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Artifice and eroticism

This room explores themes of artifice and eroticism in the visual arts of the glam era, looking at the work of British pop artist Allen Jones and French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin.

In keeping with the pop aesthetic, Allen Jones wanted to make sculpture ‘without fine art marks, devoid of fine art clothing’. Chair and Table 1969 present the female figure as furniture, cast to Jones’s specifications by a specialist mannequin-making firm. Controversial among feminists then and today, the works carry strong fetishistic and sado-masochistic overtones; Jones himself saw them as a challenge to what could be considered fine art. The ‘trashy’ materials used – such as fur, vinyl and mirror – lend them a synthetic quality highly redolent of glam.

Guy Bourdin’s celebrated fashion photography similarly exaggerates artificiality and plays upon fetishistic associations. Inspired by surrealism, particularly the work of Man Ray, Bourdin’s photographs are provocative, sensual and frequently sinister. Recognising that it is the seductive allure evoked by advertising that attracts, rather than the object itself, he rejected the traditional ‘product shot’ in favour of complex, often controversial narratives.