David Bailey Stardust Exhibition

Bailey’s Stardust
National Portrait Gallery, London
6 February – 1 June 2014
Tickets: Full price £16.00, Aged 60 and over £14.50, Concessions £13.50

National Portrait Gallery website:


Bailey's 6m photo of Michael Caine dominates the NPG entrance hall.

Bailey’s 6m photo of Michael Caine dominates the NPG entrance hall.

Taking over the whole of the National Portrait Gallery’s ground floor, David Bailey’s retrospective, Stardust, spans 50 years and comprises about 300 personally selected pieces.

The works are arranged thematically in thirteen rooms named such as The Rolling Stones; Hard Men; Artists; Camera Phone; Papua New Guinea etc, etc.

Although the exhibition was busy it wasn’t so crowded to be unpleasant, and being spread over such a large area allows visitors to move about at will and at their own pace to whatever takes their interest: there is no set order to follow.

Bailey’s output is diverse and prolific: models, artists, actors, writers, musicians, filmmakers… including Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, illustrate Bailey’s relationships and just how long he has been around.

Lesser known, but of no lesser interest, are his studies of East African children, and the tribal elders of Papua New Guinea, Australia, Dehli, and those of his most recent trip to the Naga Hills.

Contrasting to the celebrity portraits and cultural icons is his unflinching Democracy, a series of naked photos taken using a 8×10 inch camera, with the discipline of nailing it in just six shots.

Coupled with Bailey’s public output is a room devoted to his private family albums; intimate and tender photos of his wife, Catherine, and their children, Fenton, Sasha and Paloma, from birth to adulthood.

In another room, on show in glass cases, are some of Bailey’s school documents, his customised Pentax Spotmatic (together with the Pentax advert in which it was featured), his National Service Army record (“not a meat eater” – Bailey has been a vegetarian since he was 12 years-old), record album covers and many first editions of his books. Also individual pieces of his humourous ‘junkyard’ sculpture are dotted about.

All of the above helps to give a rounded picture of Bailey and his life, showing that he has a keen eye and skillful hands, not just with a camera.

All in all an engrossing, entertaining and enlightening exhibition, giving a welcome fresh and detailed look into Bailey’s world. Thoroughly recommended.

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