JUST JAGGER: Sotheby’s S|2 gallery in London has mounted an exhibition that focuses on Cecil Beaton’s photos of “Performance,” a Seventies British gangster film starring Mick Jagger.
The crime drama, directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, starred Jagger, Anita Pallenberg and James Fox. The controversial film, set in the Sixties, was a dark avant-garde production known for its graphic depictions of violence, drug use and sex.
“Performance” marked Jagger’s debut as an actor, and the musician played the role of Turner, a bisexual former rock star. The show will feature 15 photographs from the set of the film and it is the auction house’s first sale of Beaton’s works.
“The shoot is very much focused on Mick Jagger, but the whole set was clearly very important to him, too,” said Joanna Ling, head of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s.
“One of the most important photographs is of the mirrored ceiling showing Mick, Anita and Beaton himself in the reflection. Beaton often used this device when he was photographing people — appearing somewhere in the photograph in a mirror — and he did this from early on. Beaton’s assignment before this was photographing the Queen — the famous portrait of her in the cape — and it was very much a news story at the time that such a well-known and sanctioned photographer would be shooting on the set of such a forward, provocative film.”
Ling said Beaton managed to capture the zeitgeist of each new era as it emerged. “He was always an innovator, and I think that the ‘Performance’ shoot is the perfect example of that. Cecil Beaton was rarely awed by his sitters, but he was absolutely fascinated by Mick Jagger. Mick was a big draw for him, but I think that that whole London scene also struck a chord with him because it was rather how he’d been in his youth. The two generations shared a lot of things in common — the same sort of decadence and rule-breaking; breaking new boundaries.”
Located in Mayfair, the S2 is a private sale and gallery of Sotheby’s contemporary art department. The exhibit will run until Dec. 23.