NEWS ARCHIVE: ‘Expressing the flesh in chic circles’
Sydney Morning Herald
May 17, 2003
The ownership of a substantial collection of erotic photos from the world of high fashion has caused a minor stir in art circles.
To be auctioned in London next Friday, the owner of the assembled works – A (Very) Private Collection: Fashion and Eroticism Photographs 1970-1990 – is keen to remain anonymous.
A report in London’s Sunday Times noted the collection was initially thought to be that of an ageing roue, with an eye for the ladies, who was now desperate for the 100,000 or so pounds the collection is expected to bring.
The paper then received a tip the seller was the prodigious collector and former Tory treasurer, Lord Alistair McAlpine, who is hardly short of a quid.
But while the peer did assemble the collection, seven years ago he kindly donated 700 photographs by the likes of Bob Carlos Clarke, David Bailey, Terence Donovan, designer Karl Lagerfeld and others to the Art Gallery of NSW. It now appears the anonymous collector who is quietly flogging the snaps is indeed our very own art gallery.
The marketing manager for Bloomsbury Book Auctions, which is handling the sale, would not reveal to Sauce the identity of the seller, except to confirm it was an institution rather than an individual.
Despite the art gallery’s director, Edmund Capon, being a friend of Lord McAlpine, the peer knew nothing of the sale until contacted by the Sunday Times.
When Sauce contacted McAlpine, who is busy with the upcoming opening of his B & B, formerly a 14th century convent in southern Italy, his lordship was more miffed by the sleazy title.
“I’m not put out, because if they [the art gallery] want to sell something I gave them, that’s their business. The fact is, I just think it was very silly to sell these things.
“While they might not seem of great importance to a curator or photographer sitting in Sydney, which isn’t the epicentre of the new world, they are considered to be an important collection.”
Edmund Capon did not return our calls although the gallery did send the Sunday Times an email saying: “Apologies, the gallery is unable to make a comment.”
The works are described by a Sunday Times critic as influential, daring and highly formalised and that the clothes depicted “signal glamour and the high-life, not sleaze”. “The pictures in this collection were shot as high art, but their effect has been to spread this kind of eroticism throughout the culture,” the article said.
“This collection is extraordinary because it captures the moment just before we chose to make eroticism banal, an environmental itch rather than a secret delight.”
Back at the B & B, Il Convento di Costantinople, near the town of Marittima in Puglia, prospective visitors will be pleased to know that while it has no erotic photos, it is crammed with other works from the host’s vast art collection, including a substantial number of Aboriginal artworks…