Sotheby’s S|2 is proud to present Performance by Cecil Beaton – an exhibition of photographs taken on the set of the iconic 1970 British film, directed by Nicholas Roeg, produced by Sandy Lieberson and starring James Fox, Anita Pallenberg and Mick Jagger in his acting debut. At the time considered highly controversial, Performance explored themes of sexuality and identity against the backdrop of organised crime, and depicted the use of drugs and violence at a level not typically seen in a major studio production. Roeg and Lieberson’s ground-breaking portrait of 1960s London still retains its ability to shock nearly 50 years later.
Performance was the quintessential London film; unapologetically breaking rules to present a snapshot of bohemian life, alongside the underworld of gangsters and rock stars that gave the city a reputation for decadence and debauchery. Prior to his commission on the set of Performance, Beaton had been on assignment to photograph the Queen – showing his diversity and relevance at the forefront of popular culture and the ease with which he inserted himself in to each context. His documentation of society figures, musicians, actors and royalty demonstrated his innate ability to always remain current and perfectly capture the essence of a time.