Bailey’s Parade at Sotheby’s

“There is no one else like David Bailey. Arriving onto the scene in the early sixties, Bailey was quick to flip the status quo, thrusting London’s edgy scene into the spotlight. Without knowing, he made London’s East End cool and for it to be cool to be creative. And what a coup it is for Sotheby’s to collaborate with David Bailey for the first time, offering this exceptional group of works that showcase the breadth of his unique photographic practice which defined the 1960s and left an indelible mark on global culture for generations that followed.”

Brandei Estes, Head of Photographs, Sotheby’s London

Sotheby’s London, 11 March 2022: Bailey’s Parade, an exhibition of works by the legendary British photographer David Bailey, will open today through to 16 March 2022 at Sotheby’s London. Curated in close collaboration with the artist and Imitate Modern, the show not only features some of Bailey’s most iconic ‘pin-up’ portraits of the 1960s, but his vibrant still life series from the late 2000s, as well as a series of rarely-seen “overpainted photographs” created a decade later during the 2010s. With over 30 works on view, the exhibition provides an insight into the mind of one of the world’s greatest image-makers, whose career has spanned more than half a century.

Hailed a “sixties icon” by Esquire Magazine, Bailey is undoubtedly one of the rare photographers who is as celebrated as his subjects. Born in London’s East End in 1938, it was while serving in the RAF in Singapore during the fifties – where “you could buy a camera for the price of a pack of cigarettes” – that Bailey began experimenting with photography. He received his first taste for the industry after joining British Vogue in 1960, quickly tearing into the hidebound world of high fashion, choosing instead to inject his imagery with the dynamism of London’s newly informal street culture and punk aesthetic.

Self-taught and solely working on “instinct”, Bailey photographed the city’s youthquake on the cusp of fame. Notables in the hundreds, even thousands, have sat for the photographer, including a young Jean Shrimpton Michael Kane and the Kray Brothers in the 1960s, as well as Jack Nicholson and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s, Andy Warhol, Jane Birkin, Kate Moss and the Queen, many of which will be exhibited as part of Bailey Parade.  Stripping them of glitz and glamour, Bailey purposefully photographed his sitters up close and in stark black and white, ridding the background of any props or distractions so that their personalities were in close focus. Bailey said: “You treat each person as an individual…You adapt to who you’re photographing. It’s their personality, not mine I want. I don’t mind if they’re in a bad mood or good mood because both things can lead to something good.” In addition, Bailey’s Parade will also feature a selection of rarely-seen “overpainted photographs”, portraying some of his most celebrated earlier portraits overlaid with paint. Having first picked up a paintbrush in the early days, applying pigment to his photographs felt like a natural progression for Bailey, though he never knew his work would go in this direction: “I never planned it. I didn’t take a picture and say I’m going to paint on top of it. It was sort of accidental. I hate planning things, I like things to happen, quite like mistakes. And it is those mistakes that push your work into a new, exciting direction. It can change everything.” Bailey Parade will also showcase works from the artist’s vanitas still-life of flowers and skulls, which he began in 2010