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Art as Life

The notion of the art-infused lifestyle took hold in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A culture of refined dandyism and exclusive style was fermented in the British art schools and energised by an influx of students from the provinces, especially the North.

David Hockney was a key personality in this early 1970s glamour milieu, which included figures such as Gilbert & George and Cecil Beaton, and Slade graduate Patrick Procktor. Hockney’s celebrated painting of designers Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark provides an intimate view into this rarefied world. Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London (f) 1968–9, a painting of the arrest of Mick Jagger and the art dealer Robert Fraser, epitomises the coming together of art, fashion and music that would later characterise glam.

In many ways a logical conclusion of the art-infused lifestyle, the artwork as personification emerged as a strategy in the late sixties. Gilbert & George’s self-designation as ‘living sculpture’ in 1969 anticipated the ironic and detached performativity of glam. While at Saint Martins School of Art in London, Bruce McLean co-founded Nice Style: The World’s First Pose Band, which similarly created living sculpture that mimicked the style and pretensions of pop performance and the art world in general.