According to lore, David Bowie was left in the queue outside artist Andrew Logan’s first Alternative Miss World, which was held in an empty Dalston warehouse in 1972. Andrew Logan takes us around his studio, and envelopes us in his world of mirrored surfaces, glamour, art and religiosity.
Andrew Logan is known partly for the outright hedonism of his legendary parties in the 1970s, including the institution that is Alternative Miss World, but you wouldn’t know it from meeting him. His manner is calm and gentle, and he radiates good humour.
The recently released documentary, The British Guide to Showing Off, is the result of years of filming by director Jez Benstock, and gets inside Logan’s colourful practice, which is centered around his treasure trove of a London studio. The film also takes a close look at the planning and staging of 2009’s Alternative Miss World at London’s Roundhouse, and examines Logan’s working life to date – a career that is hard to define or classify.
Logan’s mirrored technique found its way into a collection of Cutler and Gross frames. “I was being very practical. It was in the 1990s. I thought, ‘If I’m actually going to mirror some glasses, they might as well be decent ones’. And Tony [Gross] had fabulous glasses.” He describes the process as “transformation”, not customisation.
Cutler and Gross: This studio is amazing, how long have you been here?
Andrew Logan: About 20 years.
CanG: It lives up to its name.
AL: Yes , even on a dull day,
CandG: When did you get into art-making and how?
AL: I’m very smart now because I can say ‘see the movie!’ (The British Guide to Showing Off). I started at The Oxford School of Architecture and then I had an acid trip in 1968, and then I started to make things. And that was it really. Simple as that.
CandG: You’ve never looked back?
AL: No, you don’t really look back. Other people seem to like to: ‘Oh you’re the ’80s, you’re very ’80s’, and actually, I live in 2011, I’m very 2011. Some people do get stuck in timewarps but I think its important to move, not with the times, but keep moving through your life. You don’t have to be a slave to technology. Enjoy it. As far as I’m concerned, the precious time for me is to create things while I’m here. Millions of people can go on Twitter, but there is only one person that can work in this studio and create, and that’s me, so that I feel is important.
CandG: What are you working on at the moment?
AL: A piece outside the new library on Clapham High Street: huge letters in mirror and glass and objet trouvé. It reflects what I do – collecting manmade and natural materials from my travels all over the world.
CandG: You do a lot of work with accessories and jewellery. How did your special collection for Cutler and Gross using applied mirror come about?
AL: Because of Tony [Gross], and because I was being very practical. It was in the ’90s I think. I thought, ‘If I’m actually going to mirror some glasses, they might as well be decent ones’. Tony was always a great collector, talk about collectors! He collected old glasses from way back. I suppose at that time they were not vintage. No one thought of ‘vintage’ when I started doing these glasses.
CandG: How did you meet Tony Gross?
AL: He was part of the gang in the ’70s and ’80s, I must have met him through my great friend Luciana Martinez. She was a kind of muse. Kevin [Whitney] painted her many times. Dougie Fields did lots of pictures and I did quite a few. Dougie was part of that circle, it was quite a small sect you know. Tony loved partying and having fun, he was always busy. He never stopped. It was wonderful working with the glasses. I’d like to do more. I have a love/hate relationship with small things, because they’re so fiddly, but of course the results are fabulous. I remember a photo of me in Egypt in 1978 wearing pink Cutler and Gross frames. I also had these beautiful little round Ghandi Cutler and Gross glasses that I wore all the time, and I’ve just left them on a plane! I always remember Tony saying – they’re steel or something – ‘you can sit on them, you can run a car over them…’, the salesman – wonderful. But I didn’t get them back. I was so upset.
CandG: How would you what you do with accessories – is it customization?
AL: I transform them. You can stick on a few Swarovksi jewels, to me that’s customising. I look at the glasses and then I think about colour and will I use a lot more glass or bits and pieces? It’s a very different way of looking at it, and every single frame is different. There’s no fixed formula – which runs through all my work.
CandG: Have you always made jewellery?
