Throughout his forty-year career, Martin Parr has captured the telling details of class and social status with a merciless, satiric gaze. Along the way, he has become one of Britain’s most celebrated and best-loved photographers.
In Luxury, an exhibition now on show at Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum, Parr mingles with the internationally wealthy, travelling to art fairs, race courses, couture fashion shows and other places round the world where the rich gather together to show off and socialise. Champagne, cigars and women in voluminous furs clutching tiny dogs all feature heavily.
Shot over the last few years and seen today in the wake of the global economic downturn, many of Parr’s images now read like an elegy for an era of greed. But the show is also a reminder that the financial crisis has hit the west harder than other parts of the world. In emerging economies of the Arab states and the far east, the party is still raging. For Luxury, Parr travels to events such as the Dubai Art Fair and the Beijing Motor Show, where the flaunting of wealth remains de rigeur. And in Moscow, a city with more billionaires than anywhere else on Earth, he visits the Millionaires’ Fair, an annual exposition of materialist excess that continues to attract eager, and reliably showy, crowds.
To paraphrase Fitzgerald, the rich are different to you and I: they have less taste.