Karl Lagerfeld: Visions of Fashion

A special anthological exhibition celebrating Karl Lagerfeld’s diverse and elegant approach to photography


Fondazione Pitti Discovery celebrated the 90th anniversary of Pitti Immagine Uomo with the special photography exhibition “Karl Lagerfeld – Visions of Fashion”

"Karl Lagerfeld: Visions of Fashion" - installation view (2016)Fondazione Pitti Discovery

“KARL LAGERFELD – Visions of Fashion” 

Fondazione Pitti Discovery celebrated the the 90th anniversary of Pitti Immagine Uomo with the special photography exhibition “Karl Lagerfeld – Visions of Fashion”, curated by Eric Pfrunder and Gerhard Steidl. The anthological exhibition celebrated Karl Lagerfeld’s diverse and elegant approach to photography: photos from fashion shoots published in the world’s most important fashion magazines – among them different editions of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Numéro and V Magazine – and others inspired by classical mythology such as the series “Le Voyage d’Ulysse” and “Daphnis and Chloe”. The show assembled an extraordinary collection of more than 200 images created using a variety of techniques including daguerreotypes, platinum prints, Polaroid transfers, resinotypes, screen-prints and digital prints.

"Karl Lagerfeld: Visions of Fashion" - installation view (2016)Fondazione Pitti Discovery

Karl Lagerfeld

Fashion designer, photographer, publisher, designer, as well as film director, Karl Lagerfeld has created a universe in which every line is perfectly under control, each detail of absolute importance. His Cartesian mind has hatched a caustic, ultramodern, highly structured style, with an allure and manner which emerge through the graphic symbols that have become his unequivocal hallmarks.

Karl Lagerfeld decided to move behind the lens in 1987, with his first presskit for Chanel at the request of Eric Pfrunder, image director of the brand. Since then he has created and shot his own advertising campaigns for all the brands of which he is the designer.

His passion for photography and for books transforms his campaigns into veritable art books (published by Steidl), while he continues to shoot for prestigious international magazines.

“Today, photography is part of my life. I can’t see life without the vision of photography. I look at the world and at fashion with the eye of a camera. This enables me to maintain a critical detachment in my everyday work, which helps me more than I could ever have imagined.”

Karl Lagerfeld

The Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments

The exhibition is presented in the Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments which occupy the entire first floor of Palazzo Pitti. It was the first palace of the Medici Grand Dukes and later the Habsburg-Lorraine, before becoming royal palace and residence of the Savoy family between 1860 and 1919.

The sumptuous Picture Gallery was established in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century by the Habsburg-Lorraine, which they placed in boardrooms around 500 works chosen from among the masterpieces of the main Medici collections. It is an extraordinary collection, which boasts the largest collection in the world of Raphael's paintings, as well as valuable works of the greatest European masters from the Renaissance to the Baroque including Botticelli, Filippo Lippi, Titian, Van Dyck, Caravaggio and Rubens.

The Royal Apartments occupy the remaining fourteen boardrooms, located in the right wing of the palace. They housed the Grand Ducal family of Medici and Lorraine, and, since 1865, also the rulers of the Royal House of Savoy (from which they are named) during the brief period when Florence was the capital of Italy.

The rooms are lavishly furnished with furniture from the Medici collections, Lorena and Savoy, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century: tables in semi-precious stones, precious objects and furniture, silk tapestries on the walls in a charming blend of styles He recounts the daily life and the taste of the different eras and different families who lived in these environments.

The exhibition

Opening gallery and exhibition structure

The exhibition starts from Palazzo Pitti's iconic grand staircase, Scalone del Moro, and wind its way through the rooms of the Galleria Palatina, the Sala Bianca and the two rooms of the Appartamenti degli Arazzi in a continuous dialogue between the sizes of the pictures and the exhibition areas: from the smaller, subtle images to be shown in the Galleria Palatina, almost as if to punctuate the tour of the masterpiece-filled museum, to the imposing pictures in the Appartamenti degli Arazzi that converse with the beautiful tapestries on display.

As to the Sala Bianca, where Italian fashion was born in 1951, the curators have selected fashion photos by Karl Lagerfeld printed on lightweight paper that will flutter from the ceiling, recalling the lithe movements of models on the runway.


Sunlight in Vermont
Chanel, Spring/ Summer 2009

Karl Lagerfeld shot the spring/ summer 2009 campaign in a typical New England wooden house located in Vermont, on the banks of Lake Champlain.

The severe and puritan look of the photographs makes it seem like the house has been frozen in the mid 19th century. As the designer put it: "I love this house, it is so Emily Dickinson", referring to the tormented romanticism of the American poet from Massachusetts whose work went unrecognised during her lifetime.

The campaign shots were also inspired by the work of the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi, whose austere interiors with sunlight flooding in through the sash windows are the backdrop for silent feminine meditations.


Chanel, Autumn / Winter 2009

Photo from the Ready-to-Wear campaign by Karl Lagerfeld with model Freja Beha styled as a cat by Carine Roitfield.


Glass and Mirror,
Chanel, Spring/ Summer 2014

Photo from the Ready-to-Wear campaign by Karl Lagerfeld with model Lindsey Wixson.


Coco Coach,
Chanel, Autumn/ Winter 2014

Photos from the Ready-to-Wear campaign by Karl Lagerfeld with model Cara Delevingne running through the streets of Paris, and hanging out in the locker room.


Atelier Fendi,
Fendi, Autumn/ Winter 2011

Models Anja Rubik, Baptiste Giabiconi and Brad Kroenig pose as the muse and painters.


Le Voyage d’Ulysses: Around the Mediterranean

This 18-metre long LED installation is Karl Lagerfeld’s visualization of Homer’s ancient epic poem the Odyssey, which depicts the return journey to Ithaca of the Greek hero Odysseus, following the fall of Troy.

Here Lagerfeld created a narrative photomontages incorporating landscapes with costumed models including Bianca Balti, Jake Davinos and Baptiste Giabiconi, who act out roles from Homer’s text.

Homer, The Odyssey

Who are you?
Where are you from? Your city? Your parents?
What sort of vessel brought you?
Why did the sailors land you here in Ithaca?
Who did they say they are?
I hardly think you came this way on foot!
And tell me this for a fact - I need to know - is this your first time here?
Or are you a friend of father's, a guest from the old days?
Once, crowds of other men would come to our house on visits - visitors that he was, when he walked among the living.


Palazzo Pitti's iconic gallery 'La Sala Bianca' is where Italian fashion was born in 1952. Here fashion photographs by Karl Lagerfeld are printed on lightweight paper that flutter from the ceiling, recalling the lithe movements of models on the runway.

Here Karl Lagerfeld's photographs of model Natalia Vodianova featured in Numero magazine. March 2013.


“Daphnis and Chloe”

Daphnis and Chloe is a love story, and the only known work of the 2nd century AD Greek novelist and romancer Longus.


The Beauty of Violence

“Beauty can also exist in violence, to feel beauty is a better thing than to understand how we come to feel it”

George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty, 1896

Credits: Story

Fondazione Pitti Discovery


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