Lenny Kravitz: The man of many talents
We caught up with the musician and multi-hyphenate as his touring exhibition Assemblage adds curator to his CV
Musician, interior designer, creative director, photographer, Gentleman’s Journal cover star – if there were ever a man to fit the polymath bill it would be Lenny Kravitz. Not that he’s stopping at just the four job titles. Kravitz has recently added another string to his bow: curator.
When we meet Assemblage, the photography exhibition Kravitz has shot and curated as part of his duties as creative director of champagne house Dom Perignon, has just landed in London after stints in New York and Milan on its world tour. Inspired by Ron Gallela, the paparazzi photographer made famous for his black-and-white images taken at Studio 54, the exhibition documents the progression of a Dom Perignon-fuelled party attended by celebrities including Susan Sarandon (‘timeless’), Harvey Keitel (‘one of the coolest men ever’), Abbey Lee (‘so striking’) and Kravitz’s own actor daughter Zoe.
The shoot was done, in true Kravitz style, with relaxed nonchalance and just a dash of risk. “I didn’t want it to be staged because the whole thing is about moments in life,” he explains. “So I put together this group of people I thought would be interesting and eclectic. We let people get comfortable and it turned into this house party that went on into the night and I just captured it.” The only catch? The venue for the party, a Hollywood Hills home designed and built by Kravitz, had just sold and was due to be handed over to the new owners the next morning. Like we said – a dash of risk.
In the end – thanks, one imagines, in no small part to the army of assistants Kravitz admits were in attendance – no harm was done to the house. The resulting images, meanwhile, have an air of glamour and spontaneity which Kravitz puts down to the absence of staged lighting (he shot with a Leica and a handheld flash). They are in short, beautiful images of stylish people having fun that any champagne brand would want to be associated with. The public reception, Kravitz says, has been equally encouraging. “I think they’re surprised so I know they’re genuinely digging it. It’s hard for people to care about anything these days so to get any kind of reaction is beautiful.” Mission accomplished.
Of course, his creative director duties don’t stop there. The exhibition’s star-studded London opening night, attended by the likes of Princess Beatrice, Erin O’Connor, Neneh Cherry and Eva Herzigova, also marked the launch of a homeware collection designed by Kravitz for Dom Perignon.
The range consists of two limited edition vintages with hammered metal labels, a special Vintage 2008 presentation box that transforms into a candelabra and a coffee table that unfolds to reveal a central area with built-in ice bucket and space for champagne and glasses. Unlike some artistic collaborations – a signature here, a special colourway there – these objects feel solid, well thought-out and genuinely investable. Which, at £2,750 for the candelabra and £63,000 for the table, they certainly need to be.
Kravitz name checks revered Italian designer Willy Rizzo as a reference before going on to explain that, along with being dynamic and sensual, his main aim in all areas of interior design – he has has his own firm since 2003 – is comfort. “Early on I was into certain things that looked really great but they weren’t conducive once you tried to engage with them,” he says. “I ended up thinking, ‘This is my own house and I haven’t been in that room in two months. It looks great when I pass it but it doesn’t make me want to go in.’” For evidence of a lesson well learned simply check out our video (below) shot in Kravitz’s Paris home – a tribute to the virtues of deep armchairs, tactile rugs and plentiful soft furnishings.
With another successful project under his belt and another hyphen added to his job title, what does Kravitz put this wide ranging creative success down to? “I’m always really interested in things I know nothing about,” he says simply. “I think you can be born with different talents but you can also cultivate these things. I had a love for photography but I didn’t know how to use the camera properly so I asked the amazing photographers who were shooting me to teach me.” So, with a bit of hard work and the right teacher, anyone can be the next Lenny Kravitz? Not quite. “They can’t teach you how to have an eye or have style but they can teach you the technicals. I had it in me but I had to learn and cultivate.” Best stick with the day job then gents.
Lenny Kravitz is the cover star of the Art & Design issue of Gentleman’s Journal. Subscribe to get your copy here.