To the Extreme
Milan is full of historic palaces waiting to be transformed into spectacular contemporary venues. Tonight, it was the turn of the Palazzo della Ragione, a frescoed masterpiece of thirteenth-century architecture that had been made over into the launching pad for the exhibition Extreme Beauty in Vogue. A selection of images drawn from 75 years of the magazine's American edition highlighted conceptual—often arrestingly so—approaches to the female physiognomy. With co-hosts Anna Wintour, Domenico Dolce, and Stefano Gabbana, as well as Franca Sozzani and the mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, listed on the invitation, the evening was guaranteed a major turnout, a Milanese equivalent of Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum blowout. Dolce & Gabbana's show earlier in the day had the kind of stellar front row that already seems like a fashion fantasy in these turbulent times—Scarlett Johansson, Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Freida Pinto, not to mention supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Eva Herzigova, and Nadja Auermann—and all of them turned up for the event.
Pinto, fresh off Slumdog Millionaire's Oscar triumphs, remembered days in front of the TV watching old Hollywood, Grace Kelly in particular. Johansson, the face of Dolce & Gabbana's debut makeup collection (launching in conjunction with the exhibit), had a local idol in mind. "I'm channeling my inner Monica Vitti," she said. Gabbana, meanwhile, was spinning gleefully round the receiving line like a kid on prom night.
But, this being Italy, there was also a family feel. All of the Missonis, for instance, were out in force. And Morley Safer, there with a 60 Minutes crew, was an avuncular presence. "It's all alien," he mused as he gazed at the oncoming throng of invitees, among them Karl Lagerfeld, a man who has done as much to define extreme beauty as any designer on the face of the planet.
Of course, Safer had to concede there was beauty in the alien. The exhibit's art director, design legend Jean Nouvel, has suspended each photo in its own space, compelling a new concentration on Newton, Avedon, Meisel, et al. One conclusion was irrevocable: In a couple of centuries, the work of Irving Penn and his sittings editor Phyllis Posnick will be recognized as among the masterpieces de nos jours.
Plus: See a selection of work from the exhibit.