This summer, Britain is truly honouring its children. With the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating 60 years on the throne during the extended weekend of 2nd – 5th of June, the celebratory mood in London has not left anyone unaffected. The Union Jack, the blooming flowers, the effort which Londoners of every borough have put into decorating their homes and public places cannot help but plant the seed of excitement, admiration and royal glamour into the stiffest of hearts. To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, 160grams is honouring one of the most adored adopted children of London: Andrew Logan. Born in Oxford in 1945, Andrew Logan studied architecture in the Oxford School of Architecture. Moving to London in the early 1970s Logan became one of the most prominent figures of London fashion and life, occupying simultaneously the roles of the enfant gâté and the enfant terrible. He established the Alternative Miss World contest in 1972, which shocked and transformed the concept of drag extravaganza to its core – as any RuPaul fan that has done their homework will certainly know!
Alternative Miss World practically spans across four decades of fashion and culture. It is a contest, but one in which there are no losers. AMW has maintained its character as an opportunity to be whoever or whatever you want to be, to dress outrageously and to present yourself based on your own criteria of beauty and personality. Evolving within the Glam Rock and Punk culture of the 1970s, it is a living symbol of fashion’s emergence for uncensored self-expression and as a vehicle for attacking a boring status quo. In 2011, the documentary The British Guide to Showing Off, directed by Jes Benstock, follows Andrew at his stages and with his hosts, documenting what is described as an outrageous, anarchic and spectacular pageant in its 2009 edition. In the film, Logan describes the show as being his most important artwork, a living sculpture. The film traces the web through which Andrew restlessly shares his vision and the show is seen as a real communal experience in which the role of Andrew as an artist and shaman lies in binding together that very community.
A true English eccentric, Andrew has used his sculptural art to bring play and fantasy into the world of reality, making life into a big and wonderful party that each and every person should enjoy. He continuously explores and expands his artistic horizons, using different media and themes, always with an extraordinary passion and effort which are rarely so charismatically expressed in contemporary artists. Andrew is, of course, nothing short of a member of the royal family: crowned by the people and for the people, his use of regalia in clothing and art is always invested with a fairytale quality that nostalgically evokes a glamorous Britain magically painted in black, white and shocking pink.
Meeting Andrew Logan was exactly as one hopes their meeting with an icon to be. His home and studio is housed in the ‘Glasshouse in the Sky’, Andrew’s very own Wonderland in London. It is not difficult to feel like Alice once you step inside: the walls are painted in bright contrasting colours, there are mirrors and artworks on every wall, unicorns, orbs, crowns and books ‘haphazardly arranged’ everywhere in the house. It is a playground and sanctuary, at first a mirage; yet Andrew’s sincere smile and polite offer of tea indicate that it is something much better: it is proof that the surreal can become real. Walking up the stairs from the entrance to the studio, that realisation becomes increasingly tangible. Lit by the sun coming from everywhere in the glasshouse, finished works and works in progress rest (but are never simply ‘statically’ there) next to the jewellery which he most recently designed with his friend and collaborator Zandra Rhodes. His youthful gestures invite you to walk around the works, examine them, ask questions, engage with them; his art is a constant performance and a true reflection of Andrew Logan himself. The following interviews can describe Andrew better than words ever could. His optimism, talent, quirkiness, intelligence, knowledge, kindness, glamour, royalty and charm shine through his advices and his thoughts. A conversation with Andrew Logan can prove that work and play are not necessarily opposites. It can also prove that wearing a crown and pearls might be the most fun you can ever have! 160grams is celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, celebrating the diamond that is Andrew Logan – but then, does he really like diamonds? Read and find out…
What is your definition of winning? For Alternative Miss World as well as life in general?
For me, there is no winner. The fact that everybody enters Alternative Miss World is fantastic. And the effort they put in! It is really only a few people’s choice that somebody should win over somebody else. But because I happened to like rituals, I liked the crowning, and I like the crown jewels and all the paraphernalia. But nobody loses. I always remember when I was at school and I used to play rugby. Can you imagine that? You know the way you throw that ball – I tackled somebody, and they fell over, and I said “oh excuse me, are you alright?”… I was hopeless at sports! So no winning, it didn’t interest me. Winning still does not interest me. I find X-Factor and things of the kind slightly distateful, because everybody is wonderful on this, so how can you make comments about them? Some people cannot sing and that is quite true… but then the criticism makes for great entertainment, people love it. I don’t. I think you could still entertain without playing on competition.
While they make the spectator feel better because other people lose, you make the spectator feel better because other people win, which is quite extraordinary! With the Olympics coming, we could say that it is a bit of an anti-olympic take on it. Speaking of the Olympics, are you still thinking of having the next AMW in one of the Olympics facilities (ndr, this was mentioned in the feature film about Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World, the British Guide of Showing Off)?
