Somerset House is looking as beautiful as it always does at this time of year. Its regal Christmas tree, surrounded by deliciously tasteful decorations, makes for a thrilling sight, and its ice rink has become a seasonalStrandlandmark. Its allure has not been lost on an array of celebrities including Lily Cole and Emma Watson, who are known devotees of the rink’s club nights. However, there is more on offer here than these wintry delights. That is what I love about Somerset House – its ability to host a diverse range of exhibitions and events under one roof and still retain its essential charm.
One of its current exhibitions is an homage to the first twenty years of “Dazed and Confused” magazine, which was established by Rankin and Jefferson Hack in London in 1991. The display is arranged as eclectically as one might expect, as spreads from the magazine appear on angular structures arranged around the room and interspersed with mirrors.
It was the effect of the mirrors which I found especially appealing. There was one point in the room where I could stand, looking at the mirrored edge of a display, and find myself staring into the eyes of a broodingly seductive Kate Moss. This photograph appeared at the end of a line of the magazine’s cover stars. The images were entirely distinctive from each other, but, when placed together, immensely powerful.
The colours which the artists used are intense and vivid, creating a sense of the youthful joie de vivre embodied by their subjects. They seem to have found the perfect combination of style and innovation, which dares the viewer not to be captivated.
The exhibition coincides with the launch of Rankin’s new biannual magazine, “The Hunger”, which is as visually opulent as one might expect. It occurred to me that Rankin has a lot in common with Hollywood’s “Golden Age” portrait artists – he creates icons and truly understands glamour and celebrity – and he presents this with an irresistible vivacity.