Jonathan Jones / Why artists just don't get Kate Moss
Why artists just don't get Kate Moss
She's been depicted in plastic by Allen Jones, tattooed by Lucian Freud and snapped by the world's greatest photographers. But as Moss turns 40, she's a beauty still waiting for her Picasso
by Jonathan Jones
Thursday 16 January 2014
Full exposure … Lucian Freud's portrait of Kate Moss. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Reuters
Lucian Freud's portrait of Kate Moss
Kate Moss creates a timeless bubble around herself where feminism never happened. In this archaic realm, women are bodies and men are eyes. This has proved a lot of fun for male artists, who can make the kind of art about Moss that in any other context would be dismissed as 1960s-style misogyny.
If you think I am exaggerating, consider how she has revived the career of Allen Jones. In the 1960s, Jones made fetishistic pop art that fantasised freely about sex. His sculptures even turned women into pieces of furniture. One of these works in the Tate was attacked in what is thought to have been a feminist protest.
Plastic fantastic … Kate Moss by Allen Jones. Photograph: Christie's Images
But Allen Jones is hot again – thanks to Kate Moss. In a sale at Christies that celebrated her as a "muse", his images, including a Goldfinger-like photographic work and a plastic model, were the most publicised and high-selling works (at £32,500 and £133,875, respectively).
There's another problem: Moss doesn't live in a great age for beauty in art. I think she may know this. Her relationships with artists are actually quite tantalising. Jones, Quinn and a legion of fashion photographers have been allowed to capture her image, and yet an image is all they have taken away – you get sense that the real Kate Moss has eluded them. Their excitement is so obvious, so puppyish. The chance to put heterosexual excitement into contemporary art is so rare that they just shoot their aesthetic load with a splat.
Kate's many faces … Peter Blake's print on canvas sold at Christie's in 2013 for £31,250
If Freud had met Moss 10 years earlier and portrayed her over and over again, if the intimacy that tattoo betokens became a complex passion between painter and model, then we could really say she inspired great art. As it is, Kate Moss is the muse who has never found the right artist. Where's a sexist voyeuristic genius when you need one?