Cecil Beaton: Celebrating celebrity

A retrospective of the iconic British photographer of the 20th century
Project Type:

440 sq. m.

100 items

State Hermitage Museum
Scope of works:

Interpretative planing


Exhibition design and Creative direction

Graphic design

Project management

State Hermitage Museum (The General Staff Building)
October 2020 - December 2020
The project team:

Julia Napolova

Anastasia Mokhova

Cecil Beaton happened to start his career at the cusp of a boom in celebrity and fashion cultures, which was boosted by photography. From the flowering of fashion magazines and Hollywood gorge in the 1930s to the ‘youthquake’ and reality TV of the 1960s, the strategies of performing stardom have been changing dramatically. Photography remained instrumental in gaining or increasing recognition and constructing an attractive public appearance. It is this side of the photographic profession, the theatrical sensibility and the social role inherent to photography that Cecil Beaton was most intrigued with. The exhibition tells his personal story intertwined with the history of celebrity culture.
In terms of architecture, it offers an experience of a lavish space, with the exhibition narrative luring and seducing the viewer in to explore emotionally the world of celebrity. The central installation is conceived so as to instantly overwhelm and astonish the visitor — a nod to Beaton’s masterity as a stage designer. The flamboyant decorative stucco walls swirl around the ‘core’ of the show: Beaton’s royal family portraits. With a dominantly monochrome color palette across the space, the dusty pink of this central area punctuates the deep tones of the prints. The central part of the installation, beads drop reminiscent of the interwar glamour (which is embodied in Beaton’s iconic shot of the “Silver Soap Suds” and portraits of Paula Gellibrandt, to name a few), almost takes it too far — just enough to suit Beaton’s artificiality and luxury. Its blinking and shimmering is opposed to the overall restrained design solution. Today, celebrity culture is tied to social media. The design of the exhibition embraces it by further increasing the Instagrammable potential of the space.