Group exhibition

'Icons Only'

Throughout the history of art and visual culture, society has revered icons, cherishing images of notable figures, such as saints or pop stars, that capture the essence of a time, a place, a lifestyle, or a feeling. Curated from the SCAD Museum of Art’s collection of modern and contemporary photography with a selection of portraits by SCAD alumni photographers, Icons Only traces this phenomenon from the Golden Age of Hollywood to our current era of viral social media fame, contemplating the evolution of iconography and its modern embrace in popular media.

Signature image for "Icons Only" exhibition
Richard Avedon, Versace campaign, 1994, featuring Nadja Auermann, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, and Stephanie Seymour. Courtesy of the SCAD Museum of Art Collection, gift of Shirrel Rhoades.

With the advent of mass-produced and universally accessible platforms — magazines, television, the internet, and social media — our visual lexicon has become saturated with photographs that intrinsically tie persona to image. Ubiquity and success have become cognate, as solidifying a visual brand propels fame within the cult of celebrity. The works on view — icons of the 20th and 21st centuries — feature individuals whose names have become synonymous with images of their faces and bodies, from supermodels and actresses to musicians and visual artists. Excelling in the art of posing for a portrait — performing in front of and for the camera with a special awareness of how they position themselves, figuratively and literally — they enact a delicate balance between empowerment and objectification.

Reflecting the times in which they were made, these photographs, many created for fashion spreads or editorial promotions, are the result of exceptional collaboration between subject and photographer — or, in the case of self-portraits, the distinctive prowess in how one’s own face and body are perceived. Together over time, subject and photographer craft an image in the public eye that must be relentlessly reinvented for continued relevancy and evolving aspirations, enshrining standards for style, beauty, and glamour generation after generation.

Install Views


Icons Only is organized by SCAD MOA assistant curator Brittany Richmond and presented as part of SCAD deFINE ART 2022.

Museum Admission

The exhibition is free for museum members and SCAD students, faculty, and staff with a valid SCAD Card. Open to the public with the cost of museum admission.

More on view