eauty not perceived is a pleasure not felt,” wrote the Spanish-American poet and philosopher George Santayana, chosen by Karl Lagerfeld to introduce The Glory of Water, his latest photography book and exhibition supported by Fendi. “You know Santayana? I’m very happy that a young person, and from Asia, knows who he is. Not many people in Europe even do,” says Lagerfeld in surprise, after I cite the fascinating prologue to his 120-page cloth-bound book published by Steidl, which turns his lens on the iconic fountains of Rome. “Santayana’s The Sense of Beauty is one of my favourite books … ”
We are seated, just him and I, on deck chairs along the embankment of the Seine by the gilded Pont Alexandre III, the Eiffel Tower on the other side of the river beyond us, a fresh summer’s breeze enhancing the moment. Behind us, the exhibition space of five black vinyl geometrical domes, which mirror the major cupolas of Rome, casts a surreal presence against postcard Paris. Inside the exhibition, Lagerfeld’s deeply engaging photographs of Rome’s fountains in traditional daguerreotypes and platinotypes await their launch that very evening. The music of Vivaldi, the chiming sounds of fountain water, and smoke machines add to the supernatural ambience.
“You do what you feel, you do your work, and only later when you think it over, you think where comes the idea point, and how you approached the idea,” states Lagerfeld. “I didn’t start with a quote from Nietzsche or Santayana but only in retrospect did I feel it captured the very idea of this project.”
The designer’s photographic project marks a USD2.8 million restoration effort undertaken by Fendi to preserve Rome’s unique heritage, particularly the Trevi Fountain, the ‘Quattro Fontane’, and other iconic Roman fountains.
Rome, the birthplace for Fendi in 1925, has always been the city of its inspiration, and ‘Fendi for Fountains’ conceived by Pietro Beccari, chairman and chief executive of Fendi, is vital to “promote a positive message of reconstruction, renewal, and restoration far beyond its borders, as a strong sign of change.”
“It’s a way of giving back to the city that has given Fendi so much,” says Beccari, who immediately called the Mayor of Rome
A close-up of Fontana dei Tritoni
Fontana dei Leoni Capitolini
Karl Lagerfeld at the exhibition