’Because I will tell you something,’ Berge said. ’I think photography is like fashion. That means it is not an art.'
Pierre Berge was surprisingly outspoken on the subject of the place of photography and fashion in the fine arts when he spoke to the Observer Magazine in advance of the auction last year.
The reporter (me) had expressed surprise that he and Saint Laurent had worked with the world’s greatest photographers but had never collected photographs.
‘Because I will tell you something,’ Berge said. ‘I think photography is like fashion. That means it is not an art. But fashion and photography need an artist to exist.’
The reporter noted that Henri Cartier-Bresson had stopped being a great photographer to concentrate on his not great paintings.
‘I love Cartier-Bresson. I knew him very, very well with his famous small Leica,’ Berge said. ‘He was a genius! Yes? Saint Laurent is a genius, Cartier-Bresson is a genius. Irving Penn is a genius. And Balenciaga, and Chanel. But where is the work of art? That is the paradox. Paradox you say in English? That is the paradox of the fashion business, of the couturier.
‘Saint Laurent is an artist, a great artist. But you cannot hang a dress like a painting. No?’
All that said it is perhaps curious that Pierre Berge has withdrawn four Warhol portraits of his former partner from Warhol’s Wide World, the show that is now up at Le Grand Palais, which just happens to be where the auction was held. His beef was that they hung alongside Armani and Sonia Rykiel in the ‘Glamour’ section and that the organisers had refused his demand that they be rehung elsewhere.
‘I don’t deny that he was a designer, that was how he described himself, but I think he was much more than that,’ Berge said.