In our age of celebrity, some images are so strong they’ve become like modern deities. Fans idolise these stars, projecting their hopes and fantasies onto their iconic faces. Many artists play with these complex layers of meaning: celebrity, beauty, exploitation, commercialization, authenticity…
Here’s a few who top the list of modern-day muses:
Eve Arnold photographed her, Andy Warhol silk-screened her, and scores of contemporary artists continue to be inspired: Simon Claridge. She’s the modern-era’s doomed fertility goddess, oozing sexuality, but lost to a tragic death. More recently Nuala Mulligan used this muse in her debut Diamond Dust collection
The opposite of Marilyn: dark, slim, and chic. She’s currently the subject of a show at The National Portrait Gallery (until 18 October) with works by Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn. Warhol silkscreened her in many of her famous Hollywood guises: such as Holly Gollightly.
Probably the greatest contemporary muse. First immortalised by the influential fashion photographer Corinne Day, spawning a new ‘undone’ aesthetic. Mario Testino dedicated a whole book to her, Jurgen Teller photographed her as a young ingénue. Even Lucian Freud painted her – naked and pregnant. Her face is sphinx-like in its ability to intrigue. Indeed, Gavin Turk sculpted her in a yoga pose entitled ‘Sphinx’, calling her ‘the knotted Venus of our age’. We’re not sure what makes her so appealing – that’s the appeal…
Famous from the age of six. Andy Warhol depicted him in 1984, in his red leather ‘Thriller’ jacket. High art or kitsch? Jeff Koons took off where Warhol left, sculpting the ‘King of Pop’ in the same outifit, but this time in porcelain and clutching his monkey Bubbles.
Warhol made portraits of Kennedy, Nixon, Mao Tse Tun and Lenin. More recently Shephard Fairey’s graphic poster of Barack Obama was credited as a decisive factor in Obama’s campaign. These men hold the balance of world power in their hands – and know how to build a strong statesmanlike image.
What do Davod Bowie and Prince Charles have in common? Find out in our most recent blog post on Celebrity Art.