• (first published on artlifemagazine.com)

Karl Lagerfeld under a Seine Bridge, for The Glory of Water and Fendi


(Paris.) Sometimes, I tell people how much I enjoy to "go shopping with Karl". This is always a big success, gaining me much respect in Parisian society. And it's not a lie, really not. Or maybe just a little one. Ok, in fact, it was only one time. And maybe it was not really "going shopping with Karl" in the strictest sense. But when I was cycling down Rue de Rivoli the other day, and a Monte-Carlo registered Rolls Royce Phantom stopped only meters from me, I watched Karl Lagerfeld together with a young protégé get out, and enter a bookshop. Which first of all proved to me, that Karl Lagerfeld really exists, moving and breathing just like a human being.

He looks and talks exactly like on TV, though. This I know, because I then jumped off my rental bike with the sudden urge to look for some books myself. Now, buying books is certainly not an exceptional thing to do for me, but I'm sure I never walked down a bookshop corridor as upright as on that day. When Karl was talking to the manager, asking him what to add to his legendary library, or maybe even giving advice in eh, eh, fthstyle, I passed right through them, with energetic, yet elegant, steps, my eyes fixed high above on the uppermost book shelf, my lips trembling with tension for the effort of producing - and holding - the most mysterious, otherworldly pensive, smile.

Only the manager noticed me, with a mixture of surprise and embarrassment, as it seemed, and I was not offered a six-figure model contract that day. Nor any other day, for that matter.

Actually, this must have been the only occasion in my life that I tried to look "sexy" for a guy. But hey, it's Karl, so that shouldn't count, or only like some sport mascot would. Anyway, the only reason I'm telling this whole story is Karl Lagerfeld's photo exhibition The Glory of Water on the Seine quay at Pont Alexandre III.

The maestro shows photos which he took of fountains in Rome, in a project sponsored by Fendi (No, it's not a publicity gag, an exhibition instead of paying for a TV commercial; how dare you even think a thing like that?).

The architecture of the exhibition tent is grandiose, huge black globes, probably meant to symbolize water drops flow one into the other.

Inside, it's dark. And pleasantly fresh, some visitors enter solely for the air condition after a summer walk along the river. An invisible sound system plays the sounds of water; spot - or better: "drop" - lights are reflected from every photograph to fall in puddles on the floor.

Precisely, these are no photos, but daguerreotypes and platinotypes, two of the oldest techniques of photographic image making. All of them are black and white, from the midsized triptychs in the first room to the small detail shots further on. Karl Lagerfeld treats the sculptures that decorate ever fountain in Rome like supermodels. Probably he prefers them to any human mannequin, as they neither grow old, nor go puking after dinner. Maybe they're even smarter.

The images rarely show the thing itself, rarely show water, and if they do, it appears as if petrified.

In the back waits Histoire de l'eau, a 1977 short film (/Fendi commercial) from Jacques de Bascher on a woman's fashionable adventures in the eternal city. It makes one feel the spirit of the seventies, with grainy images, long hair and burnsides, complete with Italian subtitles. The film conjures up dreams of those years and their legendary Italian directors, Lucio Fulci, Joe d'Amato, er no: Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Michelangelo Antonioni, etc., of course.

When suddenly there builds a cloud in the middle of the room, it has to be some meteorological phenomenon, as it cannot possibly be dust. The Glory of Water profits from the best scenography I can remember to have ever seen in any art exhibition, the mise en scène is just eye-wateringly perfect. And besides his designer genius, Karl Lagerfeld is a gifted photographer, in that typical style of fashion photography at least.

Elegance, beauty, style, even convinced fashion ignorants may understand what the sponsor wants to express with this sublime experience.

Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi, The Glory of Water, Pont Alexandre III, 04 July-14 July, 2013




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