Lectures on American history

The origins of modern aesthetics
by Redazione VeNews

The latest exhibition to open at Palazzo Grassi is CHRONORAMA. Photographic Treasures of the 20th Century, a collection of photographs from the Condé Nast archives which have recently been acquired by Palazzo Grassi’s parent company Pinault Collection.

Curator Matthieu Humery spent much time perusing the immense archives – Condé Nast is the publisher of Vogue, The New Yorker, GQ, Glamour, Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, and Wired, among others – to eventually select four hundred iconic images that will bring the twentieth century back to life before our eyes. Events, social trends, personalities, evolution in taste and aesthetics… anything that earned a place in history, plus, obviously, the art and technique of photography itself as a language of mass communication. These portraits-not selfies, and features-not stories have been created by some of the greatest talents of their generation, from the 1910s to the early 1980s. It all started in 1909, when the young and ambitious publisher Condé Montrose Nast bought a niche socialites’ weekly named Vogue, once founded by Arthur Baldwin Turnure in 1892 and semi-abandoned after Turnure’s death. Soon enough, Nast turned Vogue into a magazine for the elite – or aspiring to be. As history would have it, Vogue would become the most famous and influential fashion magazine in the world.

Franco Rubartelli, Veruschka, head-to-head with a cheetah, 1967, Vogue © Condé Nast

The exhibition at Palazzo Grassi shows pictures devoid of their editorial context. In fact, while not negating their origin whatsoever, CHRONORAMA does not explicitly present them as magazine’s illustrations. What the exhibition does is offering a history of the 1900s through the lens of 185 photographers and artists: celebrities, personalities, fashion, photo features, architecture, still lives, documentary pictures. A visual mosaic including cornerstones of photography. The magazines published by Condé Nast have been, over the decades, the repository of the ambitions of the ‘wholesome man’, in a revised and amended interpretation. These magazines revealed the zeitgeist and catalysed their time’s aesthetics, both the avant-garde and the simply en vogue. However, this is more than a mirror: photography is so powerful that it can deform reality as it expresses it. CHRONORAMA is the story of instant transformation. An addition to the exhibition is Chronorama Redux, a collection of site-specific art that will reinterpret in modern key the context of the main exhibition.


Featured image: © Condé Nast. Installation view, CHRONORAMA. Photographic Treasures of the 20th Century at Palazzo Grassi, Pinault Collection, 2023. Ph. Marco Cappelletti © Palazzo Grassi

Pinault Collection

THE BAG 2023

Photographic Treasures of the 20th Century