Bailey's Stardust – reviews of David Bailey 'dazzling' show

Feb 6, 2014

Bailey's 'astonishing' collection of photographs lights up the National Portrait Gallery with 'star-wattage'

David Bailey
What you need to know

Critics are calling David Bailey's new exhibition, Bailey's Stardust, "dazzling" and "compelling". The survey show, opening today at the National Portrait Gallery, London, includes photographs from Bailey's  50-year career as a fashion and celebrity photographer, as well as lesser-known travel images and new work.

The show presents more than 250 photographs arranged in thematic groups to reveal the range of subjects that Bailey has captured. It includes his famous portraits of the Rolling Stones and Kate Moss, Vogue fashion shoots, and pictures from his travels in Africa, Australia and India, as well as scenes from London's East End. Runs until 1 June.

What the critics like

David Bailey's "dazzling retrospective", from stunning celebrity portraits to travel photography, creates "one great portrait of 50 years", says Sue Steward in the Evening Standard. Aside from the pleasures and beauties on show there are some surprises, including scenes from trips to remote or unseen places and zinging shots from a camera phone. 

Bailey's enormous new retrospective reminds us that for more than five decades "Bailey has been chronicling and creating that most elusive, impalpable, yet desirable human attribute: glamour", says Alastair Sooke in the Daily Telegraph. It is impossible not to be impressed by the sheer brightness of the star-wattage lighting up the walls.

"It is an astonishing collection by anybody's measure that is at once, humorous, brutal, perceptive and refreshing," says Chris Sullivan in The Independent. Bailey has not only photographed the truly iconic but is an icon himself.

What they don't like

Bailey doesn't get it right every time and "his portrait of Beyonce, for instance, looks like a bland publicity photograph", says Sooke in Telegraph. But while looking at pictures of famous people can be inane activity, Bailey's exhibition is compelling because he does not flatter, and has never lost his take-it-or-leave-it shrug.

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