OLYMPIA by Bryan Ferry

DATES: 11 DECEMBER 2012 – 28 FEBRUARY 2013


A quintessential icon of modern music and contemporary culture since his meteoric ascent to fame in 1972 with his groundbreaking art-rock band Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry has conceived and directed all visual aspects of his music.

Opening at Salsali Private Museum, Dubai on December 11, 2012, OLYMPIA highlights the album artwork Ferry has conceived and designed over the last 40 years, most recently on his 2010 album ‘Olympia’, featuring Kate Moss, and marks his first visit to Dubai since 2004.

Originally taught by the legendary British pop artist Richard Hamilton, Ferry has, throughout his career, maintained his founding interest in art and visual culture. As one of the few musicians to be interviewed at length by the leading international journal of contemporary art, ‘Frieze’, Ferry has spoken of the very close relationship between his passion for fine art and his artistic ambitions as a singer, composer and performer.

Some of the artwork for the eight Roxy Music studio albums, created between 1972 and 1983 and displayed in the current exhibition, comprises a sequence of finished images, studies and alternate versions that is as meticulously conceived and crafted as it has proved both innovative and controversial.

Described by one critic, on its initial release, as “nothing less than a manifesto”, the artwork for ‘Roxy Music’ (1972) was seen as a bravura visual and conceptual continuation of the vertiginous and seductive music on the album. In a manner which knowingly and seamlessly merges American glamour and European intellectualism, mass culture and fine art, this achievement would be advanced and consolidated across all of the Roxy Music artwork, and further nuanced by the sparser, but no less elegant, portrait images of Bryan Ferry that adorned his solo releases – most famously ‘Another Time, Another Place’, shot by Eric Boman. Similarly, fashion designer Antony Price’s long-standing collaboration with Ferry on the styling of both the Roxy Music and solo album artwork would be a major factor in their overall temper and impact.

In his interview for ‘Frieze’, Ferry likened his approach as an artist to that of Duke Ellington – selecting a cast of creative collaborators in much the same way that a painter would select his palette. This has remained true throughout Ferry’s career as both a musician and visual artist, and achieved particular prowess for his most recent release as a solo artist in 2010, the sumptuous and timelessly modern, ‘Olympia’.

Previously exhibited in London, Berlin and L.A. but never before seen in the Middle East, this series of exhibition prints of modern muse Kate Moss, was created for ‘Olympia’ by Bryan Ferry in collaboration with Adam Whitehead, former assistant photographer to Mario Testino, as well as with Moss herself. In a brilliant reprise of the famous painting by Edouard Manet of the same title, ‘Olympia’ (1863), Kate Moss, appearing for the first time on an album cover, poses in a series of images as Ferry’s modern day muse. Each of these photographs shares a title with a song on the Olympia album.

The manner in which Ferry has conceived and styled what he has described as the ‘idealized fans’ on the covers of his records, is both an exercise in pure Pop – creating an exciting, desirable and glamorous commodity, super-charged with aspirational values – and an elegant, mass cultural example of conceptual art. In this, there is a perfect twinning of Ferry’s artistic vision and the choice of Kate Moss, the most successful and iconic model of her generation, to create the cover art for ‘Olympia’. Moss herself is an iconic figure who blurs the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, having inspired both the mass markets of fashion and beauty products, and contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn, Michael Clark and Adam McEwen. Like Ferry himself, she has come to represent both an idea and an attitude – her image is used as code to

transmit a state of mind.

“I approached the record with the same intensity as the early Roxy Music albums,” says Ferry, “and I wanted the artwork to represent this. One of the inspirations for the cover was the 19th century painting ‘Olympia’ by Edouard Manet - 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. I wanted a cover girl for this record who could convey the glamorous notoriety of the original ‘Olympia’ painting, and my 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.

OLYMPIA will run from December 11, 2012, until February 28, 2013, at Salsali Private Museum, in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai. In an exception to SPM’s normal non-commercial status, Limited Edition prints of all artworks on display in this exhibition will be available for purchase. 

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