INSTALLATION : Mary Boone Gallery, New York.  September 2017.

On Thursday 7 September 2017, Mary Boone Gallery opened at its Fifth Avenue location an exhibition of new paintings by Will Cotton. The attractive elsewhere promised in the child’s board game Candy Land continues to serve Will Cotton as a metaphor for adult desire, temptation, and indulgence.

“Cocoa Queen”
85” by 54” (215 cm by 137 cm)

The paintings in the current exhibition meld this imaginary world with reality, as Cotton has invited his studio models to participate in a collective fantasy by selecting their own costumes from among a number that he has created. These dresses are constructed from contemporary commercial packaging materials for cacao beans, candy, donuts, and sugar. The alluring bright colors and bold graphics of these familiar brands are as captivating and comforting as the frosting crowns and lollipop trimmings are implausible and exotic.

75” by 50” (190 cm by 127 cm)

In the most recent painting “Departure”, Cotton alludes to an impending shift in the place his figures occupy. This model turns away from the viewer, one raised arm shielding her eyes from the glare of sun and cool blue water. Her outfit, made of cane sugar bags, blends in color and pattern with the deck on which she sits. She gazes toward an idling seaplane, the peppermint-striped letters of the carrier name mostly obscured but presumably Candyland Airways. The painting is an orchestration of layers of red and white, and the only thing edible is the model’s crown. A bag is packed, a plane awaits – perhaps the model is really reaching for her crown, ready to relinquish it and leave behind her realm where sweetness is the most prized attribute.

65” by 46” (165 cm by 116 cm)

The exhibition, at 745 Fifth Avenue, is on view through 28 October 2017. For further information, please contact Ron Warren at the Gallery, or visit  www.maryboonegallery.com.

80” by 50” (203 cm by 127 cm)


INSTALLATION : Mary Boone Gallery, New York.  September 2017.

On 9 September 2017, Mary Boone Gallery opened at its Chelsea location Fake News, an exhibition of new paintings by Peter Saul.

“Donald Trump in Florida”
78” by 120” (198 cm by 305 cm)

Peter Saul has maintained his over sixty-year career as an affront to good taste, political correctness, and Academic standards. His unmistakable paintings mash elements of Pop, Surrealism, comics, editorial cartoons, and adolescent doodles – they break down preconceptions of serious art and are impossible to forget.

“Quack-Quack, Trump”
78” by 120” (198 cm by 305 cm)

Saul’s high esteem among both his peers and much younger artists comes from this enduring conviction to define on his own terms what constitutes the appropriate subject matter and style for painting. In the current exhibition, Saul tackles art history and its celebrities, as well as a present-day aspirant and his conundrums. Rembrandt’s 1642 masterpiece is re-imagined as an unthreatening militia of costumed ducks in Nightwatch II, Gainsborough’s beloved portrait subject cools off in Blue Boy with Ice Cream Cone, and the Texas Revolution takes a gruesome turn in Return to the Alamo. Donald Trump in Florida and Quack-Quack, Trump depict our presiding President in a variety of ignoble situations, oblivious to the imminent catastrophe presented in Global Warming, the Last Beer.

“Return to the Alamo”
78” by 120” (198 cm by 305 cm)

Saul’s send-up of politics and former United States presidents is a highlight of the first comprehensive survey exhibition in Europe of his work that is being held at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, from 2 June through 3 September 2017.

The Mary Boone Gallery exhibition, at 541 West 24 Street, remains on view through 28 October 2017. For further information, please contact Ron Warren at the Gallery, or visit www.maryboonegallery.com.

