Sunday, 2 May 2021

Frick Madison Opens in New York

One of the highlights at Frick Madison, is this striking portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence of the fashionably-dressed Julia, Lady Peel (1827). The Frick Collection, New York. Photograph: Michael Bodycomb
New York's Frick Collection is now housed at Marcel Breuer's signature Mid-Century Brutalist building. Called Frick Madison, it is the museum's temporary home for the next two years while the historic Gilded Age mansion undergoes an extensive renovation, reports Antonio Visconti 

The hulking form of Marcel Breuer's
Brutalist mid-century building
that houses the Frick Madison 
Photograph: Joe Coscia
THE opening of Frick Madison in New York is the first time the Frick Collection has been seen outside the walls of its elegant Manhattan mansion at 1 East 70th Street. The collection's new home features masterpieces from the museum including works by Bellini, Gainsborough, Goya, Holbein, Ingres, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Velázquez, Vermeer and Whistler.

Rehousing the collection at Frick Madison has allowed the curators to design dramatic new installations to show the art works. They have also been able to display rarely seen paintings, such as the series by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, that have never been shown together. 

The Frick Madison is situated at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street. The striking  Brutalist building was designed in 1966 by Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer and was originally commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

“We are thrilled that the public can continue to enjoy these great works of art from our collections during a time when they otherwise would be inaccessible as we renovate and enhance our home at 1 East 70th Street," says Ian Wardropper, the Frick's director. "The minimalism of Marcel Breuer’s mid-century architecture provides a unique backdrop for our Old Masters, and the result is an experience  that our public is sure to find engaging and thought-provoking.”

Frick Madison features highlights from the collection including works by Bellini, Goya, Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Velázquez, Vermeer and Whistler

James McNeill Whistler's
Symphony in Flesh Colour
and Pink: Portrait of 
Mrs Frances Leyland (1871)
The Frick Collection, New York
Photograph; Joe Coscia
Marcel Breuer’s austere stone and concrete building is a very different museum experience compared to visiting the Frick’s elegant Beaux Arts mansion. The Frick's curators have tried to use the Modernist setting as an opportunity to present the collection in a new way.

However, the design of the gallery spaces at Frick Madison reflect the museum’s traditional emphasis on a more personal experience of art and architecture. 

Instead of replicating the mansion’s domestic display, the new installation emphasizes Breuer's architecture and its forms and materials. It is stark and without the familial warmth of the Frick mansion but it is nevertheless interesting to see the works in a new  context. 

The renovation and expansion of the Frick Collection's elegant mansion is the first for more than eighty-five years. Selldorf Architects say they want to honor the architectural legacy and unique character of the Frick while offering greater access to the original 1914 home of Henry Clay Frick.

The architects are planning to preserve the beloved galleries for which the Frick is known. However, it will be interesting to see if this is the eventual outcome. Often comprehensive renovations destroy the soul and atmosphere of historic buildings. The architects say the new design will also add more spaces for permanent collection displays and special exhibitions, conservation, education and public programs. 

The renovation and expansion of the Frick Collection's Gilded Age mansion is the first for more than eighty-five years.

Bellini's St Francis in the Desert.
one of the Frick's most beloved works  
lit by Marcel Breuer's trapezoidal window.
Photograph: Joe Coscia

The hulking Frick Madison building, has retained the signature trapezoid windows designed by Marcel Breuer  and these provide a contrasting background for the collection's masterpieces. 

Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert is considered to be the greatest Renaissance painting in America and it is one of the most prized at the Frick. 

Today, the painting can be seen next to a  deep-set Breuer window, which allows the natural light of Manhattan to merge with the divine light depicted in the painting. 

Visitors are able to see the work and contemplate the complexities of meanings hidden within this cool, spartan space. The original position the painting held in the mansion, dominating a wall in the Living Hall, showed its importance to Henry Clay Frick. 

“From the very beginning we sought to marry our holdings with Marcel Breuer’s great modernist building, with the intention of revealing the Frick’s strengths in a new way, while inspiring fresh conversations and observations," comments Xavier F. Salomon, deputy director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator.

