The 1920′s was an era of prosperity and fun after the austerity of the First World War. The cinemas were full of films by stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo and transatlantic liners carried the rich and famous across the Atlantic between Southampton and New York. No-one had any thoughts of the Great Crash that would occur at the end of the decade, in 1929 and bring it all to a devastating end.
Mayfair was a hive of activity in the 1920′s with Claridge’s Hotel a favourite place to stay and to be seen for the rich, the famous, the aristocratic, the Hollywood stars, bright young things and, also mysteriously, for spies. The Jazz Age was in full swing with the music of Al Jolson and others blasting out from the clubs while, no doubt, the ladies spent much of their time in Old Bond Street choosing the latest fashions for their weekend parties at country houses and for evening entertainment at the best places in London.
Some of those glamorous ladies from the 1920’s have now returned to Mayfair, 90 years later, with their heavy make-up and overdone curled hairstyles which must have taken the hairdresser all day to achieve, along with their sophisticated chiffon dresses as they stand and watch the hurly-burly of Mayfair through the large showroom windows down Dover Street in Mayfair.
Cindy Sherman’s beauties have come across the Pond from Hollywood and New York, no doubt on one of the swankiest new liners. Who are they? Are they film stars? Are they rich ladies from society? Perhaps they are authors, fashion models or heiresses? Are they here looking for husbands or are they escaping them? But wait; there is something similar about them – underneath the heavily painted faces, the glasses, the thick curls and the red lipstick, there is a strange similarity – not surprising as they are all photo-images of the one person, even when there are four in the one image. But, they present inscrutable masks that hide the real personality behind the make-up, the hairstyles and the expensive clothes.
Here they are at Struth Magers in London, but be adventurous – go down the long deep staircase into the basement a d you are in another world, in a tall two or three storey basement space that allows light to percolate down from the pavement above, in which more industrial works by Michael Pirgelis, Robert Irvin and others fill the space, with Pirgelis ‘Collected Canter’ taking the centre spot, its reflections with the windows changing as you walk around and transforming the experience.