“Blue Boy with Ice Cream Cone”
84” by 72” (213 cm by 183 cm)


Rei Kawakubo is a designer’s designer. Throughout the course of her 44-year long career, her work has showcased her as a premiere fine artist whose medium is fabric. Rei’s work moves beyond the human body, pushing past the boundaries of commerce and fashion and transcending into the poetic and conceptual world of thought. The late designer Lee Alexander McQueen said of Rei, “I think that every designer you ask will be influenced by Rei in one way or another but what makes them a good designer is them moving the Rei concept on for their own label – the tulle over a suit, masking a jacket over a coat, pearls trapped inside layers of fabric – moving it forward, not just taking it, digesting it and regurgitating it the same way.” Kawakubo, though short of stature and reserved in nature, is a goliath in the fashion world whose influence has extended through every level, down to the world of high street (Comme des Garcons’ collaboration with H&M is one of the most successful and well regarded to date). She has been accredited to influencing Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and has affected the worlds of technology, architecture, interior design, and many other creative industries due to her innovative thinking and the hands-on approach she takes to every aspect of her brand: from store design to web interface.

IRIS07_ReiKawakubo-1Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Body Meets Dress-Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kawakubo began her career as an outsider to the fashion world, studying fine art and literature at Keio University in Tokyo, this experience led to a deep understanding of the arts, poetry, and philosophy which can be seen in every garment and presentation that Kawakubo creates. After finishing her education, Kawakubo found herself working in the advertising department for a textile company, then as a freelance stylist, and subsequently designing for and launching her own label Comme des Garcons in 1973. Her label arrived on the Japanese fashion scene at the same time as Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, but what set her designs apart was her outsider view of fashion as a vehicle of sculpture and fine art rather than being formally trained in the classical ways of making clothing. In the early 1980’s she created an uproar at her debut Paris fashion show where journalists labeled her clothes ‘Hiroshima chic’ due to her frayed fabrics, distressed garments, dark color palette, and general aversion to traditional beauty.

Since the 1980’s, Kawakubo and Comme des Garcons have revolutionized the world of art, fashion, and design. The house has collaborated with many notable brands such as H&M, Converse All Star, Nike, Moncler, Chrome Hearts, Louis Vuitton, Supreme, and many others. Every fashion, art, and cultural influencer in the industry has been touched by Rei’s work in one way or another. Previous IRIS cover star and world famous milliner, Stephen Jones, once said in an interview, “Now, if you ask any designer who their favorite designer is, or who do they most respect, they will say Rei Kawakubo. I think that’s because she is a true original. She’s stuck to her guns. She does difficult things that are beautiful.” The work of Comme des Garcon is so richly layered throughout the decades that the upcoming retrospective exhibition delineates just an aspect of the beautiful work she has created.

Rei has always denied traditional titles of “fashion designer” or “artist, but prefers the more humble and interpretive epithet “clothes maker.” Recently, however, she’s begun to consider fashion as a form of art, and it is no doubt that the garments of Comme des Garcons are a fusion between art and fashion. This is a new inbetween space for Rei, at least on the level of self-awareness. Andre Bolton, the Head Curator of the exhibition, remarked: “She’s long occupied and explored another in-between space— Fashion/Commerce. From the outset of her career, Rei always viewed the creation of fashion and the business of fashion as a unified project. If, as Andy Warhol proposed, “Business Art is the step after Art,” Rei is its fashion manifestation. In this respect, Rei is an enigma, since her artistic practice remains legible and assertive, even in the context of its commerciality. Ultimately, it’s within this elastic zone between Fashion/Commerce that Rei’s “art of the in-between” occupies and most powerfully expresses itself.”

IRIS07_ReiKawakubo-3Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On display through September 4, 2017, the exhibition at the Metropolitan of Art’s Costume Institute is entitled Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. The retrospective exhibition is an examination of Kawakubo’s fascination with interstitiality, or the space between boundaries. This in-between space is revealed in Kawakubo’s work as an aesthetic sensibility, establishing an unsettling zone of oscillating visual ambiguity that challenges conventional notions of beauty, good taste, and fashionability. Rei Kawakubo, speaking of her own design choices, said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.” Not a traditional retrospective, this thematic exhibition will be The Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983. The Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas P. Campbell, remarks that “In blurring the art/fashion divide, Kawakubo asks us to think differently about clothing. Curator Andrew Bolton will explore work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that will challenge our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture.”

