Exhibitions: Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present

Andy Earl: Bow Wow Wow

In 1979, the artist Andy Earl, then twenty-four years old, represented Britain at the Venice Biennale (an international contemporary art exhibition).The year before, the impresario Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, had seen Earl’s blurred and haunting color photographs at the Photographers’ Gallery in London. When McLaren wanted something striking and shocking for the cover of a new album by Bow Wow Wow, a group he represented, he remembered Earl’s photography. Together they settled on a re-envisioning of the nineteenth-century French artist Edouard Manet’s famous painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) of 1863. The male musicians, beautifully costumed by fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, were delicately arranged, and the naked teenaged lead singer, Annabella Lwin, carefully positioned. To McLaren’s delight, the picture immediately became controversial: the underage rock star did not have her mother’s permission to pose naked.