On 23 May the University of Kent’s Studio 3 Gallery in Canterbury will open its doors to Two-Faced Fame: Celebrity in Print 1962-2013, the latest of the university’s entirely student run exhibitions, as part of the Print Collecting and Curating programme offered to History and Philosophy of Art students within their final years of their undergraduate studies. Devised by Art Historian and Lecturer, Dr Ben Thomas, it is the only module of its kind; only at Kent do students have complete freedom to devise their own exhibition, and to spend the £3,500 budget (and fundraise for more) on which ever works they please.
In 1968, Warhol famously stated 'In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.' The inescapable plethora of reality TV shows have made it possible for almost anyone to be labelled as a ‘celebrity’. Our exhibition is unique in that it acts as a eulogy to the gradual withering status of the celebrity icon, from 1962 to 2013. Ultimately, it may be argued that Two-Faced Fame is the first, and will perhaps be the only, exhibition to look at fame in art, from Pop to contemporary art.

Two-Faced Fame examines some of the ways in which Andy Warhol, arguably the most famous commentator of celebrity culture, has inspired British artists to explore fame since the 1960s. The artists on show provide a range of differing representations of fame, some of which have been influenced by Warhol, and some of which take an entirely unique approach. The exhibition provides a diagnostic approach towards the changing attitudes towards celebrity mass culture and offers both a celebratory and critical presentation of the iconic. We will be displaying Andy Warhol’s iconic 1962 Marilyn silkscreen as a catalyst to explore similar works produced by his British Pop contemporaries such as Sir Peter Blake, Gerald Laing and Joe Tilson. These Pop artists of the 60s are accompanied by a number of contemporary British artists who have also chosen to comment on celebrity culture at some point in their career.

Peter Blake, MM Silver, silkscreen and diamond dust, 2010
Courtesy Paul Stolper, London

When it came to developing the theme of the exhibition we wanted to focus on exploring a subject that would appeal to a wide audience while retaining an academic underpinning. The real challenge was for the marketing and curatorial teams to work closely in order to strike the right balance between academic and populist material.  As tempting as it was to curate an exhibition in which we ‘show off’ everything we’ve studied over the last three years, we did not want to produce an inaccessibly pretentious and overly academic exhibition that would appeal only to the art history student. Part of our intention was to try to appeal to a wider audience and put the Studio 3 gallery on the map. Two-Faced Fame combines visually striking works by both recognisable and unknown artists but also presents a genuine argument upon the status of the celebrity in today’s society.

Devising Two-Faced Fame has given us the opportunity to approach numerous artists and dealers directly in order to secure works of art. We have been lucky enough to be in contact with Jonathan Yeo, Gavin Turk and GSG, all of whom have work exhibited in Two-Faced Fame. Along with organizing the exhibition we were also given the opportunity to have a publication to our names by writing the accompanying catalogue. Examples from previous years have been described as ‘exemplary’ by the print journal  Art in Print, so there were high expectations to live up to.  Of course, we’ve had our fair share of disappointment throughout this project and at times it’s been incredibly frustrating. The ups and downs have been part of the value of this programme and provided us with the kind of first-hand experience that students wouldn’t usually get until much later in their careers.

Over the duration of the course we’ve managed to secure a vast number of exciting loans and brought together the work of a number of major British artists such as Gary Hume, Joe Tilson and Peter Blake to name but a few. Some of the most exciting prints on show include Blake’s vast diamond dusted Marilyn print, which looms at almost two meters tall and Hume’s unsettling depiction of Michael Jackson. Our finance group commendably raised enough money to purchase prints by Gavin Turk, John Stezaker and Joe Tilson, all of which will be exhibited and later added to the ever-expanding Kent Print Collection.  This is the first time these prints have been exhibited together in Kent.
Gavin Turk, Fright Wig (Red), silkscreen, 2010
Courtesy Paul Stolper, London

The eclectic mix of works by some of the greatest British Pop artists and leading Contemporary figures will ensure that Two-Faced Fame holds significance as a commentary on the changing face of fame over the last 60 years. Two-Faced Fame: Celebrity in Print 1962 – 2013 will run from the 23 May until the 14 June at the Studio 3 Gallery in the Jarman Building at the University of Kent, Canterbury. For further info click here. Words: Luke Carver and Rose Thompson