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Bailey's Stardust / Moonglow

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh until October 18th
Four stars

When David Bailey became a fashion photographer for Vogue magazine just as 1960s London began to swing, he became as much of a face of the era as his subjects, despite being on the other side of the camera. It is the pin-ups of Mick Jagger, Jean Shrimpton, Marianne Faithfull, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and a very sexy Yoko Ono striking assorted poses that initially catch the eye, however, in this major touring retrospective which arrives in town like a retro-chic hot date rubbing shoulders with the great and the good at Edinburgh Art Festival.

Moving with the times, there is pop iconography down the ages, from Jack Nicholson to John Lydon to Kate Moss to Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn, bad boys and girls all. An entire section is devoted to the Rolling Stones, while, old softy that Bailey undoubtedly is, a whole room is set aside for portraits of his fourth wife, Catherine Bailey, who he met on a 1980s shoot.

Yet, as with any 1960s chart-topper, there is a more complicated flipside. It was Bailey's harrowing images of poverty in Sudan, after all, that gave Live Aid a visual identity arguably worth more than the music that sound-tracked Bob Geldof's charity circus. Images of vintage boozers in London's East End and latter-day hard-men, meanwhile, are as anthropologically evocative as his portraits of eastern holy men.

It is the mixed media assortment of this compendium's second show, Moonglow, however, that reveals just how far Bailey's art has come through a series of paintings, screen-prints, sculptures and box-like constructions. The glamour is still there in distressed collages of the Kray Twins and others, but, like Bailey, the more weathered they appear, the more depth they acquire beyond the surface of this major archive.

The List, July 2015

ends

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