‘Dear Christine’ aims to reclaim and reframe Christine Keeler (1942-2017), a woman castigated for her role in a notorious political scandal in the 1960s. Aged 19, she was catapulted into the limelight when her affair with John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, was revealed. The ‘Profumo Affair’ was a watershed moment in British cultural and political history that brought down the government of the time. Keeler was shamed in the tabloid press and suffered its full wrath as the dawn of the sexual revolution approached. Keeler, it could be argued, inadvertently challenged the prevailing morality and the hypocrisy of the establishment. As a woman behaving in a sexually free way, she pushed boundaries ahead of her time.
Keeler lived with the consequences of her notoriety for the rest of her life, saddled with the label of ‘prostitute’. As she said: “It’s been a misery for me, living with Christine Keeler”. Under constant scrutiny from the press, she became a recluse. In the later years of her life the tabloid press continued to hunt Keeler, featuring exposé shots focusing on her appearance as an older woman.
Exhibition curator Fionn Wilson says: “Christine Keeler is a significant figure in British history yet there is little recent artistic reference to her. I wanted to add to the visual record of her life, which represents themes still relevant to this day, including class, power and the politics of sex. The participating artists are women who offer their own perspective on a narrative that has mostly been led by men.” The exhibiting artists are Natalie d’Arbeloff, Helen Billinghurst, Claudia Clare, Caroline Coon, Lucy Cox, Catherine Edmunds, Roxana Halls, Sadie Hennessy, Marguerite Horner, Barbara Howey, Shani Rhys James, Sal Jones, Jowonder, Sadie Lee, Cathy Lomax, Julia Maddison, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Wendy Nelson, Sarah Shaw, Stella Vine, Fionn Wilson.