The look of wealth

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“Generation Wealth” Exhibition by Lauren Greenfield at ICP Museum


  • “Generation Wealth,” an exhibit of photographs by Lauren Greenfield, is on view through January 7 the ICP Museum, 250 Bowery. Photo: Sharon Choe

What Kim Kardashian and Tupac Shakur have in common is fame, money and a penchant for showing it off.

They were also both photographed in the early 1990s by photojournalist and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, who is perhaps best known for her 2012 documentary “Queen of Versailles.” Both celebrity icons feature in Greenfield’s book and an accompanying exhibition “Generation Wealth,” currently at the International Center of Photography Museum on the Bowery.

“Generation Wealth” showcases 25 years of Greenfield’s work documenting these changing values vis-à-vis material wealth in American life and abroad.

Greenfield recently suggested that the rise of reality television and social media in the roughly 25 years since those images were taken helped spawn a generation of kids who want to be two things when they grow up: rich and famous.

The Los Angeles-raised artist’s first, and perhaps most innocent, project, “Fast Forward,” captures the spectrum of experience among L.A.’s youth in the ‘90s, affected as they were even then by the culture of money and Hollywood. Opening with sunny images of teenagers driving up California’s Pacific Coast Highway, the photo series unfurls to reveal shadier sides of the sun-filled coast: drug abuse, cultural appropriation, and preoccupation with appearances underlying the lives of children and young adults coming of age in the City of Angels. The obsession with money and looks in this formative series presages Greenfield’s subsequent explorations into celebrity culture, eating disorders, plastic surgery, grotesque wealth and material destitution.

Curated by the artist herself, the collection chronicles the perversion and degradation of the human experience in the last quarter-century through people’s increasing deification of the superficial. The images, vivid in color and graphic in content, provoke a visceral reaction in the viewer who cannot escape recognizing the contemporary values at play.

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