“Iconic” is everywhere these days, from some truly deserving red carpet looks to the most mundane celebrity selfie. “Overused” might be a more fitting adjective.
But Richard Avedon was a true icon, a game-changer for both the fashion industry and photography.
A new exhibit at the Gagosian gallery in Paris honors Avedon to mark his 100th birthday, following its New York debut last fall. The gallery selected the term to “emphasize his exceptional influence on today’s culture.”
Christian Dior chief executive officer Delphine Arnault, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton head of image and environment Antoine Arnault and wife Natalia Vodianova, and model Karlie Kloss celebrated the opening during Paris couture week Monday night.
Avedon pioneered the fashion photograph, and worked for Harper’s Bazaar from World War II through the mid-’60s, and for Vogue until 1988.
As well, he pioneered the celebrity portrait, with Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn among his actress subjects. He also photographed presidents — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan all hang in the exhibit — as well as other influential politicians and leaders, such as Simone Weil.
His famous photo of Bob Dylan walking in New York City’s Central Park is on display, alongside his portrait of a melancholy Monroe and a contemplative Taylor. Avedon became iconic and these actors sought him out for his unique point of view — the icon avenue went both ways.
The Taylor portrait is an original print with the hand retouching faintly visible. In the print of model Dovima, considered to be one of the most important fashion photographs of all time, traces of the faint lines of the old enlargement technique are visible. It also shows a false edge and hand-painted touch-ups that make it part print, part painting and a world away from the AI art we see today.
Photos of Twiggy and other fashion models are in the exhibit, as well as photos of everyday people as well, showing his depth of work and interest in varied subjects.
The opening took place during Paris Couture Week to celebrate Avedon’s relationship with the city, including works from the post-war years when he created some of his best-known, and yes, most iconic, photos of Paris.
Also on display is the original Christian Dior dress worn in the Dovima photo, one of the very first creations from the young Yves Saint Laurent when he took over the house. The velvet column with satin bow is placed next to other photos from that series, as well as old copies of magazines featuring his works.
The exhibit will run until March 2.