Soon after, Bailey began his long-lasting relationship with British Vogue, going on to shoot for the American, French and Italian publications, reportedly snapping up to 800 pages of Vogue editorial in one year at the peak of his productivity. He is famed for capturing the ‘Swinging London’ of the Sixties, as illustrated in his first book, Box of Pin-Ups (1964) in which he famously photographed celebrities such as The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, and the infamous Kray Twins.  Bailey has exhibited all over the world throughout his prolific career. Bailey and his former muse Jean Shrimpton are the subject of a BBC4 film ‘We’ll Take Manhattan’, which wil be screened later this year. 

Bailey had his first exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 1971 and the next forty years saw him exhibit his photographs in over twenty shows all around the world, from New York to Mexico, Berlin to Milan, finally returning to the National Portrait Gallery with his ‘Beatles to Bowie’ exhibition in 2009. Other notable shows include a ‘One Man Retrospective’ at the V&A in 1983, a touring exhibition – ‘Birth of the Cool 1957-1969 & contemporary work’ – which travelled from the Barbican, London to the National Galleries of Scotland via Bradford, Stockholm and Helsinki, and the 2010 Bonhams exhibition ‘Pure Sixties Pure Bailey’.

Bailey may be best known for his fashion and celebrity portraiture but his oeuvre is far more complex and wide-reaching than that.  In 1985 he exhibited ‘Pictures of Sudan for Band Aid’ at the ICA and held an auction at Sotheby’s for the Live Aid Concert for Band Aid. In 2010 he flew out to Afghanistan to take photos of the British troops at Camp Bastion.  The proceeds from the resulting book of the photos went to the charity ‘Help for Heroes’. Other exhibitions document the urban landscapes of Bailey’s home town (Bailey N.W.1, 1982) and of cityscapes further afield (Havana, 2006) proving that Bailey is much more than a portrait photographer.

In 1966 Bailey began directing commercials, winning one of many Clio Awards for the ‘Dumb Animals’ anti-fur ad he directed for Greenpeace in 1986, and a Golden Lion at Cannes Film Festival in 1987 for his Greenpeace Meltdown PSA.  He was one of the co-founders of the D&AD charity in 1962 and won a D&AD Gold and a D&AD Presidents Award in 1998. He has also won an American Television Award and an EMMY for his contribution to television. He directed and produced a set of documentaries between 1968 and 1971 including Beaton, Warhol, and Visconti and directed and wrote The Lady Is a Tramp for South Bank Films in 1995 featuring his wife, Catherine Bailey. He went on to work with the BBC on The Real Blow-Up and Bailey’s ‘70s in 2003 and 2004 amongst other programs, and directed feature filmThe Intruder in 1999. 

David Bailey is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Art, Manufactures & Commerce and the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers. He was awarded a CBE in 2001 and a New York Arts Club Gold Medal in 2008. Bailey’s most recent exhibition, ‘Sculpture +’ at Pangolin gallery in 2010 consisted not only of photographs but of cast silver and bronze sculptures, marking a welcome foray into new artistic mediums.


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