Fashion is a manifestation of ideals of beauty and social change, an expressive play between belonging and distinction, communication and trend. Its only constant factor is permanent change. Fashion/Photography reflects the changes it creates.
The “Vanity” exhibition in the National Museum in Krakow, organized within the Krakow Photomonth Festival 2013, presents one hundred photographic works from the F.C. Gundlach Collection. The legendary fashion photographer, gallerist, collector and curator Franz Christian Gundlach (*1926) regards fashion photography as the most unequivocal indicator of social context: “Fashion photographs are always interpretations, results from a mise-en-scène. They reflect and visualize today’s zeitgeist and anticipate that of tomorrow.”
Dating from the late 1920s to the present, the photographs in the exhibition ”Vanity” confront us with staged images of clothing fashion. Like pearls on a string the exhibition presents paradigmatic positions, which indicate the changes in Fashion/Photography over the decades. The exhibition presents works by very famous artists like Richard Avedon, Lillian Bassman, Cecil Beaton, Sibylle Bergemann, Erwin Blumenfeld, Guy Bourdin, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Hubs Flöter, Ralph Gibson, F.C. Gundlach,George Hoyningen-Huene, Horst P. Horst, George Hurrell, Indlekofer + Knoepfel, William Klein, Nick Knight, David LaChapelle, Edgar Leciejewski, Zoe Leonard, Leon Levinstein, Peter Lindbergh, Gjon Mili, Sarah Moon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Regina Relang, Melvin Sokolsky, Deborah Turbeville, Yva, Imre von Santho, Tim Walker, Wols.
Taking the costume pictures by Cecil Beaton as a starting point, the exhibition proceeds to the great gestures and glamorous ideals of photographers from George Hoyningen-Huene in the 1930s to Irving Penn and Richard Avedon in the 1940s and 1950s.
Again and again, the visualization of glamour, elegance, and femininity in the form of fashion photography reveals the influence of contemporary art styles and classicist vocabulary. The famous photographs for Vogue by Horst P. Horst and Erwin Blumenfeld indicate the influence of surrealism and cubism while F.C. Gundlach’s images reflect op and pop art.
In the 1960s the role of couture itself in the representation of fashion changes. While the dress, the cloth, the seam are the center of attention in fashion photography until George Mili or William Klein, young photographers such as Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton broaden the horizon of fashion imagery with conceptual strategies of mystification and detached irony. David LaChapelle’s playful approach would not have been possible without their groundbreaking work.
The most recent positions in the exhibition, the awkward understatement of Indlekofer + Knoepfel and the fairytale images by the great staging artist Tim Walker indicate the co-existence of visual languages in todays world of Fashion/Photography.
Four artistic positions stress the intertextual nature of photography in the F.C. Gundlach collection and subtly undermine the fashion industry’s selfunderstanding: Wols with dramatic renderings of mannequins at the Paris World Fair of 1937, Leon Levinstein with street photography images shot in New York and San Francisco between 1955 and 1975, Zoe Leonard with her usage of vanity-related objects and Edgar Leciejewski with a series of portraits taken from Google Street View dealing with the question of individuality and the public in the era of internet and social media.
Ultimately, Fashion/Photography - as self-representation of society - reveals the shift of cultural interest from the dress itself to brands, attitudes and events. Fashion/Photography’s transition into the museum marks the medium as the bearer of memory, which creates fashion as myth.
Location: Main Building, al. 3 Maja 1, 30-062 Kraków
Tel: (+48 12) 433 56 00
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10 am – 6 pm, Sunday 10 am – 4 pm
Admission: Adults PLN 19, Children, students and senior citizens PLN 10
Muzeum Narodowe W Krakowie