Show and Teller

Marc Jacobs’ advertisements and the strange worlds they depict, with their ample negative space and kooky people doing mundane things, have been essential imagery in fashion magazines for ten years and counting. This unique longevity is the result of the friendship between the New York designer and Bavarian-born photographer Juergen Teller, a creative collaboration now compiled in the 576 pages of “Marc Jacobs Advertising 1998-2009” (Steidl).

That the campaigns remain fresh after a decade has to do with a growing clique of subjects culled from the NY-Paris-London-LA circuit of privileged hipsterdom: Michael Stipe, Sofia Coppola, Jarvis Cocker, Winona Ryder, Rufus Wainwright, etc. Beyond that, to most people, the ads and situations in them are a little baffling, which of course is a hallmark of the Jacobs mystique: you either “get it” or you totally don’t. A gifted provocateur who has creative carte blanche from Jacobs, Teller is somehow able to make these sophisticates do almost anything he wants for his camera—rarely flattering and often explicit, ridiculous or puerile. Take, for example, Victoria Beckham’s spread legs coming out of an oversized Marc Jacobs shopping bag, a clever commentary on her obsession with designer clothes.

To the high-minded, the book justifies its existence as a record of bizarre early 21st-century avant-garde tastes, sure to come in handy when, a hundred years from now, scholars of aesthetic anthropology uncover the images and ponder why a pair of pudgy twins in disguise (Cindy Sherman and Teller himself) seemed like the height of chic in 2005. Without a foreword or essays, the book makes no attempt to answer such questions.

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