The magazine—published for the first time in 1892—was founded by Arthur Baldwin Turnure, and its contents were originally dedicated to reviewing the life of upper-class New Yorkers. Years later, it was acquired by the publishing empire Condé Nast Publications, which was responsible for expanding its publication and distribution to Europe.
In 1916, the heat of World War prevented the access of American Vogue, and Condé Nast decided to launch in Britain a magazine called Vogue UK that immediately became a hit.
As part of the exhibition—curated by Rubin Muir and sponsored by Leon Max—visitors will have the chance to review the first editions of the magazine, whose pages were illustrated by hand instead of the sharp images that would become emblematic with the passage of time.
Muir has made a selection of documents, publications, cover pages and photos that provide an overview of good taste, fashion, and anecdotes that appeared in the pages of the magazine according to the aesthetic influences of their respective historical moment.
From the interwar conservatism to the pop art of the 1960s; from the hip styles of the 1970’s to the graphic language of punk in the eighties, the magazine never lost its refinement and restraint, even in its riskiest ventures.
The publication has had a sizable impact on public opinion by contributing— as Muir puts it— “to shape the opinions and thoughts of people in a responsible way.” Even as a fashion magazine, Vogue’s content addresses the cultural context in general, showing the latest trends in the arts and culture in general.
Works of prominent photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Lee Miller, Irving Penn, Peter Laurie, Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino, David Bailey, Herb Ritts, Nick Knight, and Tim Walker are part of that diverse heritage contained in Vogue’s invaluable archives.
The curatorial vision divided the exhibit by decades, but with a retrospective approach that gives it an anthological feel. Visitors will find extraordinary graphic references to renowned personalities, such as Marlene Dietrich, Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana, Fred Astaire, Francis Bacon, Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, David Beckham and the Beatles—among others— plus photos of the most famous models showcasing the avant-garde garments conceived by the century’s most impactful designers, such as Alexander McQueen , Christian Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga, and Yves Saint Laurent.
The tour of the various exhibitions halls elucidates—through primary sources—the position held by the prestigious magazine in the cultural scene of the times. The show also explores the reasons why the work of Vogue has transcended today’s mercurial condition to become a significant contribution to the history of modern journalism. ■