Tyler Shields: Decadence at Maddox Gallery
Decadence has publicised itself using words such as “subversive”, “provocative” and “tongue-in-cheek”. It is none of these things. Coming from self-described former bad boy and now “Hollywood’s favourite photographer”, Tyler Shields, this exhibition is unfortunately better described as out-of-touch, navel-gazing and hackneyed.
The exhibition takes place in a single room and features a set of photographed tableaux featuring, predominantly female, courtesans dressed in Marie Antoinette-esque period garb. The catch is that the courtesans are being portrayed by aspiring Hollywood actors, such as Isabelle Fuhrman, Jaime King and Tallulah Wilis. The pictures themselves offer little in the way of striking or memorable imagery; some seem to have been taken in the same room with the same subjects, which feels ungenerous in an exhibition as brief as this. Still, a handful of bewigged, powdered young women are on hand to serve champagne and cupcakes, as if to compensate when the spectators quickly lose interest in the photographs.
Perhaps Decadence isn’t really an exhibition but a market for buyers, with the photographs being valued at around £12,000 each. Certainly the artistic value will only be apparent to those who have somehow avoided coming across the trope that celebrities are the contemporary equivalent of European aristocracy. Lorde sung about that theme in Royals not too long ago, and that doesn’t cost £12,000 to listen to.
Shields has taken these pictures with a 55-year-old camera, as if to bring to life how an 18th century court would look if photographed. This gives the images an interesting creative origin at least. Yet Decadence is just not satisfying for anyone outside of a privileged bubble. It has disingenuously publicised itself as something edgy and hard-hitting, when it merely celebrates excessive wealth and elitism. You will feel short-changed, without spending a penny.
Tyler Shields: Decadence is at Maddox Gallery from 4th February until 24th February 2016, for further information visit here.