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David LaChapelle: Retrospective

Paris plays host to a special exhibition covering 20 years of David LaChapelle’s photography.

20 years worth of work by cult American photographer David LaChapelle will take over a building usually used to display French coins and medals. His over the top style became synonymous during the rise of celebrity culture as his work reflected everything that the new dawn of celebrity represented; sex, drugs, money, greed, high-fashion and excess of all kinds. Although it’s become his calling card he has since moved on to different themes of a more serious nature such as natural disasters, war and the media, spirituality and consumption and his choices for the work to display seem to indicate that he’s aiming for more attention and plaudits on the new angle his career has taken.
He claims his new work was inspired by the negative view of money and in the main room of the exhibition lays a huge mural of his vision of the apocalypse. The views and aim of his work may have changed but it still remains essentially LaChapelle; Detail from Decadence: The Insufficiency of All Things Attainable (2008) shows the victims of consumerism naked and in pain surrounded by luxury products and gold pigs mid coitus and Holy War (2008) might display soldiers battered and bloodied yet holding Blackberries in front of ferris wheels and oil rigs but they’re all perfectly toned and muscular.

Although he’s clearly anxious and interested in being known as an artist more so than a celebrity photographer, earlier images are present in the exhibition, all of which are bright, loud and dripping with irony. Milk Maidens, 1996 shows a models squirting milk from her breast into another models cornflakes, Elton John rides a leopard print piano in a room covered in bananas and cherries in Elton John: Never Enough, Never Enough, 1997 and 2001’s Death by Hamburger shows just that; a pair of legs sprawled underneath a giant inflatable burger.

LaChapelle’s work is regularly displayed in museums all over the world (one in Mexico opened the same week as the retrospective) but this collection is the largest and most prolific of a man who helped create an age whilst making fun of it.

David LaChapelle: Retrospective at the Monnaie de Paris, Paris, runs from the 6th of Feburary until the 31st of May.