Karl Lagerfeld, Renaissance photographer

karl-lagerfeld Photo by Silio Danti

Florence, Italy – If doubting Pitti’s increasingly dominant position on the fashion map, look no further than the hotly anticipated retrospective of Karl Lagerfeld for confirmation of the rise and rise of the Florentine event. The Karl Lagerfeld_Visions of Fashion exhibition opened on June 14th in the Palazzo Pitti as part of the 90th edition of the international trade show. Hot on the steps of the Karl Lagerfeld, A Visual Journey exhibition which closed earlier this year at the Pinacothèque de Paris, this retrospective curated by Chanel image director Eric Pfrunder and publisher Gerhard Steidl covers the designer’s extensive photographic career. Beyond offering a tantalizing glimpse into the mind of one of fashion’s longest standing maestros, the exhibition cements the joint desire of trade-show organizer Pitti Immagine, the Florentine Center for Italian Fashion and the Gallerie degli Uffizi to establish Florence as a major center for educational endeavors by bringing a major fashion curation to the city every year.

Within the gilded halls of the Palazzo Pitti, shimmering overhead on whisper-thin paper or competing for attention with the works of Renaissance masters on the walls, his eclectic output forms a tenuous bridge between past and present. Ever since he picked up a camera in 1984 to portray his Chanel collection just so, his extensive inspirations – Renaissance masters, movement theory, black and white, new image technology – have come to light in a myriad of ways. And Lagerfeld doesn’t shy away from capturing the work of others with his roving eye either, as attested by the editorials he produced for various publications over the years. From editorials for Numéro to advertising campaigns for Chanel and Fendi, through personal works featuring his favorite muses, including the buff body of Baptiste Giabiconi, some 200 works are on display for an undisclosed length of time.

A retrospective from a man loath to look back? He notoriously detests the exercise in his work as in life. But if the rather conservative and art-proud Italians can find reason to have his photography hang with the masters, this serves as a reminder that timelessness is the enduring subject that any artist yearns for. And like it or leave it, Karl Lagerfeld has throughout his visual output, fashion or photography, has made quite a compelling case for capturing zeitgeist.