"Throughout the installation, we’ve maintained the core value of the Frick experience: offering visitors the opportunity to study works of art in a direct and immediate way, surrounded by a beautiful and peaceful environment. Rather than trying to recreate the rooms of the mansion, we celebrate this architectural icon, hoping audiences emerge with new understandings of both its features and spaces, and of our remarkable and very distinct collection.” 

"The minimalism of Marcel Breuer’s mid- century architecture is a unique backdrop for our Old Masters, providing an engaging and thought-provoking experience."

Hans Holbein the Younger's iconic 
portrait of Sir Thomas Moore, (1527)
The Frick Collection, New York
Photograph: Michael Bodycomb

Three floors of the Breuer building are devoted to the collection with the paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts organized by time period, geographic region and media. 

There are galleries dedicated to Northern European, Italian, Spanish, British and French art and with some rooms featuring individual artists. The layout highlights the Frick's strengths in particular schools and genres 

The curators hope the new installation will reveal unexpected relationships between subjects and artists and the different mediums of art works.

Holbein’s iconic portraits of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell hang together, alone, without other works; here the famously oppositional figures  confront each other in a way that was not possible at the mansion. 

On the second floor, Northern European paintings represent modern-day Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. These works share the characteristics of
precision and highly naturalistic depictions of their subjects, ranging from Memling’s and Holbein’s contemporary sitters to Van Eyck’s and David’s religious figures to Bruegel’s sinewy soldiers. 

Three stunning paintings by Rembrandt, his Self-Portrait, that of Nicolaes Ruts, and the enigmatic Polish Rider, are shown side by side. Nearby are the Frick’s three Vermeers, genre scenes of men and women presented within domestic interiors. These panels are seldom shown in such unmediated proximity, and here surround you on three walls. 

The curators hope the new installation will reveal unexpected relationships between subjects and artists and different media

Three of eight portraits by Van Dyck,
exhibited at  Frick Madison
Photograph: Joe Coscia
For the first time, the Frick's collection 
of eight full and half-length portraits by Van Dyck, spanning all periods and geographic locations of his oeuvre, are displayed together in one room. 

Portraits by Frans Hals are presented nearby, in addition to landscapes by Hobbema and Ruysdael, which evoke the lyrical beauty of the countryside of the Low Countries.

One floor above, the Italian and Spanish schools are displayed. Diminutive gold ground panels by early Italian religious artists including Cimabue, Duccio, and Piero della Francesca come together in a smaller, more intimate gallery. Such panels are found in very few collections across the United States and particularly represent the taste of Helen Clay Frick, the daughter of the museum’s founder and founder of the Frick Art Reference Library and a longtime Trustee of the institution. 

In a central cross-shaped space, there are the grand Renaissance works collected by Henry Clay Frick, including paintings by Titian, Bronzino and Veronese. The monumental pair of canvases by Veronese has left the walls of the Frick’s West Gallery only once during the past century. 

For the first time, the Frick’s eight portraits by Van Dyck are displayed together in one room. 

One of the great 18th century pastel artists,
Rosalba Carriera's Portrait of a Man
in Pilgrim's Costume (1730-1750).
The Frick Collection, New York
Photograph: Michael Bodycomb
The display of Italian work continues on this floor with Venetian eighteenth-century paintings by Guardi and Tiepolo. Two recent acquisitions are also on view: a stunning pair of portraits by Rosalba Carriera, one of the most important eighteenth-century pastel artists, who worked in Venice. 

Finally, an unprecedented arrangement of nine Spanish paintings by Velázquez, Murillo, El Greco, and Goya ~ works typically scattered throughout the mansion ~ shows Henry Clay Frick’s great interest in Spanish masters. 

There are also fine English landscapes by two great masters of the genre  ~ Constable and Turner ~ together representing a critical moment in early nineteenth-century British painting. 

Constable’s naturalistic, nostalgic depiction of the English countryside contrasts with Turner’s bustling French harbors. Frick Madison's installation offers a distillation of the period, when these contemporaries attempted to define modern painting, offering profoundly opposing approaches. 

On the fourth floor of the Breuer building, visitors will find the work of British and French artists, represented through Henry Clay Frick’s love of portraiture, landscape painting, and sculpture. Paintings from the British School are by far the best represented in the Frick’s holdings, a fact that was not as apparent until now, since previously these works were dispersed throughout various rooms of the historic mansion. 

