Opening in September 2010, Pangolin London will hold the first ever exhibition of sculpture by David Bailey. Renowned as one of the world’s most illustrious photographers, Bailey’s forthcoming exhibition will shock viewers as he presents a dark and rugged collection of cast silver and bronze sculptures alongside a body of new photographs, which will underline the stark contrast between the two mediums and emphasise his versatility as an artist. The show will explore the idea that image-makers should not be confined to one discipline, as Bailey insists, “I’m not saying I’m a sculptor, I just make images. I don’t take photographs, I make them. And now I’m making something else.”
Pangolin London is one of London’s few galleries purely dedicated to exhibiting sculpture. Its close affiliation with Europe’s largest foundry, Pangolin Editions, means that Pangolin London is uniquely positioned to showcase the intimate relationship between Art and Craft and to explore in detail the magic of iconic objects made in our time. As Europe’s leading foundry, Pangolin Editions attracts an international clientele of contemporary sculptors. This provides the perfect symbiosis to advance sculpture-making with the help of advancing technologies alongside ancient traditional skills.
Bailey met Rungwe Kingdon and Claude Koenig – Directors of Pangolin Editions and Pangolin London – at Damien Hirst’s House in Mexico and it was here that they began discussions regarding a collaboration. Bailey had always had a private passion for creating sculpture but it was something he only experimented with in the privacy of his home. After an invitation to Pangolin Editions, however, Bailey was inspired by the energy of the foundry and was henceforth given the opportunity to produce a new body of work that would bring Bailey’s sculptural vision into fruition. What was previously an intimate pastime will now be on show for the public to see.
As Rungwe states, “We share profound passions, in addition to skulls and sculpture we revel in manipulating processes; Bailey in his darkroom, Claude and I in the foundry. Somewhere in our collaboration, photographs, patinated bronzes, friendship and an exhibition evolved. Pure alchemy!!” In a recent interview with The Times’ Rachel Campbell Johnston, Bailey enquired, “Have you ever been to a foundry? It’s fantastic! The silver falls like silver rain.”
For his forthcoming exhibition at Pangolin London, Bailey strips away conventional beauty, and instead focuses on the skull that lies beneath the perfect skin once captured by his camera. Skulls were an obvious choice of subject matter for Bailey. Over the years he has assembled an impressive collection including the craniums of a gorilla, a hippo, and even a tiger that he extracted himself from an old moth eaten head. “The skull is nature’s sculpture” he says. “The old ones get this lovely patina.”
From a miniature skull cast in silver to a five foot bronze, Bailey’s sculptures are distinct in appearance yet similar in purpose as they serve to remind us of our own mortality. Inspired by Picasso, it is also clear from his work that Bailey has been considerably influenced by the cult-like imagery of tribal art. This primal simplicity has shaped Bailey’s signature style from his earliest to most recent creations, albeit producing quite different results. Bailey’s sculptures, raw yet glinting with a touch of humour, awakens our basic instincts of fear, sexual desire and the inevitable onslaught of death.