Exhaustive Observations and Commentaries on Fashion

As though the exhibition space has been turned into a fashion show catwalk, visitors enter along a raised white platform, observed on either side by the royalty of the fashion industry: Gaultier, Klein and Lacroix.

poster for Martin Parr

Martin Parr "Fashion Magazine"

at Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
in the Ebisu, Daikanyama area
This event has ended - (2007-07-07 - 2007-08-26)

In Reviews by Meighan Ellis 2007-08-16

 Not in person, of course. These are spot lit, framed photographs, from Parr’s Couture Kisses 2005 series, offering glimpses into life backstage at fashion shows. Following this dramatic entrance, in the first room, large scale, garish and technicolour prints from his series Dakar 2001, as well as other images from the series Colour On The Beach 2001 and Miami Fashion 2004 are all hung in a succession of tight displays. For fans of Parr’s work and his distinct stylistic traits, this is one of the stronger and bolder sections of the show.

For me, the most dynamic images are in the Reines de la Nuit 2005 series, which are featured in the last gallery. The scale and composition alone makes these works engaging, and I found myself drawn into the seemingly wet, rich colours and the lavishly detailed depiction of these bourgeois women dripping in jewels, luxurious fabric and glistening makeup.

Already familiar with Parr’s predominately documentary style, an eclectic collection of photographic books published by Magnum and his more recent work as a commercial photographer, I first encountered Parr’s fashion and advertising work in his monograph ‘Fashion Magazine’ in 2005 at the Rocket Gallery in East London. That particular show had a more vibrant, unrestrained energy to it, possibly due to a more succinct display, the expansive scale of the prints and a space that added to the dynamics of the work.

By contrast, the works in this exhibition are a little lost in this museum’s plain and fairly outdated interior. While it should go without saying that the curators have given some consideration to the presentation of Parr’s photographs, their overall approach has been inconsistent, making for a weak and unchallenging display. Individual series are packed so close to each other that it is as if each of Parr’s photographic inquiries cancels out the previous one. There are a couple of lovely details, however: the catwalk trajectory at the entrance, the dizzying graphic wallpaper print of miniature portraits, and the insignia of Parr on a pastel lemon backdrop.

The overall impression is that this show feels like a ‘Best Of…’ collection or a ‘Hit List’ of his fashion work that has been featured in ‘Fashion Magazine’ and some of his previously published monographs. However, this exhibition certainly reveals the variety of his approaches – both stylistic and sociological – to his subjects, investigating and frequently poking fun at the many layers of pretence and posturing of the fashion industry that has become such a dominant obsession in our culture.

Meighan Ellis

Meighan Ellis. Born on the eve of Halloween in the year of the Tiger on the shores of New Zealand. Since graduating from Victoria University School of Architecture and Design, she has been lecturing on photography at universities in both New Zealand and Japan. Having spent the last two years working and living in London and Sydney as a freelance creative focusing mainly on photography, writing, collaborative projects and contributing to various international magazines, she's back and currently can be found wandering around the Tokyo machine, camera(s), pencils and phone in hand. » See other writings


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