Unseen images of London's art and club scene in the 1980s go on display at National Portrait Gallery

in Inspiration / Photography

A new display of photographs, documenting the 1980s London art and club scene has opened at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Featuring the eponymous faces of Leigh Bowery, Derek Jarman and Gilbert & George, the series features many portraits that have not been previously exhibited.

The display coincides with the acquisition of the gallery of 14 portraits by the photographer David Gwinutt, that includes unseen images of artists Maggi Hambling and Duggie Fields, fashion designers Stephen Linard and David Holah and film makers Derek Jarman and John Maybury.

The display David Gwinnutt: Before We Were Men (until 24 September 2017) captures the generation of young creatives that emerged in London against a backdrop of financial recession and unemployment in the early 1980s. The photographs are of male directors, writers, designers and artists who together formed a vibrant and influential underground gay culture. Gwinnutt documented this scene while still at art college, having moved to London from Derbyshire in 1979.

The title ‘Before We Were Men’ indicates that this London scene was predominantly made up of young men, who in the following years would go on to become influential in the worlds of art, film, fashion and music. The display also celebrates the 1980s as a moment when figures such as Leigh Bowery and Trojan, also photographed by Gwinnutt, began to play with gender identity and redefined the idea of what a man could be.

Sabina Jaskot-Gill, Curator of David Gwinnutt: Before We Were Men, and Associate Curator of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, London, said: "Using only his handheld camera and natural light, Gwinnett’s grainy black and white photographs feel unguarded and spontaneous, offering a glimpse into the private worlds of these rising stars who lived, worked and played together, a network of subversive collaborators. Gwinnutt’s photographs serve as a social document of a moment that had far-reaching effects on the cultural landscape."

Visit David Gwinnutt: Before We Were Men, in Room 39 at the National Portrait Gallery from 16 March – 24 September 2017. For more information visit npg.org.uk.

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