No. I now actually have a theme for the next one. I woke up about two weeks ago and found a theme. And I have got a friend who wants to help producing it – so things are starting to fall into place. And I might have found a place as well. So it is just forming. Because of course, there is the film. It is quite overwhelming, people always ask, what do you think about the film? It actually made me feel very humble. But also it makes you feel like you somehow settled or jammed your old creativities… now it is freeing up again. It had its launch, it did go on for a long time because Jen Benstock, who by the way did produce a brilliant film, intended it to be a slow-burner. It just goes on and on, it is really eternal. And so I was unable to even think about what I was going to do. Everyone at the time was saying that AMW should coincide with the Olympics, but I don’t think so. When we were talking about it in 2009, we were thinking that they have beautiful fabulous buildings, but when I realized they will have missiles on the roofs of flats, it made me think that I should just keep away for some time. So now I have different ideas that might make me start… I always start with the Alternative Crown Jewels! That’s the first thing I do – it is the seed, and from that seed it grows. And people get excited by it and then… it begins.
So what is royalty as an idea for you? What is its place in AMW?
Oh Royalty…. As a child i had all these scrapbooks (I think I still got them somewhere) of all the queen’s tours and all the royalty. I am quite obsessed with it. In fact in the garage I have I don’t know how many boxes of royal memorabilia. I think that it has to do with ritual again. In the film, I also said it is about these wonderful dressing-up materials, the robes and gorgeous crowns and the lovely bits of jewellery…
But how much of it do you think is real? And how much of it is the royalty responding to us, as the people, projecting what royalty is about?
Well monarchy is an old system. It is all queens and kings – and the minions. The minions have come up, and there are a few bits of royalty left over the world, just little snippets of it. But we seem to have a particularly resilient one.
Do you think it is just decorative though?
Oh yes, they are wealthy. Coming back to capitalism, they are very good for trade. The queen goes to a country as ambassador, and she is excellent for the country. So it is ike an industry. Also, when you look at presidents and politicians and how corrupt they are, you know she is pretty straight and die-hard in comparison. She remains quite constant, which people like. I am not sure about the next generation, because of course she is from an older one. It now seems to become more casual and to embrace change in society. I mean now the Harry Potter lady, Rowling – she is richer than the Queen! But she does not even go to supermarkets and thing, she lives a quieter life. She has to start going to a few events… in a way if you become quite famous and well-known, you do have responsability to society. You should go out and make people feel better, it kind of becomes your job. What do they call themselves the poor family? The business, I think.
“We are not a family, we are a business”. Very godfather-ish!
But it is pretty harmless, and that is great. They are not involved in arm dealing and things… I mean the son, William, is very keen on the cult of military, but otherwise, it is quite harmless.
So do you feel about the Jubilee, especially since you had one yourself?
The Jubilee, yes! She has done jolly well, hasn’t she? We are going to have a diamond party here on Saturday night, and go and see the queen. But my brother reminded me in 1992 we were in Butler’s Wharf, I had a studio there and we had a party. I had a flap at that time, I was six floors up, and we had this flap opening up to the river. And I had a mannequin, which I dressed up as the queen with the crown… and they came by. But then it was very odd, it was almost like one of these tourist-boats you see, it was nothing fabulous at all. Anyhow, she came by under Tower Bridge; so I got the queen and the queen was waving back – actually I think Prince Philip waved back, it was very funny. Kind of casual. And now it is this huge procession!
Do you think they get carried away?
I think it is great. Thousands of boats, and the bells are going to be chiming on all the churches as they parade through… imagine the sound… it is going to be wonderful.
Are you going to overlook it again?
I think because we are living in the area, we have been put down for watching down from London Bridge. It’s great! And it will be fun to watch. I usually do a kind of alternative party but I think this one I will just do diamonds. People wear diamonds. I always find diamonds very amusing. People keep asking, why don’t you use diamonds in your work? Well, if it was in a work you would not necessarily know it was even there. I love glass, because it is very humble. It’s sand. I like using found objects, anything that is immediate and accessible, and again it is nothing crazy with money. I could use diamonds, I am sure, but somehow I don’t think it would make any difference. It is not a particularly nice object. I have once been to the Kremlin, which was fascinating actually. Go to the Kremlin! You go in the treasury, in the Kremlin, in Moscow, and Russia has, I think, 60% of the world’s diamonds. So they just have these huge cases full of diamonds and then rubies and emeralds and bits of gold. Natural shapes of gold, little sculptures… it is an amazing place. But very weird, it was not even set in an interesting way, I don’t think that was the point. Anyway, I would rather use just gorgeous bits of glass and bottles and all sorts of things I find. At the moment, I have just been given some pearls by a friend of mine. So I am now into pearls. Anything that I find that just comes to the eye, I like to incorporate in my work.
We leave you with the image of Andrew’s pearl sculptures – his latest ‘hand’ could in fact very well be a miniature boat flowing on the Thames for the Jubilee: joyful, celebratory, delicate and yet humble like his creator. There is much much more to come of our ‘Logan Jubilee’, including his thoughts on architecture, art, humanity, money, gender, sculpture, museums, objects and the void… so stay tuned and remember:
“Life is not very long. Why not have fun then? We have this time allocated to us, why isn’t the world a whole wonderful playground? Why aren’t we all playing? All that money could go on having parties, instead of missiles on roofs!”
And also, if you want to get into the Jubilee mood, there is no better way than watching the British Guide to Showing Off - the scene with Logan’s Jubilee for and with the people of Berriew, Whales proves that royalty goes past monarchy and is truly everyone’s cup of tea…
Interview and photos by Eleni Souslou and Isa Jakob, introduction by Eleni, featured image of Andrew from andrewlogan.com31 May 2012 1 Comment