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Fang_and_Chanel[1]

Fang and Chanel © Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

The_Shoe_closet[1]

The Shoe Closet © Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

In the winter of 2011, Elizabeth Taylor spent her days upstairs in her private suite at 700 Nimes Road in Bel Air; downstairs, she had permitted Los Angeles photographer Catherine Opie access to explore and shoot the home where her children, grandchildren, and many cherished dogs, cats, and parrots, had played. The two women were separated only by a few floors, and yet six weeks after Opie embarked on the project, Taylor was taken to the hospital, where she later passed away, and the pair would never have the chance to meet in person.

Opie’s first encounters with Taylor came when she was a child; Sundays were spent with her mother, watching the actress play out her many roles on screen. As an adult, Opie joined ACT UP and fought to save lives and eradicate the stigma in the wake of a rapidly spreading AIDS; in 1987, she watched as Elizabeth Taylor penned a personal cri de coeur to then-President Ronald Reagan in which she wrote of the disease, “It’s nobody’s fault and everybody’s problem.”

Opie had no hopes of “archiving” Taylor’s belongings; she herself had very little interest in fancy dresses and glittering jewels. Instead, she wanted to construct what might be called a visual biography, to tell the story of Elizabeth Taylor through the place she called home. Over a six month period, the photographer wandered slowly from room to room, having lunch with the staff, and capturing the scene. She photographed the jewelry collection; she photographed the letters; she photographed the little cemetery where Taylor’s late pets were buried.

When Taylor died in March, Opie had been at the house for three months, and would stay for three more, watching as the actress’s possessions were packed away. The pets so dear to Taylor went to live elsewhere. On the day the jewels were to leave the house to be auctioned by Christie’s, Opie held a moment of silence amongst the emeralds and diamonds, as they sparkled in the sunlight.

Taylor’s home was a private space, her sanctuary, and the press was rarely allowed access. And yet, in her last months there, she welcomed Opie inside. Ingrid Sischy, an art critic and friend of Taylor who sadly passed away in 2015, confesses in her essay in Opie’s book that the star didn’t much like the pretense of having her picture taken, of posing this way and that and being praised for her beauty. The photographs in 700 Nimes Road, a portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, are in all ways not those pictures. Opie’s picture of Elizabeth’s life is one where the superficial counts for little; it’s one woman looking at another nakedly and without affectation, photographing what she left behind.

700 Nimes Road, a portrait of Elizabeth Taylor is published by Delmonico Books • Prestel. Work from 700 Nimes Road will be on view at MOCA Pacific Design Center beginning January 23rd.

Krupp_Diamond[1]

Krupp Diamond © Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

AIDS_activist[1]

AIDS Activist © Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

Kitchen_table[1]

Kitchen Table © Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

Livingroom_North_View[1]

Living Room North View © Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

The_Closet_9[1]

The Closet #9 © Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

TheQuest_for_JapaneseBeef[1]

The Quest for Japanese Beef © Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

MINE[1]

MINE! ©Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

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