Two exhibitions, both held during October 2012, will form the bases of this comparative essay. Chanel’s fashion photography exhibition entitled ‘The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited’ held at the Saatchi Gallery 12th October - 4th November 2012, and Vermibus’ display of appropriated adverts called ‘Unmasking Kate’ shown at the Moniker Arts Fair 11th -14th October 2012 will be used to explore the links each exhibition has to the themes of advertising and celebrity.
‘The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited’ is a celebration of the ‘timelessness’ (Saatchi, 2012) that is the Chanel jacket first introduced in 1953 (Armstrong, 2012), which Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director for Chanel, has revamped for the twenty-first century. ‘The Chanel jacket is a man’s jacket which has become a typical feminine piece...’ (Lagerfeld cited Making of- The Video, 2012), co-writer and photographer for the exhibition Lagerfeld, articulates the versatility of the garment, which is a key theme expressed throughout the show. The exhibition consists of 113 photographs of celebrities modelling (Saatchi, 2012) the jacket to which the entire exhibition is a tribute to (Saatchi, 2012).
In contention with the notion of product and brand celebration the Spanish-born artist Vermibus presented his ‘Unmasking Kate’ series at the Moniker Arts Fair, '…now in its third year, the fair…[of] contemporary artists with urban roots…[is] an assembly united by a desire to rebel’ (Spence, 2012). Amongst the rebels is street artist and ex-branding photographer turned contemporary artist (lamono, 2012), Vermibus. The principle of his work is the appropriation of designer advertising posters found publically, as a statement against the image of our materialistic consumer driven society (Finucane, 2012).
The title of Vermibus’ current series ‘Unmasking Kate’ refers to both his method of appropriating the posters and to his subject, namely the model Kate Moss. Vermibus argues that he uses Moss’s image ‘…because she has been the flagship of fashion for the last 20 years’ (Lamono, 2012) and is therefore an easily recognizable icon of modern fashion and consumer society 'Kate Moss ...had to construct thousands of masks to hide her fears... [she] internalized those masks from the beginning and we bought them all…’(Lamono, 2012) Vermibus reveals his ideas about masks fueled by the advertising industry. He further uses Moss’ image to show, simultaneously, the vulnerability of the human subject and the medias exploitation of the notion of celebrity. This theme parallels the way Andy Warhol used Marilyn Monroe’s image after her death (Modern Masters: Andy Warhol, 2010). Likewise, the Chanel exhibition echoes some Warhol themes, yet using the celebrity image to celebration its brand and product originally from the 1950’s (Modern Masters: Andy Warhol, 2010). The exhibitions work on Warhol themes differently either to criticize or celebrate advertising and product branding (Modern Masters: Andy Warhol, 2010).
The title of the exhibition ‘The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s classic revisited’ uses a play on the now clichéd notion of ‘the little black dress’ this seemingly playful reference to an item that Coco Chanel arguably made ubiquitous in 1926 (Fritz, 2012) as ‘a uniform for all women of taste’ (Crystal, 2007) carries the suggestion that the redesigning of the Chanel jacket has caused the garment to become as revolutionary and versatile as the little black dress and thus deserves the same universal appeal and fashionable credibility. This is further reflected in the exhibition’s promotional use of words such as ‘classic’ (Armstrong, 2012), ‘iconic’ (Saatchi, 2012) and ‘timeless’ (The Exhibition Opening - The Film, 2012), phrases often made in reference to the little black dress, conveying the item as an essential part of both a man and woman’s collection, in this way almost surpassing the success of the little black dress.
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