IKEA Brings Home Décor, Art, and Annie Leibovitz to Paris Fashion Week

There’s no home brand quite as ubiquitous as IKEA. It would be hard to find someone in any major city that doesn’t own at least one piece of the Swedish powerhouse, be it a Malm dresser or a throw pillow. IKEA cares deeply about how we feel in our spaces, which is evident in the furniture company’s annual Life at Home Report. The most recent findings reveal that 48 percent of people feel like their residences aren’t represented in the world today. This startling admission prompted the first-ever IKEA+ exhibition during Paris Fashion Week, open now through March 3.

a person working in a factory

Annie Leibovitz

Yusuke Onimaru in his Tokyo studio.

The exhibit, staged in a warehouse in the 11th arrondissement, is all-encompassing, and features several ambitious projects meant to highlight the meaning of home. As part of it, world-renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz traveled to Germany, India, Italy, Sweden, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States and documented people in their households. The 25 portraits depict families, teenagers, and senior citizens alike in their intimate environments. Additionally, Leibovitz and Ingka Group Creative Director Marcus Engman selected six amateur photographers to mentor and showcase, each of whom were given the same task as Leibovitz. The experimental fashion school Casa 93 also handpicked six designers to create vignettes that represent what home means to them through IKEA textiles and products. Finally, the dynamic duo Raw Color teamed up with IKEA for TESAMMANS, a home collaboration featuring 15 different colors combined on throws, pillows, and small home goods that are both visually exciting and specifically made for small spaces.

a living room with a couch and a table

Courtesy of IKEA

The colorful TESAMMANS IKEA collaboration with Raw Color.

All in all, there is truly something for everyone at this exhibition, whether you’re a casual IKEA fan, a die-hard photo fiend, or someone looking to explore the idea of home. Ahead of the opening, sat down with Leibovitz to discuss her travels, mentoring the next generation of photographers, and where she feels most at home.

For this project, you traveled to 25 homes in seven countries. Was there one particular house or place that stood out to you?

The place became a given idea. If I lean on the space too much, I start to lose the portrait. So, I was in this funny position of being interested in the people and not really interested in doing something that’s already been done. So, that’s the art of it, and that’s the fun of it. It was painful for me not to photograph one fishing family in the water. I can’t believe what I finally did, which is not show the water at all. The only saving grace is, there’s a little painting included that shows you the sea. And it has a surfboard.

Is there a destination you visit a lot that feels like home to you now, apart from your own in New York City?

That’s a long, complicated question, because when I moved to New York in 1978 or 1979, I thought I was going to be there for a year, so I never really felt like I was living in New York. I kept thinking that I was going to return to California, because I loved California. But growing up, my father was in the military, so we moved all the time, and we’d live in our car. I was born in Connecticut, but we left when I was a baby. I always thought the car culture of California appealed to me, and I did love getting out in a car and driving. I always thought I would get back to California, but then I had my children. I have a place in upstate New York, in Hudson Valley, that is really my family’s home. I have a place in New York, but I’m not a city girl. There’s a John Hiatt song called “Adios to California,” and I play it a lot. I always thought I’d get back to California. But, California isn’t California anymore, that’s the problem. I’ve been in New York for 30 years, so…

Where in California did you live?

I went to school at the San Francisco Art Institute. I started working for Rolling Stone before I finished school, and I was in San Francisco for about 10 years. Then, I moved with Rolling Stone to New York thinking it was only going to be a year or something.

And here we are now, 30 years later.

Exactly. I mean, the place upstate is quite nice. It’s where I raised my children, and it has a vegetable garden, walking trails, and a pond. We’re crazy about our pond, we love to jump in.

Tell me about the mentees in this exhibition and the process of selecting them.

It’s the heart of all of this, it’s the thing that makes you feel okay about everything. [IKEA] had pulled in over 500 people who wanted to do it, and Marcus and I got together and looked at maybe 40 at that point. I wanted to take them all and try to figure out how to do it, because they were all compelling in one way or another. We did narrow it down to five, but we added one back. I had this idea, because when I went to school at the San Francisco Art Institute, we really learned from each other. We’d go out and shoot and come back to the studios and put our work on the wall, and everyone would see each other’s photographs, and that is where we learned. I thought of that idea and we met; I had a wall, and they would send me the photographs, and I would pin them all up, and then we’d go through each one of them. They did start to influence each other a little bit. And they could talk to each other without talking to me or Marcus; they could continue the conversation without us. So, they were sort of smelling each other’s armpits and looking at each other, competing. It gets competitive and informative. Look at all the fucking countries they came from!

I know, there’s Nigeria, Ukraine, Vietnam…

Praise Hassan, the Nigerian girl—she’s a great photographer. She took the assignment, she moved in with that woman. She was the only one who literally moved in. And she took it seriously. They all have their own stuff. Toma Hurdac, the photographer who did the little squares in his apartment with his girlfriend, he’s actually a very, very good photographer, too. It was brave of him to stay home and photograph his girlfriend, and it was tough for him. He’s quite good; he’s quite a good journalist, actually. The French photographer [Zélie Hallosserie] is fascinating as well. She’s into The Zone of Interest kind of framing, and it’s so French. I liked it because it was so beautiful, but strange.

Then, the Ukrainian [Elena Kalinichenko] has such a heartbreaking story—we were just sobbing all the time. Tram is really making her way. It was really hard for her because her mother had just died. Her brother and her father didn’t want to be photographed. I just kept saying, “Go back, go back, go back.” Of course they’re not going to like it. They really blew me away, I was going to cry. The American [Ka’Vozia Glynn], she walked into that house, and she became a photographer.

It was interesting for me to see young people’s perspectives reflected in the work, because it’s a really formative time in their life. The last four years have been challenging for everybody.

Everyone has to hire these kids. That’s going to be the hardest thing for them, getting to the next thing. It’s so interesting. I have three children, and one of them was a 2020 graduate from high school. For her to go on to college…it was just rotten for these kids. They look younger today. I think they look young, then I think they look older. I mean, their work is older. Something is going on with them. Anyway, when I met with them to see the work they were finalizing, they all did it. I was like, “You all fucking did it!”

Besides a camera, what are you bringing with you when you’re traveling to all these places? What’s in your suitcase?

Clean underwear! I’m not buying any more clothes. I’m wearing the same clothes over and over again. I just make sure they’re clean. I don’t even have a bag; I hate bags, because when I was younger, I had to carry so many bags. I worked for the first 15 years [of my career] without assistants. I carried all that shit by myself, so I’m anti-bag. I think, like everyone else, the iPhone—let’s not call it an iPhone, let’s call it a camera phone—I didn’t want it to be so important. I’m a big believer in, it doesn’t matter how you get the picture. The cameras are improving more and more. I like the simplicity of having it on your body. And then, when you have children, you have to make sure you’re available. I use the phone for news now. It’s become—God, I hate to say it—but such a valuable tool.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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