With the fetish film of 50 Shades of Gray, being released this weekend, it is a good time to highlight British artist and sculptor Allen Jones, the way out furniture and its bewildering prices. Critics have said that Jones’ work is famous is because it is often labeled as morally repugnant as it seems to objectify women. But Jones argues that female sculptures are artworks first – they just happen to represent women.
Many other have admired this pop artist’s work. In fact the art market was seemingly bowled off last year when Sotheby’s sold three of Jones’s fetish style furniture sculptures (Hat Stand, Table, and Chair). The pieces were created in 1969 and first exhibited in 1970. Sotheby’s originally, estimated the sale price to go for $138,500 to $184,750. But they actually sold for a surprising $3.39 million. The three Sixties pieces came from the late millionaire Gunter Sachs. Allen made reproductions of his three sculptures in editions of six. So that Christie’s had another set of Jones’ three fetish sculptures, for sale a mere month later which fetched $4,279,245.
The three sculptures all of women were artistically transformed into items of furniture, constructed in painted fiber glass, resin, mixed media, glass, Plexiglas and tailor-made accessories They are each dressed with wigs, and are naked apart from their corsets, gloves and leather boots. Each is slightly larger than life-size and therefore, not life casts as some have assumed.
Jones grew out of the wave of Pop art that was growing across Britain and the United States during the ‘Swinging Sixties.’ Schooled by Richard Hamilton at the Royal College of Art, he was one of a new generation of British artists including David Hockney challenging conventions and embracing their sexuality.
Though Jones was a painter earlier in his long career, he felt unable to adequately recreate womanly curves on a flat canvas, so he turned to sculpture, using non-traditional materials. At the time of his 70th birthday Jones gave an explanation of his motives for creating the sculptures:
The sculptures were exhibited in 1970 and met with an outcry from feminists, who objected to women being made into items of furniture. The Guardian newspaper suggested the works should be banned from exhibition. Spare Rib magazine suggested the sculptures showed that Jones was terrified of women.
According to art historian and curator, Marco Livingstone, writing in 2004:
“More than three decades later, these works still carry a powerful emotive charge, ensnaring every viewer’s psychology and sexual outlook regardless of age, gender or experience. But a few moments of reflection should make it obvious that these works are manifestations of fantasy and the imagination, and that they poke fun at male expectations.”
Jones was born in Southampton in 1937. From the years 1955 to 1961 studied at Hornsy College of Art. In 1960 he was expelled from the Royal College of Art. Then in 1961 to 1963 Jones taught at Croydon College of Art. Jones’ exhibition of erotic sculptures studies are known as forniphilia, which turn women into items of human furniture. The release 50 Shades of Gray is causing many to look back at Jones’ early works, some 50 year ago, with his beautiful fantasy sculptures of fetishism and BDSM, ever so simply titled the “Hat Stand, Table and Chair.