Barry Kay 1932-1985

Barry Kay

Barry Kay

Kay developed a keen interest in photography. In 1974 he commenced lecturing in theatre, constructivism and photography.

In 1981 Kay designed MacMillan’s Isadora, a full-length ballet based on the life of dancer Isadora Duncan.

on 16 April 1985, Kay died unexpectedly in London.

 

Kay developed a keen interest in photography. In 1974 he commenced lecturing in theatre, constructivism and photography at the Croydon College of Design and Photography and, later, at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Kay’s flair for photography resulted in several major exhibitions of his work. Tattooing, body piercing and modification, and female body building were favourite subjects. His documentation of Sydney’s colourful transvestites and transsexuals was published under the title As a Woman in the United States (1975), and as The Other Women in the United Kingdom (1976).

In 1981 Kay designed MacMillan’s Isadora, a full-length ballet based on the life of dancer Isadora Duncan. This premiered at the Royal Opera House. It was subsequently seen at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and on television. In 1982 his 1969 Meistersinger was revived by the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, and, for the Holland Festival, he designed Nederlandse Opera’s double-bill, Mirrors of the Truth and The Tell-Tale Heart.

In 1984 the Victorian Arts Centre’s Performing Arts Museum presented a major exhibition based on Kay’s designs for Don Quixote, but other Melbourne projects were less satisfying. The Arts Centre rejected his designs for four major tapestries intended for the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Victoria State Opera abandoned plans for a production of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes for which Kay had already prepared extensive designs.

The following year the one-act version of MacMillan’s Anastasia that Kay had prepared for American Ballet Theatre premiered in Los Angeles. A month later, on 16 April 1985, Kay died unexpectedly in London. He was buried on the day that he was to have arrived in New York to supervise Anastasia at the Metropolitan Opera House.

In 1997 the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts, under the direction of Clifford Hocking, presented Barry Kay – A Tribute at the Victorian Arts Centre’s Westpac Gallery. This impressive commemorative exhibition attracted more than 20,000 visitors.

The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra has acquired an extensive collection of Kay’s designs; others, including the set model prepared for the film version, are preserved in the Performing Arts Collection at the Victorian Arts Centre in Melbourne. Kay’s close friend Michael Werner has established the Barry Kay Archive, a constantly expanding web resource documenting Barry Kay’s life and legacy.

Barry Kay’s costumes were retained when the Australian Ballet restaged Nureyev’s Don Quixote in 2007.

Frank Van Straten 2007

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