Kate and Kylie exhibits dismay cultural critics

The Independent 5 Feb 2007

Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss are to be honoured by two of Britain's leading cultural galleries this month in a move that is likely to delight Heat magazine readers as much as it offends some traditional art lovers.

The Victoria and Albert Museum's show Kylie - the Exhibition, which opens on Thursday, will chart the exotic wardrobe changes of the pop star over her 20-year career.

Face of Fashion, opening a week later at the National Portrait Gallery, will feature nine new photographic portraits of Moss to illustrate the "relationship between fashion and celebrity".

The shows are expected to draw a new generation to the galleries, but some more staid exhibition-goers are dismayed that pop culture has invaded space usually reserved for the more refined variety.

Critics question whether Moss and Minogue are appropriate subjects for such heavily subsidised institutions. Some have cited the huge success of recent exhibitions featuring the Spanish court painter Velázquez - which drew record numbers at the National Gallery - and David Hockney's portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, as testimony to the enduring attraction of traditional art shows.

The V&A exhibition captures sartorial highlights of Minogue's career, including photographs of the pop star in gold hotpants and feathered head-dresses, as well as album covers, accessories, photographs and videos. The museum, which specialises in applied and decorative arts, has responded robustly to suggestions that it should not have given space to an exhibition about a pop figure.

"We hope this exhibition will attract students of fashion and stage costume design," said a spokeswoman.

Stephen Bayley, the art and design critic, said he could not approve of the decision. "I am conflicted about this. If they are going to put Kylie's dresses in the chamber of horrors that is one thing, but if it is to be a mute celebration of the life of a celebrity, then it is not such a worthy thing."

The National Portrait Gallery, meanwhile, traces Moss's career from the 1993 Vogue portrait of the waif-like model which sparked the "heroin chic" debate. She features in nine portraits captured by one of her longest-standing collaborators, Corinne Day, a former model and self-taught photographer who brought a hard-edged documentary look described as grunge, to fashion shoots in the 1990s. Day first worked with the Croydon-born model shortly after she was discovered, aged 14, in 1988.

Sandy Nairne, the gallery director, said that although a model might not have been considered worthy of inclusion in the past, "categories of achievement that we think about have become much broader".

The Face of Fashion exhibition will include images by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Steven Klein, Paolo Roversi, Mario Sorrenti as well as Day, with images of Madonna, Catherine Deneuve and Drew Barrymore alongside Moss.