Ben Westwood – Spawn: Bound

Exhibition review for Disappear Here, June 2009

 Vivienne Westwood may have reportedly dismissed the concept of her son’s exhibition as “a load of rubbish”, but I didn’t let that deter me from going along to the Bodhi Gallery to check out photographer Ben Westwood’s latest exhibition Spawn:Bound. Oh, and I am a bit of a sucker for the words “champagne reception” too. Unfortunately, lovely though the free drinks may have been, I found the art itself a little underwhelming.

Quite fitting for an exhibition where the crux of the art is that second generation celebrities are almost haunted by their parent’s fame, the highlight of the evening was probably when mummy Westwood showed up. The photography itself was well done, and deliciously vulgar. However the compositions struck me as amateurish, and although they were vaguely amusing, reminded me of the fictional set ups you used to see in Smash Hits. Remember when rumours of Spice Girl spats were depicted by crudely superimposing said band member’s heads onto boxer’s bodies? Yeah, like that. The modern day equivalent is probably Heat magazine’s made up scenarios. How appropriate, as Heat do like to bring the “rockocracy” to public attention.

The concept is an interesting one, and I feel that Westwood could have built on it a lot more. It really got me thinking and as an idea it had so much potential. On the one hand, offspring of the rich and famous have it much easier because of their money and connections. What most people don’t seem to take into account is that if you’ve always been brought up with fame and the press, it must be much easier to handle a career where dealing with the press is part of the package. Most children of celebrities are inevitably good at courting the media, so really it’s no wonder most of them end up famous themselves. Westwood’s pictures weren’t really saying much, although I suppose you couldn’t accuse him of being inconsistent. Each one was much like the first, a bondage clad model with an oversized celeb-brat head in place of the face, usually wearing a totally incongruous expression to what was going on in the original photo. Entertaining I guess, but certainly nothing groundbreaking. Then in case you weren’t sure of who they were (as with Richard and Judy’s daughter, Carol Thatcher and Imogen Lloyd-Webber) the names of their famous parents were wrapped around them. Helpful.

By the end of the exhibition, I fully understood the delicious irony of the whole set up. Talentless celebrity offspring feature in art made by another celebrity offspring using their famous mother’s name to gain a bit of media attention. Celebrity spawn laugh smugly to themselves. Overenthusiastic art buyers pay good money for Photoshop’s finest. Ben Westwood gleefully checks his bank balance.

If you do want to buy one of his original images, expect to pay around £1,000. However if you’re a bit strapped for cash my mate Woolfie can knock up something similar for around a tenner, his dad doesn’t do anything that interesting but he’s pretty handy when it comes to the old cut and paste malarkey. So if you don’t mind losing the whole post-modernist vibe, form an orderly queue, art lovers!

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