Two recent acquisitions are on view: a stunning pair of portraits by Rosalba Carriera, an  important eighteenth-century Venetian artist

The Frick Collection has striking works 
of British portraiture, including the two  
paintings above by Reynolds, flanking  
a view of Constable's White Horse 
 Photograph: Joe Coscia
Hung together at Frick Madison for the first time, seven canvases by Gainsborough (the largest collection of the artist in any New York Museum) are shown alongside portraits by Hogarth, Lawrence, Reynolds, and Romney, together representing nearly one hundred years of remarkable British portraiture. 

Another gallery on this level features four, full-length portraits by American-born James McNeil Whistler, the London-based artist who is the best represented in the Frick’s holdings. 

These works, loved by New Yorkers, have often been relegated to storage to make room for major special exhibitions, an issue the renovation will solve with the addition of a new gallery.  

The fourth floor also offers a focused look at the Frick’s French works, represented by eighteenth-century artists Boucher, Chardin, Greuze, and Fragonard. Of particular note are the fourteen paintings of Fragonard’s Progress of Love series, now displayed together for the first time in the museum’s history. 

There are also three decorative panels of hollyhocks, which have been in storage much of the time since Mr. Frick purchased the cycle for his home in 1915. At Frick Madison the series is displayed to reflect its history, as it was created during two distinct campaigns, twenty years apart. The initial four canvases (1771–72) are shown for the first time in the original sequence envisioned by the artist when they were commissioned by Louis XV’s mistress Madame du Barry. 

The seven canvases by Gainsborough are hung together and represent the largest grouping of his paintings ever shown in any New York museum

Four grand panels of Fragonard's
Progress of Love series
shown at the Frick Madison,
illuminated by another of
Marcel Breuer's spectacular
trapezoidal windows.
Photograph: Joe Coscia
They are shown in a gallery approximately the same size as their intended home outside Paris, overlooking not the Seine River but Madison Avenue, illuminated by another one of Breuer’s large, deep windows. 

In an adjacent room are the ten canvases painted by Fragonard twenty years after the original four, together in an arrangement that was never possible in the mansion, owing to space constraints. 

Punctuating this installation is a dramatic wall that gathers together the full set of Fragonard’s cupid-themed overdoors. 

Succeeding generations of French masters including Ingres, David and others are featured in another gallery. A Barbizon landscape by Corot leads to the final gallery that displays some of the most modern works in the collection, Manet’s Bullfight and Impressionist canvases by Degas, Monet, and Renoir.

While the Frick is home to one of the most significant collections of sculpture and decorative arts in the United States, interest in the collection has been dominated by the paintings in its lavish reception rooms. Within the context of the mansion, the Frick’s impressive sculpture can sometimes be perceived merely as decorative when viewed head-on in front of a painting, while its decorative arts collection can go unnoticed. 

At Frick Madison, sculpture and decorative arts are presented independently, as works of art in their own right. To highlight the importance of these works, the first object the visitor encounters on each floor of Frick Madison is a sculpture. 

The Frick is home to one of the most significant collections of sculpture and decorative arts in the United States 

Jean Barbet, Angel, (1475)
Second floor of Frick Madison, 
the temporary new home 
of the Frick Collection.  
Photograph: Joe Coscia 
On the second floor, which is dedicated to Northern European art, the Barbet Angel is given centre stage in a room of its own. Often overlooked amid the lush plantings of the Garden Court, the Angel is one of the Frick’s most famed works and possibly the only monumental fifteenth-century French bronze sculpture in existence, as most large French metalwork from that period was melted down during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. 

Cast by a cannon maker, the Barbet Angel stands atop a column, which invites visitors to move around it, to enjoy and appreciate the sculpture from all sides. Installed at Frick Madison, the Angel provides a new introduction to the collection, as well as showing the importance of its sculptures. 

 A third-floor gallery is dedicated entirely to works in bronze. Straying from the sparseness of the Frick Madison display, this space evokes a fifteenth studiolo and features a selection of the finest bronzes acquired by Henry Clay Frick from J. P. Morgan’s estate in 1916.

