Besides its canals and pigeons for me Venice is primarly a city with an incredible contemporary art scene. Miuccia Prada’s Fondazione Prada is housed in a waterside Palazzo facing the Grand Canal. Kering founder François Pinault (Kering, former PPR (Pinault-Printemps-Redoute) is the investment group, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Stella Mc Cartney etc..) hosts changing exhibitions at the two venues Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana. We were happy enough to have the chance to visit the incredible “Irving Penn – Resonance” exhibition at Palazzo Grassi, which was also reported on in French Vogue.
Irving Penn became famous for his work at VOGUE USA, which started in the late 40ies and ended shortly before his death in 2009. His repertoire covers celebrity portraits, fashion photography, ethnology, still life…. Very often he chooses a black-grey-white approach, natural northern light and a bare backdrop. His photographs are usually highly graphic and organized. I personally love the natural and effortless beauty of his works. For me its really amazing that he manages to make something esthetic out of almost everything from a model to an animal skull.
As Irving Penn might be most famous as a Vogue photographer the exhibition included a great selection of vintage magazines featuring some of Penn’s earlier works for the journal. I particularly loved his “Yellow rose in a glass in front of Rockefeller Center” US Vogue cover from July 1948. There’s something so surreal about this picture. The beautiful rose almost looks like it came from outer space in front of this rough urban environment. Its impressive how highly artistic the VOGUE covers were back in the late 40ies. Although there is no celebrity or hot runway item on the cover the journal sold.
Penn shot his first Vogue cover, a still life, in 1943 and his last, a celebrity cover featuring Nicole Kidman in 2004! For me its incredible how he managed to adapt to the severe changes in fashion journalism over 61 years. But I guess there are two major reasons for his long time success. Firstly, his really classic approach to photography. Secondly, he knew exactly whats trending at the moment and incorporated it. But he did it wisely, slowly and always stayed true to his signature!
“Irving Penn – Resonance”@Palazzo Grassi, Campo San Samuele, Venice, Italy runs until end of 2014! In my opinion – A must see when in Venice!!!