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Showstudio

Props from iconic shoots meet themed exhibits in a stimulating visual arena.

November 24 2010
Avril Groom

Successful fashion photographer and video maker Nick Knight has commissioned a wealth of props for shoots, many painstakingly created by artists, yet fated to be broken up and binned. About 18 months ago, he says, “I began to feel it was very wasteful when we are encouraged to conserve and recycle. These beautiful objects could have another life in someone’s house. I also wondered what happened to props from iconic shoots of the past, and decided to try and track those down, too.”

His idea came to life a year ago in the plain white gallery attached to the offices of his Showstudio fashion-film website, in the quaint Mayfair building that used to be the Maison Martin Margiela store. Proceeds are shared between the artist and the gallery.

This source of unique and highly imaginative objects and gifts – perfect for special occasions – opened with a random selection of props including a stuffed tiger and a beautifully crafted, miniature Victorian greenhouse by Simon Costin (sadly sold) but has moved on to themed exhibitions, including specially commissioned pieces, organised by curator Carrie Scott. The current one is based on flowers and still life, celebrating Showstudio’s first decade and Knight’s interest in floral photography. The back wall is filled with a huge, hand-tinted, extraordinarily intense and lifelike Knight print, Rose (£15,000, edition of 10), while on other walls flowers appear to grow up and die back in a digital projection by his collaborator Daniel Brown (£5,000). The room’s centrepiece is an exuberant ceramic pot featuring flowers and sexually ambivalent animals by voguish US artist Jeffry Mitchell ($8,000) but there is also a collection of smaller, 12in flower pieces (up to £500) by a cast of well-known names, from set designer Michael Howells and fashion designer Gareth Pugh to pop icon Lady Gaga.

“I wanted to show the history of still life in context,” says Scott, “so we have a 16th-century Dutch painting of roses to compare with Nick’s print.” Another aspect of still life is illustrated by Naomi Filmer’s hand-blown glass spheres, which are moulded round casts of a client’s (or their child’s) toe and heel (£10,000). Upstairs is the prop collection, some from well-known advertisements, such as the lacquered paper collage Japanese umbrella that John Galliano made for an early Dior campaign (£9,000), a Coney Island-style sign with light bulbs made by Andy Hillman for Peter Jensen’s 2006 fashion show (£15,000) and seat-sized glossy fibreglass cherries made by Simon Costin for a Tim Walker shoot (£2,500).

Future exhibitions may be even more ambitious. Knight has traced the Cadillac that Guy Bourdin owned and used in several 1970s shoots, and plans to build an event round that next year.