top of page

COCO CHANEL, 1962

PHOTOGRAPHS BY DOUGLAS KIRKLAND

TRAVELING EXHIBITION:
2012, Tokyo; 2011, Hong Kong; 2010, Honolulu, HI

Black & white photographs of Coco Chanel in black frames and a painting installed in a space with rounded walls and greenery

WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC in collaboration with Chanel Inc. presented a premiere exhibition of sixty-two photographs of Mademoiselle Coco Chanel by renowned photographer Douglas Kirkland (1934-2022). The exhibition, curated by James Cavello of WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC, represented a documentary of the life and legacy of the visionary designer, whose name and brand represent the height of fashion.

Mr. Karl Lagerfeld visited Westwood Gallery NYC in 2009 to view the first-ever exhibition mounted of Douglas Kirkland’s historic black and white photographs of Mademoiselle Chanel, reprinted from Kirkland’s 1962 negatives. The evening prior, while Mr. James Cavello was dining at Mercer Hotel with friends, he happened to be sitting in a booth directly behind Mr. Karl Lagerfeld. Without knowing of Mr. Lagerfeld’s presence, Mr. Cavello was recounting the story to his friends of re-discovering photographs taken by photographer Douglas Kirkland, while he and his gallery partner, Margarite Almeida were at Mr. Kirkland’s home and studio in the Hollywood Hills. Mr. Kirkland’s wife and partner, Francoise, had encouraged them to review the archive of photographs Mr. Kirkland had captured of the legendary fashion icon when she was 78 years old in 1962. Mr. Cavello insisted he wanted to curate an exhibition at Westwood Gallery in New York City to encompass the history of the photographs. Mr. Lagerfeld overheard the story at the Mercer Hotel restaurant and said he was actually in New York City to also view the exhibition and made an appointment to visit the gallery the next day. 

During the visit at Westwood Gallery NYC, Mr. Lagerfeld was fascinated with the comprehensive overview of Mr. Kirkland’s artistic documentation. He was very interested in the narrative of the exhibition provided by Ms. Almeida, and his in-depth conversation with Mr. Cavello regarding his selections and specific photographs on view. Mr. Lagerfeld had an immediate inspiration to create a new book of the Chanel photographs by Kirkland, even though a book had been published by the photographer. Mr. Cavello and Mr. Lagerfeld discussed the book project, as well as Mr. Lagerfeld’s hope for a traveling exhibition with additional photographs, expanded from the 45 on view in the gallery to 62 photographs for a traveling exhibition. Mr. Lagerfeld requested for Mr. Cavello to curate each exhibition in specific venues, to travel to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Honolulu, where Chanel, Inc. opened their first U.S. boutique in 1983. The three-year traveling project was an enlightening collaboration of fashion and art, with exclusive VIP openings, thereafter open to the public resulting in wonderful reviews. 
 



HONOLULU, 2010
 



HONG KONG, 2011
 



TOKYO, 2012
 

In 1962, at the age of 27, Douglas Kirkland received an assignment from Look Magazine to photograph Mademoiselle Coco Chanel for a story on the legendary fashion icon. For a period of three weeks, Kirkland shadowed Mademoiselle Chanel capturing her intense schedule and daily routine with models, fitters, clients and friends. The exhibition includes personal images of Coco Chanel in her stunning apartment decorated with Chinese Coromandel screens, where she greeted royalty and celebrities.
 
While documenting Mademoiselle Chanel in the House of Chanel, Paris, Kirkland captured photographs of well-known individuals, such as Madame Pompidou, (the wife of the Prime Minister of France who later became President of France), Lee Radziwill (sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), Greta Garbo, Romy Schneider, and many other iconic names of the time. In one photo he captured Richard Avedon, who was also photographing the day of the fashion show. The relationship between Mademoiselle and Douglas Kirkland became very special and a close bond. She encouraged Kirkland to learn French and provided him with French newspapers and a French dictionary. Kirkland photographed intimate moments in her working day, and cherished the conversations, as she also spoke fluent English. Toward the end of the 3-week journalistic assignment, Mademoiselle Chanel invited Kirkland on a day trip to Versailles that resulted in only one photograph he took of the 'grande dame' appropriately set in the royal gardens. Coco Chanel revolutionized women's fashion with creations and style, including the 'little black dress', Chanel's signature cardigan jacket, women's casual wear, quilted handbags, short hairstyles, combining authentic and costume jewelry, as well as Chanel No. 5, the world's best selling perfume. In the discussions with Mr. Cavello regarding the exhibition, Mr. Kirkland remembered with great fondness and admiration of the days he spent with Coco Chanel. His photographs provide a personal view of this extraordinary individual, the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century.