Karl Lagerfeld and Anselm Feuerbach at Kunsthalle Hamburg

Lagerfeld Feuerbach

The Hamburg art scene is delighting fashion lovers these days with two exciting exhibitions that shed light on some of fashion’s greatest icons. Kunsthalle Hamburg opened its latest exhibition last month “Feuerbach’s Musen — Lagerfeld’s Models”  while Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is presenting over 70 historic Chanel creations in “The Chanel Legend”.

Art and fashion have been happily coupled on the catwalks in recent seasons, but it is Kunsthalle Hamburg’s latest, which hits the mark with its unique double exhibition on beauty, eroticism and the adoration of muses and models.  Karl Lagerfeld has created a series of around sixty black and white photographs specifically for the exhibition, with large photographs printed onto silver and gold coloured fabrics–certainly a display of Lagerfeld’s own specific flair for luxury. In Modern Mythology (2013), Karl Lagerfeld stages the antique love story “Daphne and Chloe” capturing an idyllic countryside seeped in elegance.

The other part of the exhibition focuses on Anselm Feuerbach, with works between 1860–70. It is the antique subject matter and adoration of models and muses, which the two masters share. And indeed, in some of the photographs top model Bianca Balti, who embodied Chloé for Lagerfeld, could pass for a double of Feuerbach’s muse Anna Risi.

Feuerbach’s work is filled with imagination and personal feeling. He staged settings that reveal an almost cult-like adoration for his models. His portrait series are centered around his muse Anna Risi, also known as Nanna, who was one of the first models in art history to achieve a cult status. Like other models and muses of this time, Risi possessed a classical ideal of beauty, with her Greek profile and thick dark hair.

The exhibition questions whether the model cult, which arose in the second half of the 19th century, found its legitimate continuation in 20th century fashion. The answer it suggests is yes. For any fashion follower keen on its history can recall; it was in the 1960s that the celebrated model reappeared in the fashion world. Women like Twiggy, Jean Schrimpton, and Veruschka achieved international fame and following.

While art lovers might have questioned the fashion designer’s access and authority in the art world, this exhibition, in the least, might convince cynics of Lagerfeld’s keen eye and multi-talents.