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Glam! The Performance of Style on display at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Dennis Hutchinson, 'Exotic' Adrian Street and his coalminer father down the pit, 1973. Photograph on paper 350 x 385 mm Courtesy of 'Exotic' Adrian Street.

FRANKFURT.- A visually excessive means of expression, the early 1970s aesthetics of Glam had a style-defining impact that went far beyond the art scene. After its major exhibition projects “Summer of Love” (2005) and “Op Art” (2007), which focused on cross genre developments in the art and culture of the 1960s, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt now highlights another, very dynamic era of art history with the show “Glam! The Performance of Style,” on display from June 14 until September 22, 2013. Glam describes the extravagant style that musicians such as David Bowie and Marc Bolan made popular in Great Britain in the early 1970s and which by brashly linking high culture and subculture questioned socially passed-on concepts such as identity and gender became a worldwide phenomenon. Its origins can be traced back to Andy Warhol’s strategies as well as the British art college scene, where the painter and graphic artist Richard Hamilton with his thesis that all art genres were equal in status exercised a strong influence on his student Bryan Ferry. Bryan Ferry was to emerge as the mastermind of the band Roxy Music and became the very epitomé of the absolute art Glam product, combining avant-gardism, Pop Art, and Art Deco, Camp, Trash and kitsch elements as well as traditional Hollywood chic to form an ultra-artificial aesthetic. The exhibition at the Schirn for the first time explores the manifold influences of the Glam era on film, photography, fashion, graphic design, performance and installation art, painting, and sculpture. The show presents about one hundred works by such artists as Guy Bourdin, Gilbert & George, Peter Hujar, Ray Johnson, Allen Jones, Jürgen Klauke, Ed Paschke, Sigmar Polke, Cindy Sherman, and Ulay, and is rounded out by photographs by Mick Rock and Karl Stoecker, original costumes, and extensive documentary material.

“This summer will be loud and fancy: “Glam!” examines one of the most fascinating periods in the mutual pervasion of pop culture, performative art, and fine art in the first major survey of the subject shown in Germany,” says Max Hollein, Director of the Schirn. And Darren Pih, the curator of the exhibition from Tate Liverpool, adds: “In its disregard for all style and genre boundaries, the Glam era is simply perfect for gaining a new view of art in the 1970s.”

The time between 1970 and 1975 is one of those rare historical periods in which a certain style spread throughout all cultural fields, from fashion, art, film, and photography to pop music. Based on the iconography established by Andy Warhol with the foundation of his Factory in 1962 and his Superstars concept, Glam originated from British art colleges as an eccentric combination of artistic strategies in the late 1960s. Maintaining that there was no hierarchical relationship between high culture and mass culture, the pop artist Richard Hamilton, who taught at Newcastle University, played a decisive role in the development of this new aesthetics. The congenial amalgamation of pop and fine art was uncompromisingly realized by Roxy Music, a band centred on the two art college graduates Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno in 1971: from its music and the design of its covers to its costumes for the stage, the brash gesamtkunstwerk as which Roxy Music presented itself was charged by cool and precise design solutions, chic eroticism, and an aesthetic sensibility that took surfaces, codes, and signs from the more and less recent past as styles to be applied, freely sampled, and remixed: Glam was born, and Roxy Music proved to be a universally successful pop phenomenon.

Whether stylists, visagists, fashion designers like Antony Price, models such as Gala Mitchell and Amanda Lear, or artists like David Hockney, Derek Jarman, Peter Phillips, Duggie Fields, and Andrew Logan – they all contributed to molding this new, eclectic, entirely postmodern style. It was particularly Logan who initiated a key event of the British Glam movement with the first Alternative Miss World competition - a mixture of happening, Gay Pride demonstration, and freak show - that took place in his studio in 1972: in its shameless display of narcissism and its exhibitionism, the excessive celebration of decadence and sexual subversion not only paid tribute to Warhol’s motto that anybody could become be a superstar, but also instituted the performative aspect resulting from it. This aspect would become manifest in such productions for the stage as Andy Warhol’s Pork and The Rocky Horror Show (1971 and 1975 respectively) and would spread further and further as a strategy for making one’s lifestyle a mise-en-scène.

Whenever you closed the door of your home, you made an appearance for which you wanted to look wild and fantastic: whether you preferred platform shoes, a sequined tiger print jacket, a glitter costume, eye shadow, or tight black leather trousers - style became a pose, an expression of exaggerated dramatic self-presentation. Illusion and irony also replaced the claim to authenticity in the sphere of pop music. The erstwhile hippie Marc Bolan put glitter on his cheeks for the appearance of his band T.Rex in the TV program “Top of the Pops” in 1971 - an event which marked the breakthrough of Glam as a mass phenomenon. Former folksinger David Bowie was one of the smartest when it came to borrowing the various elements of Glam, combining them in the role of the androgynous extraterrestrial character Ziggy Stardust in 1972. By continually inventing new personalities, Bowie carried the performative aspect of Glam to extremes and is regarded as the one defining the style of that era to this day.

The influence of this revolt in style on contemporary art production, which was equally manifold, will be presented in nine chapters in the exhibition. Works by Gilbert & George, Bruce McLean, as well as the Glam installation Celebration? Realife 1972 by Marc Camille Chaimowicz illustrate the performative aspects of Glam, especially the ideas of an affected dandyism. Exhibits by Jack Smith, Peter Hujar, and Andy Warhol as a key figure thematize the Glam culture of the New York underground scene. The British pop artist Allen Jones’s fetishized sculptures are as fundamentally informed by artificiality and eroticism as the French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin’s work. Relying on the means of masquerade, Cindy Sherman has continuously centered on the transformation of her own likeness since the 1970s and thus given prominence to the contemporary understanding of identity formation. Katharina Sieverding’s projection Transformer (1973-1974), Ulay’s series of auto-Polaroids, and the performance artist Jürgen Klauke’s series of photographs also bearing the title Transformer from 1973 probe the changes in the relationship between gender and identity. To women artists like Margaret Harrison and Hannah Wilke Glam also offered a platform for fathoming their identity in the face of male Glam stars’ pseudo-femininity, while the paintings by Sigmar Polke, Ed Paschke, or Evelyne Axell dating from the 1970s clearly continue in the vein of psychedelic perceptions of the sixties.

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Glam! The Performance of Style on display at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

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