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Atelier Rococo at NGX

In October 2020 Atelier Rococo took up a virtual residency with NGX to produce a series of photographs influenced by the collection. 

Atelier Rococo (Drucilla Burrell and Magdalene Celeste) have created 15 new works inspired by paintings from the Gallery that explore themes of power in portraiture and create alternative narratives to the traditional expressions of wealth and domesticity.

For inspiration, they choose a mix of paintings that were both familiar and unfamiliar; their selection “referenced both wealth and domesticity and classical portraits.” They also selected some “purely based on outfits we wanted to recreate, being contemporary dandies!”

Atelier Rococo are interested in the ‘gatekeeping’ that portraiture provides. They feel that “having a portrait painted or even painting a portrait is an expression of power and status that can prove largely inaccessible for many”. This commission has allowed them to explore these themes, bring in alternative narratives and ask questions of the artworks.

“The queering of gender and traditional gender stereotypes served as a way of exposing and questioning the displays of power and hierarchy embedded within the collection images.”

Image: [Left] Atelier Rococo, 'Breakfast', 2020. [Right] Jean-Etienne Liotard, ' The Lavergne Family Breakfast', 1754

Atelier Rococo’s initial plan had been to “work with a variety of different models allowing them to feedback into the process and for those traditionally excluded from these spaces ‘reclaim' the imagery for themselves through subversion”, however, the work was produced during the lockdowns of 2020 meaning they had to shoot with a smaller pool of people, although they will return to this approach for their next stage of this work.

It was not just the range of models that they had to reconsider, highly planned shoots in formal settings with hired court dress were replaced with homespun sets and quickly improvised costumes: “table cloths were pinned into wimples, pot plants became giant trees etc”.

Magdalene constructed costumes from available materials using laborious couture techniques and tailoring. These structured garments were built out with quickly pinned and draped bed linens and curtains, a process Atelier Rococo describes as “Rococo Punk”.

Drucilla shot all the photographs using an iPhone and natural light, making working in the winter months even more of a challenge as the light changes and disappears quickly.

About Atelier Rococo

"Atelier Rococo are a creative collaborative entity sometimes referred to as Magdalene
Celeste and Drucilla Burrell. Together we have more than 20 years in the fields of fashion,
costume design, styling, creative direction, art and photography. Our work focuses on the
whimsical Queering of historical narrative."

Find out more.

What is National Gallery X?

National Gallery X (NGX) is a partnership between the National Gallery and King's College London. It brings together King's College London’s research with the art and audiences of the Gallery to create the new museum experiences technology could make possible in the future.

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