Kawakubo has broken the barrier between art and commerce by constantly searching for “newness”. Andre Bolton remarked that, “For Rei, however, her clothes are simply expressions of her endless search for originality or what she calls “newness.” In 1979—two years before her Paris debut—Kawakubo declared in an interview wit The New York Times: “I felt I should be doing something more directional, more powerful … [so] I decided to start from zero, from nothing, to do things that have not been done before, things with a strong image.” The concept of starting from nothing, a constant quest for reinvention, has ingrained itself into Rei’s design process. This is a mantra that guides Rei’s design decisions and creates fashions that not only stand apart from the genealogy of clothing but also resist and confound interpretation. She blurs the lines between garment and sculpture by obliterating our preconceived notions of the “shirt” or the “dress.”

Rei rarely has given any interviews. In fact, in one now fabled interview she reportedly drew a circle in black ink on a sheet of white paper and walked out; this served as an “explanation” to her then-collection Body Meets Dress — Dress Meets Body. Susannah Frankel, the fashion journalist who witnessed this performance, interpreted Rei’s answer as a demonstration of the collection’s indecipherability. Through the symbol of a circle, Rei was expressing the essential meaning of every collection: emptiness. Rei seems to enjoy confounding the editors, critics, and consumers of her work by offering obscure titles that serve to only muddy the waters of understanding. Bolton says of this Kawakubo phenomenon, “At best, they provide a code to be deciphered; at worst they serve as a red herring designed to divert, distract, and ultimately bewilder. Rei’s titles, like the collections themselves, can be read as Zen koans or riddles devised to expose the futility of interpretation. In Zen philosophy, koans are designed to confound the intellect by rendering analytical reasoning impossible. The most famous koan is mu, which roughly translates as emptiness. (…) It’s also central to the work of Rei, who as early as 1985 declared in Interview magazine: ‘The void is important.’”

Comme des Garcons is made up, conceptually, of space and emptiness. Most designers work to create volume and use materiality to take up space, but for Rei it is oftentimes more important to highlight the void — the space between. The exhibition’s title, “The Art of the In-Between”, comes from this poetic absence of space and Rei’s masterful hand at balancing tension between eight recurring themes: fashion/anti-fashion; design/not design; model/multiple; then/now; high/low; self/other; object/subject; and clothes/not clothes; all of which are explored in the Met’s retrospective exhibition in organized zones. “In her work, Rei breaks down the false walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness.” remarks Bolton informing about the inspiration behind the curation.

IRIS07_ReiKawakubo-2Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The first section of the sprawling exhibition—“Fashion/Anti-fashion”—centers on the early work of Comme des Garcons which debuted in Paris in the early 1980’s. The Parisian press had very strong reaction to the work owing to Rei’s apparent repudiation of Western fashion and its conventions. Bolton remarks, “These collections are significant for introducing the concepts of mu or emptiness, expressed through Rei’s monochromatic— principally black—color palette, and ma or space, expressed through outsized, loose-fitting garments that created a void between skin and fabric, and between body and clothes. (…) Wabi and sabi are aesthetic principles rooted in Zen Buddhism and are closely associated with the art of the tea ceremony. Wabi denotes decay and transience, while sabi denotes poverty and simplicity.” In Rei’s work, these Zen concepts are expressed through her work as asymmetrical forms, irregular finishes and trims, and imperfect creations.The tailoring and technical mechanics of dress-making are very important to Rei because they highlight the importance of the unfinished. Rei is the archetypal modernist designer. This modernism is most ardently expressed in her constant search for originality and “newness”. Rei is fascinated by the tension between originality and reproduction and between elite and popular culture, drawing parallels to other avant-garde modernists such as Warhol, Duchamp, and many other fine artists who play with similar themes.

Rei’s revolutionary experiments in fashion, art, and commerce have led to a natural hybridization in “in-betweenness,” which are taken to their logical conclusion in the final section of the exhibition—“Clothes/Not Clothes.” Focusing on Rei’s last eight collections, this wing of the retrospective represents her most radical, profound, and poetic ideas and creations that have never before existed in fashion. Rei’s previous collections have their confrontational novelty; however, they insist on existing as “apparel”. “These clothes are divorced from the delimiting requisites of utility and functionality and exist as purely aesthetic and conceptual expressions. The garments featured in “Clothes/Not Clothes” share qualities with sculpture as well as conceptual and performance artworks” explains Bolton.

