An Homage to Karl Lagerfeld
By Ashley Yu
Known as the “Kaiser” of the fashion industry for the 20th Century, German designer Karl Lagerfeld passed away on February 19 in Paris, where he helped revolutionize the House of Chanel amongst other luxury brands. Always donned in his trademark sunglasses, slick silver ponytail, and fingerless gloves, the world lost one of its most recognizable creative geniuses. In honor of the iconic figure, just thirteen hours after his last debut runway show for Chanel, the Galerie Gmurzynska spontaneously opened “Homage to Karl Lagerfeld: 30 Years of Photography” in Zurich, Switzerland and New York.
We all recognize Lagerfeld’s immense success in his Chanel and Fendi campaigns in capturing some of the most beautiful celebrity faces, including Penelope Cruz, and even kickstarting the careers of today’s most popular models, such as Kaia Gerber, Adwoa Aboah, and Cara DeLevingne. Though many can list off the top of their head Lagerfeld’s litany of commercial photography, his retrospective exhibition illuminates his multifaceted talent and his incisive eye for beauty for both the quotidian and the fashionable.
From the almost baroque design of scattered roses on the floor, to a cheeky still-life of a centerpiece depicting little cherubs carrying a piglet, the photographs at the gallery are unexpected revelations for those who do not know Lagerfeld beyond his enigmatic red-carpet persona. The visitors finally catch a glimpse of the introspective yet witty personality beneath the starch-white, detachable collars that Lagerfeld always wore.
Peppered amongst his more personal photography are his intimate celebrity portraits, along with some of his most beautiful editorial photoshoots that spread across billboards and fashion magazines. The monochromatic portrait of Nicole Kidman brims with elegant allure as her blonde hair curls over her left eye, reminiscent of the old-school Hollywood glamour shots. Meanwhile, his image of Ashton Kutcher embodies his chic sense of fashion and fun as the actor sits poolside in a silky grey suit, knee-deep in water. Beautiful yet innovative, the exhibition reminds us not only of Lagerfeld’s pioneering synthesis of fine art and fashion photography, but also of his highly prolific career as a designer.
Since his takeover of Chanel as the creative director in 1983, Lagerfeld has transformed the brand into a luxury global powerhouse of beauty and design, while also producing 50,000 sketches for Fendi, regardless of his age and waning health. Influential and charismatic, Karl Lagerfeld’s photography at Galerie Gmurzynska celebrates the undeniable artistic creativity of the late cultural icon.