A new exhibition at Fotografiska in New York is set to explore themes of religion, the environment, gender identity, body image and celebrity in the photographer’s work
Today it was announced that a major new exhibition dedicated to the work of visionary American photographer David LaChapelle will open in New York City this September. Taking place at Fotografiska – a sprawling museum housed in a Renaissance Revival building on Park Avenue – the show will feature more than 150 works created between 1984 and 2022, and is set to be the artist’s most comprehensive exhibition to date.
Known for his high gloss, hyperreal photographic style, vibrant use of colour and references to art history, LaChapelle has shot pop culture icons like former AnOther Magazine cover star Kim Kardashian, David Bowie, Kanye West, Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol – all of whom appear in the show, which will be curated by LaChapelle and his studio. Titled Make Believe, some of the artist’s most famous works will be exhibited – Lil Kim printed with the Louis Vuitton logo, the last ever portrait of Warhol, and a naked, bleach blonde Eminem – alongside photos that have never been seen before. In addition to LaChapelle’s enormous impact on the visual culture of music – he created the album artwork for artists including another former cover star, Travis Scott, along with Mariah Carey and Fleetwood Mac; he has also shot 19 covers for Rolling Stone – more complex themes will also be addressed: religion, the environment, gender identity, body image and celebrity among them.
Beginning with poignant imagery made in 1980s New York during the Aids epidemic, the exhibition will highlight the remarkable layers of social commentary and soul-searching that LaChapelle engaged in with his work. “In the 1980s, LaChapelle began photographing his entourage [all part of the community heavily affected by the Aids epidemic] as saints, martyrs, or angels, expressing the feeling of mourning while exploring possible paths of a soul that persists beyond the corporeal,“ says Nathalie Deitschy, an expert in religious iconography and the author of one of the exhibition’s texts.
“My earliest works from the 1980s were motivated by a search to represent a loving God, the nature of the soul and heaven during a devastating period when I lost many friends,” says LaChapelle, who is Catholic. “Over time, I began to notice how my faith in God was keeping me grounded through my personal struggles, and meanwhile the world of pop culture was turning away from religion and focusing more on fame, wealth, and individualism.”
Make Believe by David LaChapelle will run at Fotografiska in New York City from 9 September 2022 – 9 January 2023.