Karl Lagerfeld himself was more than a fashion designer and photographer. Whiteout exaggerating he was surely a legend and also left his footprints within the art world. While in the past days, we saw his early photographs, heard all about his cat and his connections to big fashion houses such as Fendi & Chanel, we did a little digging into art world collabs.
Long before his passing, his creations and his collections, comprising not only his drawings, photographs and designs were honored through several exhibitions – for example a comprehensive retrospective of his fashion design drawings and designs in the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn (2015) and amongst others with a comparative exhibition of his works with a selection of painting by Anselm Feuerbach in Hamburg (2014).
It was also a great honor to him to present some of his works at Langen Foundation Neuss, a building which was designed by one of his favorite architects Tadao Ando. Eventually, he later also worked on plans for a private house, but which were never approved by the Parisian authorities.
Karl Lagerfeld himself once studied art in Paris, but only for personal reasons he said, yet he remained curious and always well informed about the ongoing in the art world and upcoming artists by scrolling through art catalogs and engulfing art literature.
Therefore it does not surprise that the range of his art collection was incredibly wide.
He admired German expressionists, Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, also Picassso – more his drawings than his paintings, he said in an interview with DIE ZEIT. In his opinion painting was almost dead, because nobody could excel the masterpieces of Monet or Matisse.
Lagerfeld appreciated the complex beauty of contemporary art. One of his most beloved contemporary artists and furthermore a friend was Jeff Koons. who he also photographed with his short-term wife Ilona Staller, known as “Cicciolina”. Besides Koons he also supported German artists like the former street artist Stefan Strumbel.
Karl Lagerfeld was always known for his harsh but honest words. He was never scared to speak out loud what he thought, so in his opinion a real artist should not have to call himself an artist – “only those who are in doubt need to prove it”, he said.
As in his way of working he was also uncompromising in his love for art “I do not have space on my walls, but the new art is not made for living rooms.”
So he made no secret of his admiration for light installations by James Turrell and the art of Richard Serra. “I was particularly impressed by a work by Turrell in a temple on the Japanese island of Naoshima” he said in the ZEIT interview, where he openly advocated that art should not exist as a trophy on the wall but as a work of art in the head.
Even if he was often criticized for his aloof political statements, he did not seem to want to prove his wealth – he rather followed his own sense of inspiration and taste. “If rich people by overpriced art it is a proof of their lack of taste” he said.
He preferred small intimate galleries like the on Russian avant-garde specialized Gmurzynska gallery, instead of big famous galleries, he told in the ZEIT interview. He was not impressed by big names or big prices, about Andy Warhol he once said: “His sketches of shoes were nothing extraordinary, but he found the twist that captured the whole world.”
Karl Lagerfeld had his own head and a very personal relationship to art.
A touching anecdote from his childhood proves his early curiosity about art: when he was only five years old he asked his parents for a unusual Christmas present for a boy this age: a copy of Adolph Menzels´Tafelrunde,showing Friedrich den Großen. He owned this copy until his death, because it symbolized his then longing of the real life. He was often ahead of his times, so he surely had to laugh when a Steichen print, which he bought 35 years ago, or a Metropolis film poster from a little gallery nowadays could be sold for half a million. Karl Lagerfeld had this gift to know earlier than others what later everyone wants.
Through his death the world loses not only a great artist but also one of its greatest admirers, critics and supporters.