Exhibitions: Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld from every angle


Chanel and Fendi silhouettes designed by Karl Lagerfeld, presented in the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” exhibition at the Met, in New York.

Haven’t we already said everything about Karl Lagerfeld and Gabrielle Chanel? It would seem not. Despite an overabundant literature and filmography, two exhibitions further deepen the subject: at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), in New York, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” stages, until the July 16, more than 150 clothes that the designer made for Chanel, Fendi, Chloé or his own label during his prolific career, from the 1950s until his death in February 2019. As for Gabrielle Chanel, the exhibition that dedicated to him the Palais Galliera, in Paris, in 2020 continues to travel: after Tokyo and Melbourne, it will be installed in London, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, from September 16.

Whether it’s Lagerfeld or Chanel, the intentions of the exhibition curators converge: to publicize their work, which has often been eclipsed by their charismatic personalities. “Karl Lagerfeld had created a caricatural character à la Andy Warhol which allowed him to appear on the front of the stage. We have dissected his good words, his attitude a lot. What interested me was to show his creative process »explains Andrew Bolton.

The Met curator had the idea for this exhibition during the memorial service following Lagerfeld’s death, when he saw in a video the first of Chanel’s workshop explaining how she transposed in 3D the drawings submitted to her by the designer. Digging through the abundant archives, Andrew Bolton says he was struck by the coherence shown by Karl Lagerfeld in the construction of silhouettes, based on oppositions: feminine/masculine, romantic/military, rococo/classic, historical/futurist, floral/ geometric… “Resolving dichotomies, that was his job”summarizes Andrew Bolton.

“Coconut milk” minaudière

This work of detaching the character for the benefit of his work recalls that of the exhibition on Gabrielle Chanel at the Palais Galliera: “There have been over a hundred biographies written about her, and most of them are about her private life. Little clothing. We wanted to go beyond the legend, tell about her seamstress technique and the modernity of her work”, explains Miren Arzalluz. The director of the Palais Galliera and curator of the exhibition also endeavored to erase all the personal aspects of Coco Chanel’s life and show to what extent, for the designer, elegance was inseparable from comfort – this which was very singular for the time and partly explains the success of its brand.

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