Bill Cunningham: From the Runway to the Street

As part of the “Fashion and Style in Photography 2021” festival, the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow presents for the first time an exhibition of the work of the legendary American photographer Bill Cunningham.
The project is presented by the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York, curated by Anna Zaitseva.

With over 150 unique photographs spanning five decades, the ‘Bill Cunningham. From the Runway to the Street’ exhibition is not just a chronicle of fashion trends from the street to the elite, but a testament to life in the great metropolis that has little moving. resemblance to the New York of today.

Cunningham was a keen observer of the various intersections of cosmopolitan life. His photographs capture clothing in the three arenas where fashion is disclosed to the public: haute couture shows, parties and events and, above all, the street style of New York and Paris. The photographs portray the evolution of trends and attitudes that spoke of politics and moments of cultural transition. Celebrities and ordinary people alike have found the same exposure through Cunningham’s lens. His goal and pleasure was to portray stars such as Diana Vreeland, Anna Wintour, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, David Bowie, Gianni Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Luciano Pavarotti, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and people with a distinct style that they distinguished out among the many walking along Fifty-seventh Street.

In the introduction to the 2019 publication “Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography”, Cathy Horyn, esteemed fashion critic and former writer for “The New York Times,” wrote: “[Bill] first wave of women to ditch their heels and go to work in trainers, the return of the zoot suit, the phenomenon of low-rise jeans, the fashion of camouflage, and a hundred different ways in which New Yorkers style a storm. He believed that a true portrait of fashion – and, by inference, of the times – depended on seeing how real people dressed, whether they were children in deconstructed hoodies or big spenders at a charity event. The runway wasn’t enough, so hit the streets every day with his camera.”

As evidenced in his “Evening Hours” column for “The New York Times,” Cunningham apparently never missed an upscale event or party, sometimes attending up to twenty in a week. He was able to mingle with the guests while remaining separate enough to create compelling and heartfelt images. However, Cunningham’s “On the Street” column was where the photographer’s eye and instinct – for people, clothes and accessories – really captured the verve of both the city that never sleeps, both of the city of light.

About the Author

Born in 1929 and raised in Massachusetts, Cunningham briefly attended Harvard University before moving to New York to pursue a career as a milliner.

A portrait of Bill Cunningham

After designing hats for several years and working with bespoke retailers Chez Ninon, Cunningham observed women’s fashion trends moving away from headwear. With that in mind, he then made the prescient transition to journalism. Working as a columnist for “Women’s Wear Daily” and as a New York-based reporter for “The Chicago Tribune” in the mid-1960s, Cunningham began what became a lifelong career in fashion journalism. First writing columns, and then publishing photographs starting in 1967, Cunningham spent much of his career working for “The New York Times”. However, while closely safeguarding his freelance freedom (he often contributed to well-known fashion magazines such as “Vogue” and “Town & Country” and helped launch “Details” in 1982) he did not officially join the staff, until 1994. Cunningham remained at “The Times” until his death in 2016.

Cunningham’s life and work have been written in numerous publications and have been the subject of an award-winning documentary, “Bill Cunningham New York” (2010) and the recent “The Times of Bill Cunningham” (2018). Also, at the time of his death, Cunningham left behind the manuscript of an autobiography he titled “Fashion Climbing”, which was published posthumously in 2018. The Bill Cunningham Foundation was established to promote and support photography and the legacy of Cunningham.

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