Photographer and filmmaker David LaChapelle premiered his latest art piece 'The Rape of Africa' at Gallery Alex DaniŽls in Amsterdam. The stunning work is LaChapelleís latest 'fine art piece', the photographer decided to put his editorial work on hold and to focus on fine art and celebrity portraits instead. A step that was initiated by the series of Deluge which featured both the elaborate display based on Michelangelo's Deluge painting in the Sistine Chapel but also surprisingly more minimalistic underwater portraits and images of a flooded art gallery; out with the abundance, out which the diamond clattered images...
Iconique talks with the man who 'represents his best interests', Fred Torres. Fred Torres has been an associate of David LaChapelle for fifteen years. Having started his career as the executive producer of LaChapelle's photo shoots, Torres is currently David LaChapelle's link to his representing galleries and museums worldwide.
'David has always loved fashion, he will always treasure it but he sort of fell out of love, he wants to make a name for himself in the art world besides his stigma of a fashion photographer. He wanted something new. Heís been in the fashion world for over 25 years but now he wants to focus on art, which means you need to live and breathe art 24 hours a day.'
The Rape of Africa is a unique piece, the artist actually debated whether he would make it.
"Deluge was the first image he made for the art world, not for a magazine, itís the image that marks the start of his focus onto the art world. The Rape of Africa has no fashion in it. He wasnít sure whether he wanted to make it because he already did 'Decadence: The insufficiency of All Things Attainable' in which he focused on the abundance of wealth in America and the world and the fact we were heading to a crash, which of course we did. He thought he had said it all with that piece, but with the Rape of Africa itís a whole different subject, a new context, itís a piece that means to stand on its own."
Contrary to the Deluge series, the image carries LaChapelle's signature clearly: it's as colourful and elaborate as one would expect, a combination of the fashion work that made him a star and his new direction.
Sandro Botticelli: C. 1484, Venus and Mars © The National Gallery, London
Itís a one-piece-show, on entering the gallery one is confronted with the colourful and detailed image, glamorous, extravagant on first sight, but once youíve scratched the surface of glamour a new layer becomes visible. The scene, inspired by Sandro Botticelliís Venus and Mars painting, features a serene Naomi Campbell as its African Venus "If one would have to pick one woman to represent the African beauty, it had to be Naomi." Torres says.
In the book published by Reflex for the exhibition, Collin Wiggins from The National Gallery in London writes: "Her jewellery, her painted nails, lavish hairstyle and exposed breast all combine to produce an image of rare fragility. She is a black African woman seen through European eyes and has been rendered passive, tame and beautiful. In Botticelliís picture, Venus is in charge but in Davidís picture the lamb and the rooster that are placed beside her indicate that she is, like them, only a chattel."
Mars is represented by a white male model, snoozing carelessly while he is protected by three black boys that will do his dirty work, surrounded by treasures taken from the continent.
David LaChapelleís role model - Andy Warhol Ė seems to be there as well, the room where the images takes place is decorated with rows of Sun packages.
"One could see it as a Warholian influence but this is reality, people in Africa do decorate their houses with packaging. Itís all neatly organized. The Sun Packaging means the influence of the outside world on Africa, of mass market fast-moving consumer goods entering the continent"
Will David do more video work?
"He just did a music video for a close friend of his, it was shot in Hawaii. He doesnít say he wonít do any more movies or videos in the future but for now, it's art."
After Amsterdam the work will travel to L.A., a city where David LaChapelle never exhibited before. "Los Angeles is an interesting place for David, itís where he lives, where he knows everybody, but in L.A. there are traditionally not many A-level galleries, more emerging galleries. Over the years they became more and more interested in Davidís work since he began to focus more on fine art."
We can only show you a detail, but
David LaChapelle Ė The Rape of Africa is fully on display at Galerie Alex Daniels, Amsterdam, The Netherlands from June 6 till Ė July 31, 2009.
The book entitled The Rape of Africa by Reflex Editions is available at the gallery as well:
BY JOOST VAN GORSEL