July 22, 2024

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The Saatchi Gallery’s ‘Beyond Fashion’ Exhibition Proves To Be Pop Art

3 min read

There is fashion, and then there is high art.

Rarely, can a photographer capture both, or balance both, but those who can are part of a sprawling group show at the Saatchi Gallery in London called Beyond Fashion, which runs until September 8.

If you want to see some of the world’s best fashion photography, this is it. Beyond Fashion showcases over 100 photographs by 48 photographers, featuring some of the most creative work out there, showing how the medium does much more than just sell handbags.

There are the greats, including works by both men and women photographers, like Peter Lindbergh, Viviane Sassen, Paolo Roversi, and Ellen von Unwerth, who are showcased alongside the younger, newer generation of fashion photographers, including Daniel Sannwald, Emma Summerton and Horst Diekgerdes.

Sadly, Helmut Newton is not included in this exhibition. Neither is Arthur Elgort, Patrick Demarchelier, Tim Walker, Annie Leibovitz, Olivier Zahm, Guy Bourdin, Mert and Marcus, Ren Hang, Petra Collins or Inez and Vinoodh—all fashion photographers worth noting in a retrospective of industry greats.

However, if there’s one thing that binds together this exhibition it’s color. The photos feel like pop art in their presence, they’re so perfectly composed. And when there is less color, the walls of the gallery are painted in bright hues. More museums need to take this commercial approach to showing exhibitions—its a much more engaging experience beyond your typical gallery setting (without veering into mass market pop-up mode).

The exhibit is divided into four sections, including Allure, Fantasy, Realism, and Surrealism, with of course, Surrealism being the best part. The exhibit aims to tell the story of how fashion photography is more than just a commercial service, but is in fact, art. There are sections that take viewers inside the photo studio, on the runway, and out on the streets with street style photographer, The Sartorialist.

Some of the greatest fashion photography in recent times is on view. We get to see classic Vogue covers and headline-grabbing campaigns (like Victoria Beckham posing for Marc Jacobs, shot by Juergen Teller in 2008). There are also photos of supermodels like Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell, as well as shoots for designers like Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen and Valentino, among others.

With the rise of fashion photography comes the rise of fashion film. There are works by SHOWstudio, the website founded and directed by Nick Knight, as well as a great selection of younger photographers you might not know.

Fashion photographers today really push the limits of what creativity is. It’s never been so imaginative. Check out the works of Chinese photographer Feng Li, Coco Capitán (who has collaborated with Gucci), and Norwegian photographer Sølve Sundsbø.

This exhibit feels more of a contemporary snapshot of fashion photography, rather than clawing back to the roots of it, with photos by Horst P. Horst, let’s say, or American photographers Edward Steichen, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Back in 2012, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Dundee location had an exhibition called Selling Dreams: 100 Years Of Fashion Photography, which showed how early fashion photographers paved the path for many of these photographers we see today. It truly was a revolutionary move a century ago.

This exhibition groups together the fashion photographers who have more of a pop art edge. All of their work is boldface in nature, attention-grabbing, and loud. It’s very 2024, and it’s very social media savvy. But, as we know, fashion photography can be quiet too, and Paolo Roversi is a great example of that.

According to the curator Nathalie Herschdorfer, she said in a statement that “The emergence of a broader visual language has enabled a blurring of boundaries between editorial work, advertising and artistic expression within fashion photography.” She explains: “Nowadays, it is no longer regarded as a frivolous medium; it is elevated to the status of an art form, capturing the sustained attention of museums and galleries, auction houses and publishers alike. It is the art world’s rising star.”


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