At the Frick mansion on East 70th Street, bronze statuettes have often been displayed to ornament the furniture; at Frick Madison, they are arranged in dialogue with each other, enabling visitors to study them closely. 

Also on prominent view for the first time is Francesco da Sangallo’s St. John, the artist’s only signed bronze and the only such statuette at the Frick that was made to decorate a church. Designed to crown a marble font in Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato (near Florence), the statuette is shown at Frick Madison in a way not attempted in the residential backdrop of the mansion.

The third floor includes a series of galleries devoted to decorative artworks, curated in dramatic displays quite different to the domestic setting in which they are usually seen at the mansion. Concentrated groupings of clocks and Limoges enamels offer a fresh focus on lesser-known collections from the Frick’s holdings. Another space features prized seventeenth-century Indian carpets, not shown on the floor as “furnishings,” but hung on the wall in the manner of paintings nearby. 

Jean Barbet's Angel is one of the Frick’s most prized works and possibly the only monumental fifteenth-century French bronze sculpture in existence

A dramatic display of European 
and Asian porcelain (c.1500-1900).
with an 18th century 
French cabinet below.
Photograph: Joe Coscia
Particularly arresting is a gallery displaying floor-to-ceiling porcelain organized by color, rather than by function, origin or the date of manufacture. This presentation shows how strongly influenced European firms such as Meissen and Du Paquier were by earlier and contemporary Asian wares. 

The confluence of East and West is further amplified by Baroque furniture. Examples by Boulle and the van Riesenburghs feature ebony, tortoiseshell, and repurposed Japanese lacquerware, materials available through emerging global trade networks. 

 Also on the fourth floor are several fine examples of important French eighteenth-century furniture and ceramics, including the stunning fall-front desk and commode made for Marie- Antoinette by royal cabinetmaker Riesener, often overlooked in the mansion by the nearby Vermeers. And a remarkable marble and gilt-bronze table by Gouthière that is normally overwhelmed in the mansion display by the Ingres portrait, traditionally installed above it.  

This installation also shows several of the museum’s most important examples of early Sèvres porcelain, including the recently acquired Vase Japon and a pair of candelabra by Gouthière. 

The Frick Madison allows New Yorkers, and those travelling from further afield, to see a vividly and thoughtfully curated collection of both the Frick's masterpieces and rarely-seen works, in a spectacular mid-century building. It is an experience not to be missed.

 Frick Madison is located at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street, New York, NY 10021. Museum Hours: Thursday ~ Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; closed Monday ~ Wednesday. 

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Wednesday, 17 March 2021

What pictures do we take with our phones?

A guest takes photographs with his phone at Guo Pei's Spring Summer 2018 show in Paris. Picture above and cover, shot at Jean Paul Gautier's AW19 haute couture show, both by Elli Ioannou for DAM.
Last year we took more than 1.43 trillion photographs with our camera phones. American academic Dr T.J. Thomson studied thousands of phone images to discover what we photograph the most, revealing insights about who we are and what we value in society

Last year we took around 1.43 trillion
photographs on our phones. 
Photograph: T.J Thomson
ALTHOUGH we take a staggering number of photos each year (an estimated 1.43 trillion in 2020), we share relatively few of these and are using our cameras in different ways compared to the days of film. 

Analysing how we use our camera phones, which are responsible for 90.9% of all photographs taken, and the images we share with them can reveal important insights about who we are and what we value. 

I examined the lifecycle of a pool of about 5,000 images taken by more than a dozen people living in Australia to see what they photographed, “screenshotted”, and shared in a four-week period in early 2019. I also interviewed these amateur photographers about how they used their phones to make images. 

Women versus men 

On average, one in four images on our smartphones is a screenshot, of say, a social media post or recipe. And out of every four images, about 1.74 are of objects, 1.07 are of humans, 1 is of the built or natural environment, and just .18 are of animals. (The missing .01 percent are indeterminate because they are either underexposed or blurry). 

According to the study, 
women are more 
likely to have themselves
photographed than men.
Photograph: Elli Ioannou
Women and men seem to use their camera rolls differently. Women in the study were much more likely to photograph themselves or have themselves photographed. They took selfies 8.6 times more often than men and were photographed 3.5 times more often than men. Women documented their possessions 5.4 times more than men. 

