Elysium Gallery
Friday, October 4, 2019
Saturday, November 9, 2019
210 High St Swansea SA1 1PE
Elysium Gallery

“Even a criminal has the right to a new life, but they made sure I did not have that. They just didn’t stop calling me a prostitute for ever and ever and ever and ever.”—Christine Keeler.

Exhibiting artists: Natalie d’Arbeloff, Claudia Clare, Caroline Coon, Lucy Cox, Catherine Edmunds, Roxana Halls, Sadie Hennessy, Marguerite Horner, Barbara Howey, Shani Rhys James, Sal Jones, Jowonder, Sadie Lee, Cathy Lomax, Julia Maddison, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Wendy Nelson, Sarah Shaw, Stella Vine, Fionn Wilson.

‘Dear Christine’ aims to reclaim and reframe Christine Keeler (1942-2017), a woman castigated for her role in a notorious political scandal in the 1960s. Aged 19, she was catapulted into the limelight when her affair with John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, was revealed. The ‘Profumo Affair’ was a watershed moment in British cultural and political history that brought down the government of the time. Keeler was shamed in the tabloid press and suffered its full wrath as the dawn of the sexual revolution approached. Keeler, it could be argued, inadvertently challenged the prevailing morality and the hypocrisy of the establishment. As a woman behaving in a sexually free way, she pushed boundaries ahead of her time.

Keeler lived with the consequences of her notoriety for the rest of her life, saddled with the label of ‘prostitute’. As she said: “It’s been a misery for me, living with Christine Keeler”. Under constant scrutiny from the press, she became a recluse. In the later years of her life the tabloid press continued to hunt Keeler, featuring exposé shots focusing on her appearance as an older woman.

Exhibition curator Fionn Wilson says: “Christine Keeler is a significant figure in British history yet there is little recent artistic reference to her. I wanted to add to the visual record of her life, which represents themes still relevant to this day, including class, power and the politics of sex. The participating artists are women who offer their own perspective on a narrative that has mostly been led by men.”

Pauline Boty, a founder of the British Pop art movement in the 1960s, painted Keeler in the lost work, Scandal 63 (1963), and as part of ‘Dear Christine’, artist, feminist and activist Caroline Coon will be exhibiting a homage to the missing painting. Previously unseen photographs will be shown during the exhibition, courtesy of James Birch, a renowned curator and personal friend of Keeler’s.

Contributors to the exhibition catalogue include Keeler’s son, Seymour Platt, journalist Julie Burchill, and Amanda Coe, screenwriter and executive producer of the upcoming BBC series The Trial of Christine Keeler.

‘Dear Christine’ comprises painting, ceramics, sculpture, music, film, photography, poetry, performance, artist talks and workshops. The preview on Friday 4 October, from 6.00pm, will include a performance of the commissioned piece of music, Dear Christine, written for Christine Keeler by award-winning composer Katie Chatburn. Chatburn’s composition, an emotional response to the narrative of Keeler’s life, draws upon all the paintings in the exhibition.

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Arts Council of Wales.

Visit Elysium Gallery’s website for the opening times and all related events.

Preview: Friday 4 October 2019, 6pm–late.

‘Dear Christine’ finishes its tour at Arthouse1, London, 2-29 February 2020.