Sep 11, 2022
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David LaChapelle's 'Make Believe' show opens at Fotografiska New York

Sep 11, 2022

At the opening of David LaChapelle's 'Make Believe' show, the guests snaked around the corner in a line while a scrum was present at the velvet rope entrance. It was the palpable energy and enthusiasm that has been scarce in post-Covid New York. Guests were eagerly lining up to see the artist's largest-ever U.S. solo show that primarily spans three floors in the Manhattan outpost of Fotografiska, the Swedish ​photography museum based in Stockholm.

A work from LaChapelle's 'Make Believe' exhibit - Courtesy

The show followed another building-wide takeover of the Stockholm location of the photography museum ten years ago.

The mood of the opening was equal parts art aficionado, part free-booze, and part club-scene. This exhibit opened on the fifth floor, and guests weaved their way down three floors to take in over 150 works, with some dating early in his career in 1984 and several recent pieces shown for the first time were expressed through photographs but extending to stained glass, film, and collage.

Several prominent themes of the artist's oeuvre reflect the influence of his Catholic upbringing with multiple depictions of Christ. For instance, 'Jesus is My Homeboy' for ID magazine, the only magazine editorial spread; another depicts Kanye West wearing a crown of thorns. In addition to religion, other themes include environmental disasters, world political issues, AIDS, mysticism, gender identity, celebrity iconography, and nature are strongly represented in the show.

La Chapelle pays homage to other artists such as Warhol in depicting his close friend and muse Amanda Lepore as Marilyn Monroe and Georgia O'Keeffe in the natural beauty images taken in Hawaii, where LaChapelle took up residency. Other works reference Edward Hopper, David Hockney, and Robert Smithson.

A work for LaChapelle's 'Make Believe' exhibit - Courtesy

Celebrities such as Madonna, David Bowie, Britney Spears, Lizzo, Travis Scott, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Courtney Love, and Tupac Shakur serve as subjects of the art. The last ever portrait of Andy Warhol, taken November 22, 1986, is also on display.

The fashion world has several cameos, as seen through a 1996 image of Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow; Naomi Campbell as part of a series that explores the theft of African natural resources; and scenes from a fictionally devastated Los Angeles where one subject dons the Viktor & Rolf pillow-and-blanket dress.

The party mood of the opening was helped by the crowd mingling in the staircase and elevators to reach each floor of the exhibit and various bars on each level which was placed amongst the art. A club vibe was felt in the David LaChapelle reading room, where a DJ was spinning in the rafters of the landmarked 1894 building that houses Veronika restaurant and is adjacent to Chapel Bar. The show opens to the public on September 9, 2022, and runs through January 9, 2023.

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