Meanwhile, men were more than twice as likely to photograph strangers, such as passersby on the street, tourists, or crowds at gigs, beaches or parks. 

A consistent look

Only 6.5%, on average, of the overall image pool was shared by its owner on social media. Thus, the vast majority of images remained on participants’ camera rolls. When they did share, nine out of 10 users shared to a single platform. 

Instagram was the most popular sharing platform, followed by Snapchat and then Facebook. Participants were keen to share visual media with common reference points ~ presenting a consistent aesthetic motif to their followers ~ and images they considered flattering. 

Backstage at Guo Pei's
SS18 show where models use their
phones to capture their experiences.
Photograph: Elli Ioannou
Why people take photos 

Interviewees told me they whipped out their camera phones for five primary reasons. 

 1. Making memories 

The urge to hold onto experience is strong. As one participant put it: “I’m getting ready to move so I’m just trying to get as many memories of my dogs as possible.” Another participant, prompted by a photo they’d taken, added: “I was out with my family going bowling and I took this because I wanted to have something as a reminder of that.”

 2. New experiences, rare treats or first times 

 These experiences included major milestones, such as the first day at university or moving into a new home, as well as more banal and everyday activities, such as when a normally busy space was uncharacteristically empty. One participant remembered: "This, I sent it [a photo of me working on my laptop in a coffee shop] to my friend and said, ‘I’m here’. It was a Polish coffee shop and no one else was there. No other customers and I thought it was kind of funny."

 3. Ideas and inspiration 

 Some users took screenshots of tattoos they wanted to get, while others captured recipes, people posing, or arrangements of objects they liked. One interviewee said: "I’ll often screenshot photos of influencers I follow to try to copy makeup looks, outfits, how they edit their photos, that kind of thing."

 4. Evidence and receipts 

 Phones were handy to document rental car damage, a builder’s progress, or dubious social media claims. One man noted: "There’s a group in my hometown called ‘[Redacted] Whispers’ and this person was telling a story and it reminded me of a video I had seen and I questioned the authenticity of it … I don’t remember if I shared it to anyone. I just remember taking the screenshot to prove, if need be, that I didn’t believe it."

Actors Julianne Moore and Kirsten Stewart
shot at the AW18 Chanel show. Phones
crowd the air, held high during fashion shows.
In the past, it was only professional photographers.

5. Communication aids 

 When a contact asks, “Where are you?” or “What are you doing?”, some camera phone users reported they simply take a picture of their location or themselves and send it in response instead of typing a reply. It’s just easier to send a photo than to explain. 

Our changing visual values 

That participants used their smartphones most often to document objects is a testament to how digital technology has changed what we visually value. Where once pictures of loved ones and travel destinations filled photo albums and scrapbooks, our camera rolls are now filled primarily with mundane and quotidian objects. 

Humans came a distant second and environments came in an even more distant third. This indicates we’re using our smartphones for more functional purposes, such as screenshotting a work roster or timetable, compared to when we used cameras for more primarily aesthetic or relational purposes. 

But when it comes to sharing, we still value human connection and disproportionately share images of humans over things or places. As the number of images taken in 2021 is expected to grow again, consider what you photograph and screenshot in the coming year and what this reveals about yourself, your place in society, and your values.

Dr T.J. Thomson is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication and Media at Queensland University of Technology

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Monday, 22 February 2021

Paris: Chanel's Dreamy Spring Collection

Penelope Cruz strikes a pose at Chanel's couture headquarters at 31 rue Cambon in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. Cover of Marion Cotillard and main photograph by Anton Corbijn

The newly redecorated haute couture salons at Chanel's historic rue Cambon building in Paris have just reopened. Anton Corbijn photographed actors Penélope Cruz and Marion Cotillard in the elegant rooms. The interior provided a perfect backdrop to Virginie Viard's Spring/Summer 2021 collection. Designed as an antidote to the pandemic, it captured a dreamy sense of freedom and summery evenings in the South of France, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Lily-Rose Depp photographed 
on the famous mirrored
stairway, by Anton Corbijn, 
inspired by Robert Doisneau
VirginieViard worked with Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel's late, great creative director, for more than 30 years, before taking the reins in 2019. Although Lagerfeld's astute fashion instinct and brilliant creative, commercial and sartorial skills cast a long shadow, Viard has been able to bring her own aesthetic to the French fashion powerhouse.

