Dorian Leigh photographed by her sister Suzy Parker. Vogue/Condé Nast

Model Twiggy by Bert Stern. Vogue /Condé Nast

The Pinault Collection’s Palazzo Grassi, in Venice, is inviting us to an extraordinary journey through time and culture with the exhibition Chronorama. It is showing 407 photographs from the exceptional Condé Nast archives that it acquired in 2021, covering six decades between 1910 and 1970. 185 photographers amongst the most prestigious - Edward Steichen, Diane Arbus, Horst P. Horst, Cecil Beaton, Lee Miller, Helmut Newton, André Kertesz, Erwin Blumenfeld, Gjon Mili, Robert Doisneau - to name just a few. “Most of the great photographers started at Condé Nast’s before being shown and recognized as great artists,” analyzes Matthieu Humery, photography adviser to François Pinault. “Their work was first seen on magazine pages, ephemeral images replaced the following week at breakneck speed by a new issue.” 

These star photographers worked in all the genres: fashion, of course, but also architecture, lifestyle, reportage, for the Condé Nast publications which included Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, House & Garden, GQ, Glamour. The photographs are a history lesson. Even though these images were published in elegant publications mostly for the East Coast establishment and those who aspired to be part of it, they are a reflexion of the times and the cultural changes, from the war years, for instance, to the optimism of the 1950’s all the way through the radical 1960’s and the glamour of the 1070’s. The chronological presentation of the photographs gives us a complete picture of the aspirations, ideals and failures of the XXth Century. “All the people assembled here embody the century,” says Anna Wintour, Condé Nast’s Global Editor Directo - Charlie Chaplin, James Joyce, as well as Henri Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, Mick Jagger, Catherine Deneuve, Karl Lagerfeld, Richard Avedon, Arthur Ashe, Twiggy, Veruschka and so many others.” Chronorama, with its slick and elegant images is also an invitation to introspection, to look at what was and what is no longer and how our culture has changed, now that we have moved from the century where photography became the great medium, to the digital Century. 

Jean-Sébastien Stehli

CHRONORAMA. Trésors photographiques du 20e Siècle. Palazzo Grassi. Venice.  Until January 7, 2024 

May 19, 2023 — Jean Sebastien Stehli