“Give me red lips, I want to be a Roxy Girl!” –Kate Moss
A quintessential modern muse, Kate Moss is perhaps the most successful and iconic model of her generation. The aura of glamorous notoriety that surrounds Moss made her the natural choice for cover-girl of music legend Bryan Ferry’s 2010 album Olympia. In line with her stellar image, the model’s brazenly seductive portrait by Adam Whitehead is the centre piece of Olympia, the Bryan Ferry retrospective currently on show at Salsali Private Museum, Dubai.
Like a mysterious Sphinx bedecked in diamonds, Moss’s gaze is at once alluring and hypnotic. Her fire-engine red lips are appropriately sirenesque in true tradition of Roxy girls. Upon entering SPM, visitors are faced with seven Roxy Music album covers from the 1970s featuring Roxy girls throughout the ages, attesting to Bryan Ferry’s career long interest in the relationship between glamour and visual art. “Bryan Ferry is one of few artists who possess the unique ability to move across a range of styles and concepts,” explains Ramin Salsali, the Founder of SPM and host of this retrospective. “ He creates this synergy between music, art and fashion that few artists are able to do.”
Ferry studied Fine Art under the British Pop-artist Richard Hamilton before he founded Roxy Music and his background in visual arts influenced the conceptual album artwork produced over Ferry’s forty-year career. Ferry conceives and directs the visual presentation of his music and in 2010 he was inspired by the 19th century painting Olympia by Édouard Manet – a work that Ferry has described as “a kind of early pin-up picture, and in a sense, a forerunner of some 20th Century Pop Art, which I feel strongly connected to.”
Ferry’s music and art is known for being innovative and controversial. Describing his connection to the painting, Ferry explains, “The picture shows a young courtesan lying on a bed, receiving flowers from her maid, which are no doubt a gift from her lover. She wears very little more than a provocative expression. The painting created quite an uproar when it was first exhibited in Paris.”
Speaking on his choice of Kate Moss for the cover of his album Olympia, Ferry said “I wanted a cover-girl for this record who could convey the glamorous notoriety of the original Olympia painting, and the obvious choice was Kate Moss. Kate has long been the ‘femme fatale’ of our age, as controversial as she is beautiful, and the most glamorous female icon since Marilyn Monroe.”
Ferry has been compared to Duke Ellington in his talent for bringing together creative collaborators to create something extraordinary. His choice of Adam Whitehead (a former assistant to Mario Testino) to shoot the cover of Olympia is evidence of this. Included in the exhibition at SPM are eight stunning black and white photographs of Moss taken during the shoot, each named after a song on the Olympia album.
While Kate Moss is certainly the moss recognizable face within the exhibition, the retrospective includes artworks featuring supermodels such as Jerry Hall, Amanda Lear, Kari Ann Muller and Susie Bick. These women have all garnered controversy in their time and each photograph displayed fits within this era of punk-rock-pop history.
While the exhibition has been widely exhibited internationally, the retrospective at SPM marks the first time Ferry’s work has been introduced to the Middle East. “It is an honor to bring the exhibition to Dubai,” states Ramin Salsali. “Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music have played a key role in shaping modern music. Ferry’s own conceptual vision and the creative energy he dedicates towards the visual presentation of his music have changed the way people view album covers. An album cover should be art- it is inextricably linked to the music and too often popular music artists today lose sight of this.”
Seamlessly blending glamour and high art, Ferry’s retrospective in Dubai marks the artist’s 40th anniversary of his career in the music industry and runs until February 28, 2013.