Her silhouettes are more relaxed than Lagerfeld's and her shows more personal than spectacular (think of his soaring, giant Chanel rocket ship and Eiffel tower, built under the great dome of the Beaux-Arts Grand Palais). 

As this Paris couture season was virtual due to Covid-19 restrictions, and with so many people working from home, Viard's fluid, low-key ethos captured the fashion zeitgeist. As the pandemic has kept many apart, people are more appreciative of the time they spend with family and friends. This was the inspiration for Viard's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture collection. She wanted to create the atmosphere of a summer country wedding. 

"I knew we couldn't organise a big show, that we would have to invent something else, so I came up with the idea of a small cortege that would come down the stairs of the Grand Palais and pass beneath arches of flowers," says Virginie Viard. "Like a family celebration, a wedding. I love big family reunions, when the generations all come together. It's so warm. This is the spirit at Chanel today, because we are also like a family." 

"I came up with the idea of a small cortege coming down the stairs of the Grand Palais and passing beneath arches of flowers, like a family celebration, a wedding."

The models descend the stairway 
at the Grand Palais like
a wedding cortege
The new collection also works hand-in-hand with the reopening of the haute couture salons at 31 rue Cambon in Paris. "I wanted to bring the models together for family photos, like those you can see in albums," Viard explains. 

Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Vanessa Paradis were photographed next to the famous mirrored staircase. Lily-Rose Depp (Paradis' daughter) and Cotillard were shot with multiple reflections like the famous image of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, taken on the same stairway in 1953 by Robert Doisneau. 

Virginie Viard asked Dutch photographer, director and graphic designer Anton Corbijn to shoot her imagined wedding party in the Chanel salons and to take the pictures like family portraits. Viard met Anton Corbijn when he photographed her for a Vogue interview last year. Corbijn also directed the film of the Chanel couture show at the Grand Palais (see at the end of the story) and filmed teasers in the new haute couture ateliers, stylised as band posters. 

He has photographed, directed music videos or created album covers for many high-profile bands and musicians from U2, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, Coldplay and Joy Division to Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Elvis Costello, Simple Minds and Björk. For Chanel, he also created the double "C" monogram and camellia as a hand-painted dash and these were used for the printed show invitation and on the cover of the photo album.

"I wanted to bring the models together for photos, like those you see collected in family albums."

The long, Twenties-inspired, ecru satin 
wedding gown, covered in 
hand-embroidered butterflies
Virginie Viard turned to images of the 1920s for inspiration to create this season's bridal gown. The bride was photographed on the curving, mirrored stair and filmed riding a horse out of a jaunty tent on to the runway at the the Grand Palais in Paris (see at left and below). 

The long, slim dress is made of ecru satin crêpe with a train, embroidered by Lesage, with pearl butterflies and finished with a wing collar and shirt cuffs.  

Viard's vision of a lively and romantic summer evening was brought to life in the collection by the long, ruffled skirts and witty trouser suits with jackets inspired by men's waistcoats. These designs connected back Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel’s use of menswear in her designs, radical in the early 20th century. 

This SS21 couture collection also included tiers of flounced crêpe georgette in pale pink and a bolero worn with two-tone Mary-Jane shoes with a double strap, like tango dancers wear. This season's Chanel booties were designed with wedge heels decorated with a golden, quilt-like grid. "I'm always thinking about what women would like to have in their wardrobe today," comments Viard.

A stand-out design was a long, removable skirt in lace made of white daisies, worn open over a dress with an integrated cape. The Métiers d’Art were involved in all the collection's looks, including the Montex atelier's embroidered macramé dress in pearl-grey tulle and Lemarié's delicate feathers which embellished the organza flounces of a dress in black tweed. The opening look for the show with its lacey white top and red, swinging skirt and flower-embroidered cuffs set the celebratory tone of the collection (see in the gallery below). 

"I'm always thinking about what women would like to have in their wardrobe today."

