It’s hard to find someone more iconic than Kate Moss – her image is synonymous with everything from the designer brands of our dreams, to the music we listen to and the art that adorns our walls.
As the most successful British model of all time, Moss has been a muse to a generation of artists, inspiring more art than any other non-religious or royal subject in history. Famously silent, the mystery that surrounds her plays a key role in her allure, with the whole world feeling that they know her, without really knowing her at all.
To mark her 49th birthday, we’re taking a look at some of the artists whose work has been inspired by this catwalk star…
Kate Moss was discovered at the age of just 14, scouted by Storm Model Management agent, Sarah Doukas, at JFK Airport following a family getaway in The Bahamas.
Moss was sent to photographer, David Ross, to snap the headshots that would launch her career. Speaking of his shoot with the supermodel Ross stated:
“I don’t even think she knew what she was doing. I got the feeling it was effortless for her. As a model, you have to know how to turn it on without really turning it on, and that’s what she had and that’s what I saw from the very beginning.”
Given their mutual love of a party, it’s little surprise Moss has been linked with the YBAs since the early 90s. After collaborating with a number of the controversial artists for an art issue of British Vogue, Moss was soon fast friends with the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, and reportedly dated Jake Chapman.
Speaking of the time, Moss stated:
“I’ve worked with a lot of artists – Marc Quinn, Tracey Emin, Gary Hume, Jake and Dinos Chapman... I became friends with some of them. A lot of them really. And, you know, we’d seen each other out, hung out at parties and what have you, and over the years they’d ask me to do odd projects.”
Gary Hume was one the first to portray Kate Moss in 1996, with a featureless and languid portrait of the model that perfectly encapsulates the mystery that has surrounded her throughout her career. In a nod to how the public often interacts with celebrities, Hume’s piece almost invites us to project our ideas of who Moss really is onto the piece.
Of all the YBAs, Marc Quinn is the one who has produced the most artworks featuring the supermodel. Viewing Moss as a ‘quasi-mythological creature’, Quinn has described the star as: "a cultural hallucination we have all agreed to create. She is the only person who has the ubiquity and silence that is required in an image of divinity."
In his Beauty piece, created in 2000, Quinn produced an ice sculpture of the model wearing a designer cloak by Alexander McQueen. The artist described the sculpture, which gradually melted, as, “a perfect metaphor for our consumption of beauty” with him reportedly telling Moss, “as the ice evaporates, it will be released as vapour into the art gallery, and people will breathe you in..."
Quinn went on to create more sculptures of Moss, casting her in 18ct gold for Siren – said to be the largest gold statue to be created outside the era of Ancient Egypt. Both Siren and Sphinx (a life-size bronze sculpture) depicted the model contorted into yoga poses as an exploration of the unrealistic image of the ‘ideal body’.
Tracey Emin and Moss have a close friendship that spans many years and has sparked a number of works of art.
Not only did Emin photograph and draw Moss in the nude, but she also designed Moss’s wedding dress when she married Jamie Hince, and was invited to decorate the wedding venue with her artworks.
Freud may have turned down the opportunity to paint Princess Diana, claiming he ‘couldn’t get past her sheen of glamour’, but when the opportunity arose to paint fashion royalty, the artist seized his chance.
Over the course of nine months, an 80-year-old Freud painted the supermodel in the nude and pregnant with her daughter during sittings that lasted from 7pm to 2am, up to seven days a week.
The friendship that was sparked during those sittings is to be the subject of ‘Moss & Freud’, a film directed by Oscar-winning director, James Lucas, and produced by Moss herself.
As the Godfather of Pop Art, time and again Peter Blake returns to depictions of cultural icons who have had the biggest impact on our collective consciousness.
Over the years, Blake has included Moss in a number of works. She appeared in the artist’s 2010 Stars set, which explored the celebrities society has adulated across generations, and featured five key figures who’ve influenced what we watch, wear and listen to.
The elusive model also made an appearance in Vintage Blake a couple of years later in 2012. Blake created the piece, which emulated his infamous Beatles cover, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to celebrate his 80th birthday. His collaged crowd consisted of key people from his career and personal life, including the likes of Moss, Twiggy and David Bowie.
The following year came, Kate, 2013, a collage made up of 100 images of Moss.
Banksy and Kate Moss are an interesting pair, with one boasting one of the world’s most recognisable faces, the other, an enigma whose face remains a mystery.
This irony was clearly not lost on Banksy. His Kate Moss series, which has been termed, ‘the ultimate modern interpretation of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe series,’ is both a a dialogue between two iconic artists and two of popular culture’s biggest stars, and a wry take on the glorification of fame.
By capturing his subjects in a state of relaxation with their eyes closed, Levine offers us something different from the many thousands of images we’ve seen of these women – meditative works that remind us that these icons are human too.
Speaking of capturing Moss, Levine revealed:
“There’s a spirit in Kate that seems to have struck a chord with so many. With every opportunity I got [to shoot a portrait of Moss], I tried to distil it back to just pure essence. To take her beauty and translate it into light as image was what I set out to do. Given all the images that have ever been made of her, I needed to take it beyond beauty and somewhere deeper. Her true beauty is within and that’s what I hope is projected in the form of light.”