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Exhibition Preview! Hair by Sam McKnight at Somerset House

Exhibition Preview! Hair by Sam McKnight at Somerset House

We’ll admit we aren’t thrilled about being in the throes of autumn, but at least there are some exciting things, culture-wise, on the horizon for Londoners. One of our favourites is coming up in November: a monograph exhibition that looks at the work of prolific hair stylist Sam McKnight, who has worked in the fashion industry for nearly 40 years.

1. Kate Moss by Nick Knight, Vogue UK, September 2000. Courtesy of Nick Knight
Kate Moss by Nick Knight, Vogue UK (September 2000), Courtesy of Nick Knight

It’s an unusual chance to take a look at the way trends have shifted over this long period of time, through the exposition of one artist’s image making. As a creative, McKnight boasts having worked on the most Vogue covers – 113 in total – more than any contemporary model or photographer. If you haven’t heard of him it’s not because you haven’t seen images he worked on, but simply because you didn’t ask who did the hair. McKnight is famous for Madonna’s hair on the album cover for ‘Bedtime Stories’ and for styling Tilda Swinton, Cara Delevigne, Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue to mention just a few.

Nick Knight 2 and 3
(left) © Alexei Hay, Trunk Archive and (right) Tilda Swinton, Vogue Italia (February 2003) © Craig McDean, Courtesy Art + Commerce

This exhibition traces the early years, all the way back to when McKnight started in 1977, and looks into the ways that hair has always been important to us; part of our identity and integral to the way in which we present ourselves. Hair, we realise, is somewhere between clothes and skin, an extension of our naked body perhaps but also something that can be endlessly fashioned, manipulated and altered.

Nick Knight 5 and 7
(left) Princess Diana, Private session by Patrick Demarchelier (1995) and (right) Karlie Kloss for British Vogue (November 2015), Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier

It’s a multi-media exhibition that celebrates process as much as outcome (something we’ve noticed is getting rather trendy of late) with one area featuring a video of McKnight’s hands in action as he brings his infamous hairstyles into being. Set designer Michael Howells (currently renowned for the television series ‘Victoria’) is also on board, building installations that look into the tools used by McKnight. Garments from Vivienne Westwood are included, where McKnight will recreate the wigs, demonstrating how hair works as part of an ensemble in any catwalk show. There will also be some more personal, behind-the-scenes style images displayed, showing the intimacy of the styling process and the supermodels with whom McKnight has worked with over the years.

4. Sam McKnight with Linda Evangelista and Jesse the chimp, Los Angeles, 1992. (c) Laspata Decaro
Sam McKnight with Linda Evangelista and Jesse the chimp, Los Angeles (1992), © Laspata Decaro

Suffice to say, this is one exhibition worth getting your hair done for.

Hair by Sam McKnight takes place in the Embankment Galleries at Somerset House from 2 November 2016 – 12 March 2017