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Gagosian Quarterly

November 12, 2014

avedon/versace

In the history of photographer and fashion brand collaborations, the relationship between Richard Avedon and Gianni Versace stands out as pioneering. Derek Blasberg takes a moment to appreciate the collaboration between Richard Avedon and Gianni Versace for the 1993 Spring/Summer Versace campaign.

Richard Avedon, Linda Evangelista, Versace Spring/Summer 1993 campaign, New York, November 1992, 1992

Richard Avedon, Linda Evangelista, Versace Spring/Summer 1993 campaign, New York, November 1992, 1992

Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg is a writer, editor, and New York Times best-selling author. In addition to being the Executive Editor of Gagosian Quarterly, he is the Head of Fashion and Beauty for YouTube. He has been with Gagosian since 2014.

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“I can remember that shoot like it was yesterday,” pronounces Naomi Campbell, about the Spring/Summer 1993 Versace campaign, which was lensed by the groundbreaking Richard Avedon, and was photographed in November of 1992, in New York City. “I know it was a long time ago, but even in that moment you knew you were creating something special.” In the history of fashion photography, special may be an understatement. The campaign, which imagines the 1990s supermodels as glamorous female warriors trudging through a graying desert adorned only in their decadent Versace, remains one of the most memorable—and most emulated—series of fashion images. “It’s an absolute surrender to glamour,” Glenda Bailey, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, says of the campaign. “It is both powerful and sensual. It perfectly summed up the spirit of that moment, of the sort of powerful and sexy person that women still want to be.

When Richard met Gianni

Richard Avedon, Nick Moss, Aya Thorgren, and Kate Moss, Versace Spring/Summer 1993 campaign, New York, November 9, 1992, 1992, color coupler print

Gagosian is honored to show, as part of Paris Photo 2014, the thirty-two images by Avedon that record this collection. All prints are unique, and they are signed by the photographer. This particular grouping is special as it was one of the few times that Avedon printed his photographs in color, although many of his images were reproduced in vivid hues within the many magazines with which he worked during his lifetime. This series is one of the best examples of the sheer ambition and scale of Avedon’s legendary campaigns with Gianni Versace. (In addition to Campbell, other 1990s supermodels featured in the campaign include Linda Evangelista, Shalom Harlow, Kristen McMenamy, Kate Moss, Nick Moss, Stephanie Seymour, Aya Thorgren, Christy Turlington, and Yvette.)

Avedon, the lifelong New Yorker with an exacting eye, and Versace, the flamboyant Italian fashion designer known for his baroque flair, may not have seemed likely collaborators. But, says Bailey, when they came together lightning struck. “They both had this tremendous energy. They were unbounded in the passion for all things beautiful. They were indulgent in the passion and the freedom to enjoy the moment.” She recalls Versace at the dinners he would throw in his Milan mansion after his fashion shows, picking up a guitar and leading a sing-along. “And Avedon created the party too. He had a fabulous sense of humor, and both of them had the energy to create a special world. These pictures represent the perfect experience of absolute joy and beauty.”

When Richard met Gianni

Richard Avedon, Kristen McMenamy, Versace Spring/Summer 1993 campaign, New York, November 9, 19921992, color coupler print 

It appears that everyone on set that day felt like they had experienced a creative epiphany. Seymour says it’s one of her most memorable photo shoots, and she still recalls how Avedon would incorporate a special narrative into each shot. “Before each picture, Dick would get us all together and describe the ‘story’ and what parts he wanted us each to play. That’s why all the pictures turned out so dramatic.” Campbell remembers what it was like on that set too, “That was a major production. We would be dressed, we would be positioned one by one, and then they’d have to set up the sand and the set, then he’d adjust that beautiful Avedon lighting that he was so famous for,” she says. Further, Campbell jokes that only Avedon could get her off the telephone, “You won’t believe this, but for him I would turn my phones off. He would come into the dressing room and sit down next to you, he wanted to know what was going on. He would tell you funny stories from the past and make you feel comfortable.”

Warmth, and the ability to make a woman feel confident, were qualities that Versace and Avedon had in common. After all, a remarkable aspect about this series is how the pictures can evoke the spirit of a fashion brand, beyond the clothes themselves. According to Bailey, “It was about taking the clothes off. He could sell the spirit of the lifestyle without even showing the clothes, and that says as much about the brand as keeping the clothes on. Only Avedon could get that.”

Artwork © 2014 The Richard Avedon Foundation

Inez van Lamsweerde

In Conversation
Inez van Lamsweerde

The photography duo Inez & Vinoodh switched gears to guest edit an issue of Aperture magazine. Not only did they submit work, they mined their own creative influences and inspirations to produce what they refer to as “what it’s like to get in their head.” Derek Blasberg spoke to Inez about the process of their work, as well as the process of editing the magazine.

Installation view of the exhibition Henry Moore at Houghton Hall: Nature and Inspiration.

Nature and Inspiration: Henry Moore at Houghton Hall

Sebastiano Barassi reflects on the centrality of nature in the work of Henry Moore—as form, material, inspiration, and site.

Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019

The Summer 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Afrylic by Ellen Gallagher on its cover.

Richard Prince, Untitled, 2016–18.

Richard Prince

Text by Richard Hell.

Still from video Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt

Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt

Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.

Andy Warhol: Everything Is Good

Andy Warhol: Everything Is Good

Richard Hell writes about the “transcendentally camp” Pop artist, portraitist of daily life.

Anselm Kiefer, Maginot, 1977–93.

Veil and Vault

An exhibition at the Broad in Los Angeles prompts James Lawrence to examine how artists give shape and meaning to the passage of time, and how the passage of time shapes our evolving accounts of art.

Uncharted Territory

Uncharted Territory

For the 16th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, the architectural firm Caruso St John teamed up with artist Marcus Taylor to curate the British Pavilion. Their design, Island, offers a profound adjustment of public space at a moment of profound geopolitical change. James Lawrence considers its implications.

Before and After the Fall

Before and After the Fall

Richard Calvocoressi examines the trajectory of pre- and postwar German and Austrian art from the 1930s through the mid-1950s, revealing how the events leading up to and following World War II affected this generation of artists.

Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2019

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2019

The Spring 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Red Pot with Lute Player #2 by Jonas Wood on its cover.

Uraeus

Uraeus

Richard Calvocoressi speaks with Anselm Kiefer about the range of mythological and historical symbols in the artist’s sculpture Uraeus.

Losing Nothing: Arakawa and Madeline Gins

Losing Nothing: Arakawa and Madeline Gins

Mary Ann Caws reflects on the centrality of perception and imagination in Arakawa’s art, from his early diagrammatic paintings to his later architectural investigations with Madeline Gins.