David LaChapelle's Exhibition 'Make Believe' Spans 40 Years
Art

David LaChapelle's Exhibition 'Make Believe' Spans 40 Years

by Justine Fisher

The glamour photographer behind countless iconic portraits is bringing his solo museum show to New York City. David LaChappelle is taking over Fotografiska with the exhibition, Make Believe.

Featuring selections from LaChapelle’s fine artwork, major fashion campaigns, editorial shoots and album covers, more than 150 works will fill all six floors of the neo-Gothic landmark from September 9 through January 9, 2023. Starting amidst his exploration of the 1980s Aids crisis in NYC, the themes will span his 40-year career. From 1984 to 2022, LaChapelle’s social commentary evolved to cover religion, the environment, gender identity, body image and beauty standards, and a multi-faceted examination into the construction of celebrity.

Alongside some never-before-exhibited pieces, featured works include LaChapelle’s bold and colorful renderings of Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, Lizzo, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey and Kanye West. His famous intimate portrayals of Madonna, Tupac, Britney Spears, David Bowie, Elton John, Eminem and Lil' Kim, dating back to the 1990s and 2000s, will also be shown alongside Michael Jackson’s final portrait from 2009.

© David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.

LaChapelle’s last-ever portrait of Andy Warhol, taken in 1986, is an especially meaningful addition to the exhibition. The two connected over Catholicism and the toll of Aids on their close circle of friends, both of which are themes central to LaChapelle’s supernatural 1980s photographs. His earliest works on display reimagine religious iconography with people that were impacted by the Aids epidemic as subjects.

Reconciling his faith in god with the anti-religious individualism of pop culture, LaChappelle ties together his diverse works in Make Believe. “I feel the responsibility to bring light into the world and make imagery that can elevate and serve humanity, even while sometimes employing drama and humor,” he said in a press release. “Whether secular or religious, my images are part of the same experience and evolving perspective.”

© David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.

Among a number of legendary music-industry shoots, his covers for Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance (1997) and Mariah Carey’sRainbow (1999) are included in Make Believe. Featuring several more shots of musicians, a mega-collage of LaChapelle’s ethereal photographs of entertainment figures will debut. Standing at 8 feet by 22 feet, Vox Populiis is a testament to LaChapelle’s contribution to pop culture from 1995 to 2021.

LaChapelle’s impact on the world of art, fashion and especially music is evidenced by 19 Rolling Stone covers and a number of classic album covers. His vulnerable shot of Tupac in the shower was a cultural moment that Jay-Z recognized in the verse, “Blue lookin’ like Pac in the tub. David LaChapelle levels of not giving a fuck.” He also shot the 2013 Kardashian Christmas card, as well as multiple fellow visual artists.

© David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.

On the other hand, a centerpiece of the show is Deluge (2006), which pulls aspects from religion, existentialism, and art history. LaChapelle described the piece in a press statement as a “metaphor for losing everything materialistic, your health, your body — and to be on your deathbed with last chance for enlightenment.” Informed by Michelangelo’s 1512 painting of the Sistine Chapel, Deluge inspired multiple of LaChapelle’s subsequent works.

For the high-end editorial photographer, known for his visionary, vulnerable shots of quintessential pop culture figures, Make Believe presents the full canon of LaChapelle’s legendary work.

© David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.

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