I had expected to see a minimal room, classic Chanel monochrome, the history of the the LBJ, and opulent glossiness. To my surprise, Karl Lagerfeld has taken over the whole of the first floor of the Saatchi Gallery. The whole get up seemed a trifle disorganised and simple to almost basic. I am used to seeing immaculate displays at Saatchi. Saatchi also values the minimal, no labels, no titles, and barely any information. You don't go to Saatchi for education, it does not try to bring art to the masses, it's about high art. Therefore, Chanel the home of high fashion, chose the most suitable and exclusive setting in London.
However, the immaculateness was not there, the curators did not seem to have had viewers in mind when they curated the show. The information was pinned on the wall behind you as you enter, meaning you only read them when you left the show. And even then, it was nearly impossible, for the queue for the free poster was blocking any view you could of had of reading it. So I missed the pearls of wisdom Karl may have offered. In addition, the glossy photographs, and large monochrome frames were no where to be seen. It almost had a student show feel with the photographs printed on newsprint and pinned to the wall with pins, yes pins! I like the simple displays, let the art speak for itself, however, this was an exhibition on a budget.
I imagine that for a travelling international show, the pinned work will get easily destroyed, probably thrown away for each show and reprinted for the next (let's not even get into the environmental impact of this). Therefore, what value does this 'art' hold? Is this even an 'art exhibition', or merely Lagerfeld's folly? Is this art, or a reflection of mass consummerism? The gallery was buzzing with the middle class, tourists, and fashion conscious teens. It wasn't so much of how does the art look, but photograph me with the art, or lets skip the art and get a free poster. The public flocked, not to see Chanel's most recent product or to evaluate the 'Little Black Jacket', but to be seen seeing the Chanel show.
As for the Little Black Jacket, it was an ode to Karl's rich and famous friends, for clearly no normal person can own one. The purpose if the show was to celebrate the long reign of Chanel's versatile Little Black Jacket, and to show how it can reflect the personality of the individual. Various models, actresses, actors, singers and socialites were photographed by Karl himself. They had been choreographed and styled to convey their personality. I think the most effective, was of Anna Wintour. She had her back to the camera, but with her iconic bob and erect back, she was unmistakable as the Vogue editor. However, other photographs seems more of a homage to fashion, rather than the focus on personality. Some modeled the jacket with the matching skirt, and more outrageously some wore it as a bandeau and a cloak.
Was the show a success? It was a success for Chanel, for Karl and for fashion. It was a thorough celebration of the little black jacket. But was it an art success? No. It was an art catastrophe, it attempted to speak in the language of art, but it gave away its art to every visitor (those willing to queue for 45 minutes, just to resell on ebay). It wasn't about high art, about stimulating and provoking the viewer, it was a tribute to consumerism, a gift to fashion fans, a bait to reel them in for more. For me it was a disappointment, the highlight was spotting the Chanel handbags go by.
I would like it to be noted, I haven't felt it even worth mentioning Karl's photographs of Yoko Ono on the first floor. If you missed it, you were fortunate. I love Chanel, but it shouldn't get involved in the realm of art.