Vogue 100: A Century of StylePosted by Jo on Saturday 27th February 2016
Open to the public until the 22nd May 2016 – Vogue 100: A Century of Style at the National Portrait Gallery, London, takes you on a reverse order journey from its modern day guise right back to its initial origins. JoJo Iles reports from the press view
Anyone remotely interested in fashion will have spent some time soaking up the impossibly glossy pages of Vogue, in this case British Vogue. Saving up my pocket money as a teenager I would be enticed to buy probably the most expensive magazine on the newsagents shelf to spend hours immersed in the super slick editorial shoots. Back then it would be the likes of Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell working their silent actress magic in epic stories shot by Patrick Demarchelier and Herb Ritts.
Zoom forward to now and the allure of Vogue has won over droves of dedicated followers and this exhibition, spanning 14 rooms, does a great job of justifying why. Beyond the models, make-up and styling the magazine is a true zeitgeist, full of social commentary and cultural references.
After entering through lit-up pillars featuring Vogue’s many covers the journey begins in the here and now with a floor to ceiling video installation as the rise in fashion film continues to gain in momentum. Curator Robin Muir who is a Contributing Editor to British Vogue has excelled at drawing out the most iconic and significant images to reflect each decade. No easy task with an archive as vast as Conde Nast’s. Even in this heavily curated format the exhibition includes over 280 prints and gives a real sense of each era as you travel through.
A personal favourite was ‘The Planning Room’ showing a selection slides from various shoots and then the final choices laid-out as either a cover or an editorial spread. It’s fun to see if you can pick out the winning shot.
It is also interesting to witness the developments in photography over the years from David Bailey’s contrasty black and whites in the 60’s to Paolo Riveri’s romantic, blurry visions created in the early 1990’s. And of course very early Vogue with it’s use of illustrations such as the iconic Vogue Deco cover by Eduardo Benito, 1926, and Helen Dryden’s delightful pen and inks.
Well-known faces, aside from the models, chronicling each issue include the likes of the Royal Family, Marlene Dietrich, Francis Bacon, Margaret Thatcher, Fred Astaire and Alexander McQueen amongst many others. Rarely seen photographs of the Beatles and a young Jude Law also feature.
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, commented: ‘British Vogue has played a pivotal role in the development of photographic portraiture over the past century, commissioning leading photographers and designers to produce some of the most memorable and influential images in the history of fashion. We are extremely grateful to Alexandra Shulman and her team for giving us unprecedented access to the treasures of the Conde Nast archive and for allowing us to present a panoramic view of this hugely important British institution on a scale that has never been seen before.’
Along with a range of Vogue 100 merchandise; books, gifts, stationary, you can also buy pristine copies of old Vogue’s (I am a hoarder of many) from £12 - £20 in the exhibition shop – just goes to show what a collector’s item this iconic magazine has become. As for the exhibition I’d recommend it to anyone but for those into fashion I would say its pretty much compulsory.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style runs from 11 February – 22nd May 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery, and is sponsored by Leon Max.
By JoJo Iles