People collect all kinds of things: books, stamps, coins, the new and the antique. Like many others, I collect magazines. While many men and women regularly buy vogue, my collection currently fills over four bookcases. I have even had shelves break under the weight of my hoard. Whenever I go away, the first thing I do is buy that country’s edition of Vogue, in fact, when I went to the Vogue Cafe in Moscow, I was certain that my collection could easily rival that of the Russian eatery. It would come at no surprise then, that I jumped in excitement when the incumbent British Vogue exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was announced.
British Vogue is celebrating its 100th birthday. Born out of war, the UK’s fashion bible was created because it’s American counterpart was unable to be shipped across the pacific during the first world war, now it holds its own as one of the most beloved fashion magazines in the world. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about visiting the show, so often I am disappointed by fashion exhibitions, however, this time my expectations were well exceeded.
Transported into the national portrait gallery the fashion photograph is celebrated as art with images from David Bailey, Nick Knight, Alasdair McLellan, Norman Parkinson, Irving Penn, Mario Testino, Steven Meisel and Tim Walker adorning the walls, and that is only a small number of the superstar names on show from the world of fashion photography. The exhibition moves from today in 2016 backwards in time, decade by decade to its birth in 1916. Thus Kate Moss in her underwear – most famously in a June 1993 editorial by Corrine Day (the issue that was out when I was born) – is on display not so far away from the likes of Grace Kelly and Jean Shrimpton.
The exhibition not only celebrates photography, it also plays homage to the early illustrated covers of the 1920s and 30s and more contemporary moving images from the last decade. Artists on display include Matisse and Francis Bacon, while Cara Delevingne smiles and blinks at the viewer just a few metres away.
One gallery proudly displays one issue from every year of British Vogue’s history. In these cases the covers are shown alongside an issue which has been opened to allow the spectator to see the image in conversation with its complimentary text.
With the Beckhams, Naomi Campbell, Charlie Chaplin and Margaret Thatcher all on display in a comparatively small space, there is a great wealth of powerful images to see. In fact there is almost too much to take in during one visit, and I would urge anyone who has the chance to see the exhibition multiple times.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style is on display at National Portrait Gallery until 22 May