A lot of people – even supporters of market capitalism – think the actual world of high finance is grubby although not many might reckon it is also sexy. But a London art exhibition, “Dirty Sexy Money”, certainly had material to set the pulse rate up a few notches.
Your correspondent studied pictures of naked women, covered in advertising designs and dollars, and jazzed up Marilyn Monroe portraits. There was a nice rendition of cartoon action heroes. And we had skulls - lots of skulls. If there is a message here, I suppose, it is an ironic dig at the financial system, and perhaps also at America and materialism, but the message isn’t raucous or politically strident at all. It is quietly naughty, in fact. And it is hard not to spot the Andy Warhol influence at work here.
The works are the creations of Ben Allen, an artist living and working in Brighton on the UK’s south coast. A relative whippersnapper at the age of 33, his work, according to the publicity material I read, falls into the movement that is dubbed “Pop Surrealism”, a form of “expressive art described as an underground visual art movement.” Allen has managed to pick up a pretty hot list of clients: Sir Richard Branson and Jade Jagger (daughter of Rolling Stones front-man Mick), among others. And as Allen told me, he’s not precious about being commercially successful and taking a businesslike approach to his work. His clients have included big names such as Levi’s, Nokia and Virgin (the Branson connection strikes again!).
Several works had been sold last night. One item, “American Girl – Empire Icon – was on sale for £13,000 and the most expensive piece I saw.
The event was held at Store Street Gallery, at 32 Store Street – off Tottenham Court Road, and organised by Turner Barnes Gallery (based in Chelmsford, Essex).
I did not see any investment bankers at the gallery last night. Given recent events about LIBOR manipulation, they probably had more pressing things on their minds.