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Somerset House: Hair by Sam McKnight

Hair by Sam McKnight is a new exhibition at Somerset House that celebrates the work of one of the most accomplished and well-respected hair stylists of his generation. This exhibition, now on display until 12th March 2017, reveals the little-known creative process behind the craft of hairstyling, tracing the legacy of hairstyling from the 1070’s to today, featuring iconic fashion photographs, couture garments, wigs, hairpieces and film and audio installations. It contextualises the wider cultural significance of hair, and the silent but key role of the session stylist within fashion.

Hair by Sam McKnight is a new exhibition at Somerset House that celebrates the work of one of the most accomplished and well-respected hair stylists of his generation. This exhibition, now on display until 12th March 2017, reveals the little-known creative process behind the craft of hairstyling, tracing the legacy of hairstyling from the 1070’s to today, featuring iconic fashion photographs, couture garments, wigs, hairpieces and film and audio installations. It contextualises the wider cultural significance of hair, and the silent but key role of the session stylist within fashion.

Photo credit Peter Macdiarmid.
Photo credit Peter Macdiarmid.
Photo credit Peter Macdiarmid.
Photo credit Peter Macdiarmid.

During the forty years of his career, McKnight’s work traces a vast array of movements and hairstyles, from Hollywood glamour to androgynous, romantic to sexy, red to platinum, cataloguing the transformative nature of hair within the image. He has collaborated with some of the best names in the fashion industry: photographers Nick Knight and Mario Testino; legends such as Karl Lagerfeld/Chanel, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Balmain and Fendi, to name just a few.

Photo credit Peter Macdiarmid.
Photo credit Peter Macdiarmid.

McKnight is behind some of the most iconic images in modern history: from Princess Diana’s short, slicked-back style, Madonna’s Bedtime Stories cover, Cate Blanchett getting her Oscar, Tilda Swinton channelling Bowie, Lady Gaga, Uma Thurman, Björk… plus countless covers (including over 190 Vogue covers), advertising campaigns and editorial stories with all the supermodels, including Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Cara Delevigne.

Kate Moss by Nick Knight, Vogue UK, September 2000. Courtesy of Nick Knight.
Kate Moss by Nick Knight, Vogue UK, September 2000. Courtesy of Nick Knight.
Sam McKnight with Linda Evangelista and Jesse the chimp, Los Angeles, 1992. © Laspata Decaro.
Sam McKnight with Linda Evangelista and Jesse the chimp, Los Angeles, 1992. © Laspata Decaro.
Tilda Swinton, Vogue Italia, February 2003 © Craig McDean, Courtesy Art + Commerce.
Tilda Swinton, Vogue Italia, February 2003 © Craig McDean, Courtesy Art + Commerce.
Uma Thurman German Vogue 1992 by Sheila Metzner.
Uma Thurman German Vogue 1992 by Sheila Metzner.

A compilation of his best work has been put together in a book, Hair by Sam McKnight, published by Rizzoli and available for £35. Richly illustrated, the book is organised by theme and includes McKnight’s informative commentary on some of fashion’s most memorable looks. It also features texts from Karl Lagerfeld, Amanda Harlech, Nick Knight, Camilla Morton, and Anna-Marie Solowij.

© Alexei Hay, Trunk Archive.

© Alexei Hay, Trunk Archive.

Patrick Demarchelier © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd.
Patrick Demarchelier © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd.
Karlie Kloss for British Vogue, November 2015. Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.
Karlie Kloss for British Vogue, November 2015. Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.
Cate Blanchett, Vogue USA, January 2014 © Craig McDean.
Cate Blanchett, Vogue USA, January 2014 © Craig McDean.

For the first time, Somerset House will be opening late on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings until 8pm with a ‘LATES’ programme, in partnership with THE OUTNET.com. This will include a special programme of events entitled ‘Fashionably Lates’ taking place on four Tuesdays throughout the exhibition run.

These Fashionably Lates take the form of an ‘in-conversation’ discussion; speakers will include model Jeny Howorth with fashion critic Tamsin Blanchard (6th December), Sam McKnight with co-founder of BeautyMART, Anna-Marie Solowij (20th December) and renowned make-up artist Mary Greenwell with beauty columnist Sali Hughes (10th January).

Photo credit Peter Macdiarmid.
Photo credit Peter Macdiarmid.

SEEN strongly recommends this exhibition to you. Book your tickets here.

Meanwhile, watch this short film produced by Somerset House, directed by Nova Dando and with music by Lou Hayter and Nick Phillips for The New Sins. It features film excerpts, courtesy of: ‘Lily Donaldson’s Flying Hair by Matthew Donaldson’; Hair by Sam McKnight; ‘Introducing Hair: Mastered with Sam McKnight’, courtesy of Mastered. To include behind-the-scenes footage by Eamonn Hughes, Pal TV, Geoff Taylor. Also filmed content from the book, Hair by Sam McKnight, published by Rizzoli.

Hair by Sam McKnight
2nd November 2016 – 12th March 2017
www.somersethouse.org.uk

Somerset House
Embankment Galleries
South Wing
Strand
London
WC2R 1LA

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