In celebration of the opening, The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, took place on Monday, May 1, 2017. The evening’s festivities were co-chaired by Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Anna Wintour. Rei Kawakubo and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy served as Honorary Chairs. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements. The exhibition features approximately 150 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection. Kawakubo breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness. Her fashions demonstrate that interstices are places of meaningful connection and coexistence as well as revolutionary innovation and transformation, providing Kawakubo with endless possibilities to rethink the female body and feminine identity.

IRIS07_ReiKawakubo-4Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Body Meets Dress-Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Exhibition Dates: May 4-September 4, 2017|Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue|1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028|1(800)662-3397


Untitled #363, 1976/2000, gelatin silver print, framed: 115/8 x91/8 x1in.(29.53 x23.18 x2.54cm)

From her early beginnings photographing herself in costumes in the 1970’s to becoming
a legend in the realm of photography, Sherman has made herself a fixture in gallery spaces as well as auspicious private collections. Through her use of identity, acting, and exploring tropes of character development, Sherman has created some of the most thoughtful works of photography that hold up a mirror to society while simultaneously bringing humor and beauty. The Broad is not the first to put up an exhibition of Cindy Sherman’s work; however, The Broad has dedicated itself to the works
of Cindy Sherman for over thirty years and
its collection is unmatched. In order to truly understand the scope of Sherman’s work, it is necessary to experience it live, in person, and organized– like the scenes of a movie. It was
a privilege for us to speak with Philip Kaiser, the guest curator for this special exhibition, and learn how he directed these pieces and his interpretation of Sherman’s work.

Untitled #92, 1981 chromogenic color print, 24 x48in.(60.96 x121.92cm) | © Cindy Sherman, Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

Eli Broad collected Cindy Sherman’s work since the early 80’s and key pieces have been contributed to the exhibition from Metro Pictures, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and The Menil Collection. Do you know why Cindy Sherman was chosen to be The Broad’s very first exhibition? Was there any reason you were asked to be the guest curator for the show? Do you have a special relationship with Sherman’s work?

The Broad invited me to be the guest curator for this show. I have worked
with many artists of the so-called Pictures Generation – artists who combine interests in popular culture and conceptualism – and I am thrilled to have curated Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life at The Broad. With over 125 works by Cindy Sherman in the Broad collection, it is fitting that The Broad chose Cindy Sherman for the first special exhibition.

The Douglas Sirk reference “Imitation of Life” is the perfect description of identity, representation, and Hollywood tropes. How does having the show in Los Angeles act as a backdrop for this show and play with these ideas?

Cindy Sherman chose the title, and
not only does ‘Imitation of Life’ nod
to Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodrama, it
also emphasizes Sherman’s thorough relationship to movie culture, and of course imitation is at the core of her artistic practice. Located in Los Angeles, the heart of moviemaking, the exhibition’s theme is the relationship between Sherman’s work and the cinematic.

Upon entering the show, the scale of the site-specific murals is quite impressive and cinematic. We begin the exhibition in chronological order to explore Sherman’s early prints and collages in the 1970’s, which are relatively smaller. Then the works grow in size through time. How do you feel the grand scale of the photographs affect the viewer? As curator, how does
it affect your decisions in carving out the exhibition space?

The scale of Sherman’s work grows over time partly because of changes within the medium of photography that allowed artists to print larger. Photography is
still a fairly young medium within fine art, particularly when Sherman started working in the 1970s, and viewing Sherman’s work chronologically allows viewers to see some of the changes that have occurred within it in the past 40 years: from smaller scale to much larger formats, from analogue to digital, and most recently from chromogenic printing to dye sublimation, which is how her most recent body of work from this year is printed directly on aluminum.

Certain large-scale works affect the viewer by formally creating a bridge
to painting (the history portraits,
for example, are printed at a scale
that mimics old master paintings).
The wallpaper murals are taken from Sherman’s 1980 rear-screen projection series. The series uses the cinematic technique of projecting onto a translucent screen from behind and then posing in front to make it look like the subject is in another environment. In the murals for example, the characters appear to
be outside but the photographs were actually taken in the studio.

