102 // HOME, SWEET ELIZABETH
Famed artist Catherine Opie offers an intimate look into the life of Elizabeth Taylor through “700 Nimes Road,” a photographic exhibit of Taylor’s home and belongings.
FAMED ARTIST CATHERINE OPIE OFFERS AN INTIMATE LOOK INTO THE LIFE OF ELIZABETH TAYLOR THROUGH “700 NIMES ROAD,” A PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBIT OF TAYLOR’S HOME AND BELONGINGS.
Fans of Elizabeth Taylor will soon find themselves one step closer to the iconic legend. NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale is giving a rare glimpse into the inner sanctum of the Hollywood star (and activist), through artist Catherine Opie’s photography exhibit “700 Nimes Road.”
Opie spent six months documenting Taylor’s home and belongings, during which time the actress suddenly died. “Once she passed away, I realized that this is really the last portrait of Elizabeth in some ways,” Opie says. “So you feel that you’re not just looking at an archive of belongings; the notion of [her] home is really embedded within the body of work.”
That’s because “700 Nimes Road” strays far from the staged portraits of celebrity homes we’re used to seeing. They’re intimate images—shots of the star’s extensive wardrobe, her priceless jewels (“She loved to be adored and adorned,” says Opie), tweezers at her makeup table, and art at every corner. The impressive collection included a painting Taylor made herself as a teen, as well as horse sculptures done by her daughter, Liza.
As for Taylor’s connection to Hollywood, Opie says that one element truly stood out. “A lot of personal items in relationship to Michael Jackson—from gifts to a shirt that hung in her closet to his memorial photograph on her bedside table. I knew that she had a friendship with Michael, but I didn’t know what a deep friendship that was.” She also noticed a message on Taylor’s mirror, written in lipstick by actor Colin Farrell, that said he was going to take her on a quest for “Japanese beef.”
NSU Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater, who tracked the project at its 2014 Art Basel preview, says, “There’s a very strong femininity, almost a clichéd femininity.” She points to Taylor’s assortment of Chanel shoes as a favorite image. “These beautiful Chanel shoes with the hand-carved camellia flower on them—they are all a slightly different hue, but it’s the same shoe.”
After a two-year editing process, Opie hopes viewers see Taylor as a multidimensional person rather than just a movie star. “Celebrities [are] also human,” she says. “I think we forget this in our very celebrity-saturated world.”
Clearwater agrees: “One of the last photographs is of shopping bags with jewelry being taken off to Christie’s. How quickly we go from life to death. But at the same time, hers was a life really well spent.” February 12–June 14, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500; nsuartmuseum.org
Catherine Opie shot Handbag Reflection while documenting Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air home. From the “700 Nimes Road” portfolio, 2010–2011, on display at NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale.
clockwise from left: Elizabeth Taylor in an undated shot. Images from the “700 Nimes Road” portfolio: A portrait of Taylor by Andy Warhol, with the reflection of Opie visible in the glass; a holiday ornament hanging in a window of Taylor’s home; the trophy room; feminine balloon shades.