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The devil may wear Prada, but in ’70s London the cool kids went kitsch. In 1976, cultural historian Peter York noticed that a clique of art school grads were strutting around town in camp, colourful outfits – usually finished off with a garish Andrew Logan brooch and soundtracked by Roxy Music. So he wrote an essay, entitled ‘Them’, about the movement which traded flowing hippy garms for flamboyant, glam gear. York even planned to make a film about Them, but his plans were scuppered just a month later by the arrival of Sex Pistols’ debut single ‘Anarchy in the UK’. Shortly after that, punk stole the style limelight in the city for the foreseeable.
Now a new exhibition at The Redfern Gallery is revisiting the subculture that never quite took off, grouping together the work of five prominent ’70s artists. Like the aesthetic of Them, it’s eclectic. Kevin Whitney’s portrait of journalist and fashion stylist Chelita Secunda – dangling out the window of a car and gleefully wielding a revolver – sits alongside Duggie Fields’s pop-arty portrait ‘Fireside Scene’. Along with the late Luciana Martinez de la Rosa’s colourful and very meta ‘Pru Pru’ (the artist herself is in the painting, wearing a patterned kimono), ‘Them’ features work by Derek Jarman and Andrew Logan, showcasing a movement so achingly cutting-edge that almost no one’s heard of it.
‘Them’ is at The Redfern Gallery until February 15.