Hipsters Rejoice! Beards Aplenty At Somerset House

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 43 months ago
Hipsters Rejoice! Beards Aplenty At Somerset House ★★☆☆☆ 2
Jimmy Niggles's beard was grown to draw attention to the risks of skin cancer, and started off Mr Elbank's journey of photographing beards.  © Mr Elbank
Jimmy Niggles's beard was grown to draw attention to the risks of skin cancer, and started off Mr Elbank's journey of photographing beards. © Mr Elbank
John Hurt is one of the recognisable faces on display. Other known figures include Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and artist Gavin Turk © Mr Elbank
John Hurt is one of the recognisable faces on display. Other known figures include Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and artist Gavin Turk © Mr Elbank
Drag queen Stefan Bostrom.  © Mr Elbank
Drag queen Stefan Bostrom. © Mr Elbank
Tattoo artists Miles Better  sports one of many well groomed beards in this exhibition.  © Mr Elbank
Tattoo artists Miles Better sports one of many well groomed beards in this exhibition. © Mr Elbank
Brandon Baker's facial hair is one of the more eccentric ones.  © Mr Elbank
Brandon Baker's facial hair is one of the more eccentric ones. © Mr Elbank
Harnaam Kaur has being growing a beard since she was 16 and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.  © Mr Elbank
Harnaam Kaur has being growing a beard since she was 16 and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. © Mr Elbank

Londonist Rating: ★★☆☆☆

When the fashion world and scientists agreed we had hit 'peak beard' last year, we thought we'd see the decline of the facially hirsute. However, beards have become even more prolific in London and it's only a matter of time before men won't be allowed on certain parts of the London Overground if they're clean shaven.

This selection of 80 photographs covers the full range of beards including stylised, bushy and bizarre variants; celebrities such as actor John Hurt and artist Gavin Turk also feature. Fashion photographer Mr Elbank has pulled together this wide ranging portfolio, but the start was triggered by a charity worker who grew his beard to raise awareness of skin cancer.

The show does look at other socio-political issues such as the bearded lady who suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome, but more challenging photographs like this would've been better and the exhibition is remarkably scant on detail around each image. This exhibition could have gone much wider and really examined the roles and significance of beards, especially in religion.

Unfortunately we get very little insight here and it feels more like a fashion shoot than a serious exhibition. This project started on social media, and it should have remained there as it doesn't have the quality to hold its own in a top venue.

Beard is on at Somerset House, South Wing until 29 March. Admission is free.

Also nearby is the excellent Witches and Wicked Bodies by Goya at The Courtauld gallery and the sometimes brilliant Maggi Hambling at the Cultural Institute at King's. For more art to see in London, visit our top 10 art openings for March.

Last Updated 09 March 2015