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 of the time 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 still hunted Keeler, featuring exposé shots focusing on her appearance as an older woman.
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 movement in the Sixties, painted Keeler in the lost work ‘Scandal 63’ 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. Contributors to the exhibition catalogue include journalists Julie Burchill and Tanya Gold, art historian Kalliopi Minioudaki and Amanda Coe, screenwriter and executive producer of the upcoming BBC series ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler’. The catalogue also includes a foreword from Keeler’s son, Seymour Platt.
‘Dear Christine’ comprises painting, ceramics, sculpture, music, film, poetry, performance, artist talks and workshops.
Exhibiting artists are: 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 and Fionn Wilson.
Contributors include: David Astbury, Helen Billinghurst, James Birch, Julie Burchill, Sarah Caulfield, Katie Chatburn, Amanda Coe, Tanya Gold, Fine Cell Work, Tara Hanks, Charlotte Innes, Charlotte Metcalf, Kalliopi Minioudaki, Bo Gorzelak Pedersen and Seymour Platt.
‘Dear Christine’ opened at Vane in Newcastle upon Tyne in June (2019) and then toured to Elysium, Swansea in November, gathering momentum and attracting the attention of various writers who were commissioned to create new works to accompany the exhibition (including award-winning Welsh poets/writers Jo Mazelis, Kathryn Gray, Patrick Jones, Natalie Ann Holborow, Guinevere Clark, Mari Ellis Dunning, Gemma June Howell and Jeni Williams).
The final exhibit of ‘Dear Christine’ takes place in London at Arthouse1 from 2–29 February 2020.
'Dear Christine' has been reviewed in publications including Art North
magazine by art critic Ian McKay, the International Times
and the Morning Star
(garnering a five-star review from writer Jan Woolf). Journalist and writer Julie Burchill comments: "Three years in the making, it is a thing of beauty without cruelty, a balm applied posthumously to the wounds Christine Keeler fatally sustained in the very uncivil sex war of the 1960s". ‘Dear Christine’ has also been featured by numerous online websites, including Wales Arts Review
, where associate director Craig Austin calls the exhibition "a remarkable artistic tribute". Journalist Tanya Gold writes in The Telegraph
: "Christine Keeler is being reframed—about time".