Steven Meisel role-plays for a new exhibition in London
Twenty-five large-scale fashion images, shot by Steven Meisel, line the walls in Phillips’ Berkeley Square space, each one of them testimony to the photographer’s narrative strength. They are stories in both the fashion editorial sense of the word and in the conceptual sense - its subjects are characters who represent a zeitgeist; play their part in a specific moment.
Aptly titled ’Role Play’, these photographs are the focus of a travelling selling exhibition, now on view in London after a first stop in Paris, before moving on to New York in January.
’Role Play’ brings together Steven Meisel’s most notable photographs, taken over three decades, from his seminal grunge photograph of Daniel Blaylock and Kristen McMenamy to his images of establishment supers like Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, that glamorise the more prosaic instances of their jetset lives.
The continuing appeal of Meisel’s existing work, and the ongoing demand for his visionary visual language today is especially apparent in the advertisement campaign that ushered in the British designer Jonathan Anderson as the new creative director at the helm of the Spanish house Loewe. A series of archival Meisel images from 1997 were unconventionally used to appear alongside S/S 2015 product, an insider reference that could have easily gone unnoticed thanks to the uncanny timeless quality of these natural 1990s shots.
Paradoxical as it may seem, it is precisely this universal aspect, across different cultural moments, which unifies Meisel’s oeuvre. Whether he cites classical art as an inspiration, or confidently places a made-up male in a dress inside a picture, Meisel’s seemingly diametrical aesthetic opposites are two sides of the same coin, and are proof of the breadth of his talent to capture any personality and generational spirit authentically.