AL: No, it wasn’t until I met Thea Porter in the early ’70s, the famous fashion designer. She was my first patron, and said ‘Andrew, why don’t you do some jewellery for my collection?’ She used to have this showing at Tramps. She used to sell to Liz Taylor, Barbara Streisand, you name it – the international jetset.
CandG: How did the first Alternative Miss World come about?
AL: I’d been to a Crufts dog show, and we were sitting around as you do when you’re in your twenties. I’d always given parties, I’d just given a dinner and dance I think, and Miss World was big then in the ‘70s, so it was just a very natural thing. The first one was in 1972 and just for friends.
CandG: Who were the judges that year?
AL: David Hockney, Robert Medley, the lady from Ugly Agency, Jill I think, Vern Lambert who used to have am antiques place in the market in Chelsea – a huge fashion influence guy. He was friends with Anna Piaggi at that time. It was filmed by Jack Hazan. They were doing a film on David Hockney – A Bigger Splash – and it was used as a party scene.
CandG: Where was it?
AL: On the borders of Islington, near De Beauvoir Square – Dalston. ‘No Man’s Land’ I always called it. I think it still is in a way. I remember people coming over from West London where everyone lived. For them, going to East London was like an adventure. I always enjoyed living in East London because it was like living in the country.
CandG: Is it true that The Sex Pistols did an early gig at one of your parties?
AL: Yes. I knew Vivienne and Malcolm very well. They’d been to lots of my parties and we had mutual friends. Michael Costiff and Gerlinda Von Regensburg had a café, and I think every day they went to work, they went to buy another sample from Vivienne. In the end Michael had this huge collection of early Vivienne stuff. One day Malcolm phoned me and said ‘I’ve got this group, and they’re going to be bigger than the Beatles. Could they play at your place?’ I was always giving parties at Butler’s Wharf, every week I gave another party. Nobody else did, at that scale and size. I said ‘Oh fine, yes’. I remember it very well. My studio was huge with a corrugated iron roof and when the music started it was so loud, the whole thing kind of reverberated. I had a portacabin lined in gold, which we called The Gold Room, so we all raced in there to escape. It was deafening. The rest is history really. I suppose their music was hugely influential. But it was clever marketing on his part. Malcolm was clever.
CandG: So many influential people in the fashion world came to Alternative Miss World events. It’s not just about cross-dressing is it?
AL: No, it is about transformation. People were just discovering that then. Recently, I was a judge with Fenella Fielding at Alternative Miss Liverpool. There were a lot of cross dressers there, and none of them got a place, and they were furious. But they came in a wig, makeup and a dress, looking quite glamorous, but nothing out of the ordinary. Alternative Miss World is about stretching the imagination further. It’s a challenge. The fact that Miss Fancy Chance [Veronica Thompson, winner of the 2009 Alternative Miss World] hung by her hair in her eveningwear rather clinched her position I think.
CandG: Can you talk us through this set of crosses?
AL: This is called To Russia With Love, it was made in 1997. I was in the first Moscow Art Fair then, so I made it because of my summer there. I put photographs of all my friends in the back here, all my Russian friends, and they’ve all faded! The Order of Lenin is in there too.
There is also one that’s an homage to Dalí, made 1988. I thought he was an important artist. He’s very popular now, but when he was alive, he was considered a showman not a serious artist. I use crosses all the time. I’ve always liked the image of the cross, and found it very reassuring. It’s this really [stretches arms and legs in a da Vinci’s Vetruvian Man pose]. It’s essentially the same. It’s Man, really.
CandG: When did you create your first horse?
AL: The first was in 1980. I did one and then from there I was able to take moulds. They’re cast fibreglass with a steel frame inside. It’s called Life, Birth and Death, because you can’t get one without the other of course. If anyone wanted it they would have to buy all of them, because you can’t buy life without death and you can’t have birth without life. I suppose people could always order one…and I could make another, but those three will always remain together.
CandG: I like your Barack Obama Heart.
AL: Yes! I sent that to my friend and agent in New York but she sent it back. I think she might be Republican…
CandG: When did you first go to India?
AL: 1982. This fabric of the suit I’m wearing is amazing. It’s from Chennai. They use it for drapes and things; three-piece suits. It’s so heavy. I go to India every year now.