It is a hall of contradictions, but it works. Karl Lagerfield’s current exhibition, ‘Visions of Fashion’, at Florence’s Pitti Palace brings the new and innovative to one of the city’s iconic Renaissance spaces.
Integrating dynamic contemporary photographic works amidst infamous pieces from Raphael and Carvaggio, Lagerfield offers an overview of his influential advertising and editorial fashion photography, created for the numerous houses and publications with which he collaborates.
Isabella Brancolini, founder of an online platform for contemporary photography, also worked on the show as project advisor (alongside curators Gerhard Steidl and Eric Pfrunder). Over an entire six months, they worked with Karl on how best to integrate his work into Palazzo Pitti’s grand halls, and the result is tasteful yet impactful.
“Today, photography is part of my life – I can’t see life without the vision of photography,” says Lagerfield. “I look at the world and at fashion with the eye of a camera. This enables me to maintain a critical detachment in my everyday work, which helps me more than I could ever have imagined.”
With a focus on photos from 2003 to the present, the selection chronicles Lagerfeld’s ever-changing and resolutely progressive vision. “Fashion is now and tomorrow,” he has been known to say, and it’s a view his pictures undoubtedly promote. But fashion photography is also yesterday, this exhibition seems to demonstrate – it is also endlessly referential and thus should sit amongst much older works of art.
Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, to learn of the artistic references through which Lagerfeld interprets and transforms in his fashion photography – from the paintings of Hammershøi, Bonnard, Hopper, Florine Stettheimer and Maxfield Parrish, to the films of Marcel Carné and Fritz Lang. Nor is it incongruous that this show was produced in conjunction with the 90th edition of Pitti Uomo – an important and well-established international event to promote menswear, men’s accessories and the launch of new menswear fashion projects – which has a history of supporting ethical fashion initiatives. Last year, this included a focus on African fashion and a collaboration with the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiatives.