The Mirror Steamed Over
In the early sixties at the Royal College of Art in London, three extraordinary personalities collided to reshape contemporary art and literature. Barrie Bates (who would become Billy Apple in November 1962) was an ambitious young graphic designer from New Zealand, who transformed himself into one of pop art’s pioneers.
At the same time, his friend and fellow student David Hockney—young, Northern, and openly gay—was making his own waves in the London art world. Bates and Hockney travelled together, bleached their hair together, and, despite being two of London’s rising art stars, almost failed art school together. And in the middle of it all was the secretary of the Royal College’s Painting School—an aspiring young novelist called Ann Quin. Quin ghost-wrote her lover Bates’s dissertation and collaborated with him on a manifesto, all the while writing Berg: the experimental novel that would establish her as one of the British literary scene’s most exciting new voices.
Taking us back to London’s art scene in the late fifties and early sixties, award-winning writer Anthony Byrt illuminates a key moment in cultural history and tackles big questions: Where did Pop and conceptual art come from? How did these three remarkable young outsiders change British culture? And what was the relationship between revolutions in personal and sexual identities and these major shifts in contemporary art? From the Royal College to Coney Island and Madison Avenue, encountering R. D. Laing and Norman Mailer, Shirley Clarke, and Larry Rivers, The Mirror Steamed Over is a remarkable journey through a pivotal moment in contemporary culture.