Penelope Cruz was one of the handful of 
guests at the filmed runway show

With Paris in lockdown, the runway show at the Grand Palais was held without an audience except for Chanel's ambassadors, including Charlotte Casiraghi, Vanessa Paradis, Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Lily-Rose Depp. 

Empty gilt chairs were gathered in small, distanced groups along the circular runway covered with arches of flowers and strings of light bulbs. The few guests sat singly and well apart from each other as they watched the runway show for the video shoot. 

Virginie Viard's aim was to create the intimate atmosphere of a village celebration for the show, with the guests and models ~ who talked and smiled as they walked on the circular runway ~  becoming part of the wedding party. The arches covered in flowers, scattered rose petals and a white tent all added to the sense of a festive, country gathering.

The mixed masculine and feminine silhouettes included ball gowns worn with chiffon singlets and shirts. Business-like, well-cut vests were worn with full skirts and high-cut trousers. Satin shirts combined with cardigan jackets made these pieces looked easy and comfortable to wear, But the detail in their finish showed the haute couture touch. The beautiful embroidery and hand-made lace gave each garment a richness and detail missing from ready-to-wear clothes.

With Paris in lockdown, the runway show at the Grand Palais was held without an audience except for Chanel's fashion ambassadors.
The plush armchairs and sofas of
Jacques Grange's new 
redesign of the couture salons
The newly redesigned haute couture salons on the rue Cambon, completed at the same time as Viard's spring collection, were created by French decorator Jacques Grange. However, the rethinking of the interior predates Viard taking over as creative director  of Chanel. 

Karl Lagerfeld had already chosen Jacques Grange to redo the couture salons. He had been the interior designer for Lagerfeld's great rivals, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and once they passed away he felt he could finally use the decorator himself. 

Today, Viard says she wanted to create a sophisticated space with Grange but one that still resonated with Gabrielle Chanel's aesthetic. The decorator has given the rooms a classical palette with white walls and black-framed mirrors combined with grey silk carpets and gilded furniture by Goossens. A cosy, more informal feeling is created by the plump and capacious white-upholstered armchairs and sofas, interspersed with ceramic consoles by Giuseppe Ducrot and resin and glass tables by Marina Karella. Rich, brocade-covered screens and doors separate spaces and add a note of exoticism. 

Viard wanted to create a sophisticated space with Grange but one that still resonated with Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel's aesthetic. 

A model in this season's wedding gown
stands on the fabled stair.
Gabrielle Chanel's fabled, winding staircase still leads clients up to the salons for fittings and viewings (see at right). Overall, Grange wanted to enhance the glamour, creating an evocative background for the haute couture collections. 

The decorator was able to peruse Chanel's photographic archive so he could maintain the connection to the past. The pictures were an important point of reference for the design and Grange brought back Chanel's mirrored walls and decorative screens as a nod to the storied history of the building.

Rue Cambon was literally where Grabrielle Chanel's fashion career began. Originally dating back to the 18th century, the street was named after a famous French revolutionary elected to the National Convention (and his father was a fabric manufacturer). 

When Chanel was in her mid-twenties she began working as a milliner at No. 21 and by 1910 she was creating her first brand, Chanel Modes. Rue Cambon is in the centre of Paris, close to Place Vendôme and the rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré and was ~ and still is ~ a very fashionable part of the city. 

As her business expanded, Gabrielle Chanel needed larger premises and in 1918, she acquired the handsome, 18th century building at number 31. It was here that she came up with the concept of the modern boutique in 1921, showing fashion accessories and selling her first perfume, the iconic N°5, that is still worn today. The boutique was located on the ground floor, while the large reception room on the first floor was used to present collections and hold fittings for haute couture. 

Today, the layout is still the same with the mirrored stairway leading up to Gabrielle's stylish second-floor apartment. The third floor houses the studio where Karl Lagerfeld worked and where Virginie Viard works now. The ateliers are still on the top floor, under the rooftop, buzzing with the lace makers, pleaters, jewelers, fan-makers and embroiderers who bring Chanel's couture collections to life, just as they did in Gabrielle Chanel's time. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. 

See the highlights of the SS21 Chanel couture collection and watch the video of the show below

Short film of the Chanel SS21 haute couture collection in Paris

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