Bette Page was a "glamour model" for people who were doing the swimsuit stuff on a lower scale than Peter Gowland. The well publicized work she did with Irving Klaw made her a cult hero of the bondage set. She was one of the most photographed people of the 50s and 60s. in swimsuits and in the buff.
Probably part of her mystique is that she was a very beautiful woman, and the fact that the camera loved her. She always looked like she was having a good time and her trademark haircut and beautiful body made her a cult hero. Adding to the fact is the way she basically disappeared at the top of her game to a life of obscurity, made her kind of a Jim Morrison and Marilyn Monroe type phenomenom.
I think that her incredible looks were what has made her a lasting image. She kind of transcends the looks of different generations. If you look at someone like Harlow and others of different generations we sometimes don't get what all the noise was about. With Bette Page I think she ages very well.
As for the "art status" it is possibly that she was kind of an original. It's very hard to name a model from that time period, and especially one who was doing the cutting edge or over the edge stuff that she was, and looking so fresh doing it.