Untitled #447, 2005, chromogenic color print 48 x 72 in. (121.92 x 182.88 cm) © Cindy Sherman Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

In 1997, the MOCA Los Angeles exhibited a major retrospective of Cindy Sherman. Would you say “Imitation of Life” is a continuation of this discussion? How has her work evolved since then?

Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life is a survey of Sherman’s work made over
the last 40 years, centered on Sherman’s relationship to cinema. This exhibition includes work made as recently as this year, and presents many works that have never before been on view in Los Angeles. It also includes the feature length film that Sherman directed, Office Killer, further solidifying her connection to film.

A couple of my favorite series in this exhibition are the Centerfold series and the Pink Robe series. The idea of format orientation (horizontal vs. vertical) plays a very important role on “the male gaze” and the female form in art history to current images in magazines. Do you see Cindy Sherman as a feminist?

Cindy Sherman’s work dissects identity and representation within the realm of mass media in contemporary culture.
By photographing herself (she usually works alone), her chameleon-like personas generate work of utter beauty and disturbance, borrowing the language of media from cinema and television, to advertising, the internet, and old master paintings. Her persistence to focus on the fragmented self for almost forty years is radical and distinct.

While many critics and art historians have read Sherman’s work in relation
to feminism as well as many other theoretical frameworks, the artist does not subscribe to any one particular reading of her work. Certainly, Sherman’s work dissects how meaning is assigned to images, particularly images of women, in our contemporary world.

Are there any works that will be new to the Los Angeles patrons? There seems to be a heavy influence from film and Hollywood in the selected works; will we be seeing any never before seen cinematic work?

The exhibition is framed with works
that reference film; it begins with Cindy Sherman’s 1980 rear-screen projection photographs—reimagined as two massive murals—in which Sherman used a cinematic technique, and ends with the new works, inspired by film stars of a century ago. These new works are on view in Los Angeles for the first time after debuting in Sherman’s New York gallery this spring.

Untitled #474, 2008, chromogenic color print 90 3/4 x 60 in. (230.51 x 152.4 cm) © Cindy Sherman Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

In the The Broad app for the show, Humberto Leon, from design duo Kenzo, discusses Sherman’s keen understanding of the role of clothing, beauty, and fashion to create her images. How has Cindy Sherman challenged ideas of beauty and youth?

Sherman started creating works for various fashion magazines in the early 1980s, and in these works challenged ideas of beauty by placing the characters in positions that were less-than- aspirational. While fashion photography typically attempts to present our best selves, Sherman, wearing couture clothing, posed with messy hair, bruises, blood, and awkward facial expressions. Sherman questions more than just ideals of beauty though; she uses visual language from media and creates works that disrupt assumptions about beauty, status, vanity, and art itself.

Sherman has also done work with Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, and M.A.C. cosmetics and most recently dressed in popular fashion brands satirizing selfie poses for Harper’s Bazaar’s Project Twirl. Do you think Sherman’s work is holding up a camera or a mirror?

In 1981, Sherman was commissioned
by the art journal Artforum to create a body of work that has come to be commonly referred to as the centerfolds. Ultimately, Artforum chose not to publish the works in fear that they may be misunderstood. The reason I point this out is because as soon as 1981, Sherman was creating works that challenged audiences, pushing the boundaries
of what was expected. Sherman has
done many commissions since then,
and the resulting work has often been confrontational and challenging. As for your question, I think Sherman’s work uses the camera to mirror particular themes in society, often by means of humor, the grotesque, and artificiality.

Untitled Film Still #58, 1980, gelatin silver print, 8 x10in.(20.32 x25.4cm)

The show finishes with some of Sherman’s most recent works created in 2016 completing a range of work in four decades. As guest curator, could you go through your responsibilities and what you wanted to make sure visitors would take away from the exhibition?

It has been a huge privilege to work with Cindy Sherman’s artwork in the Broad collection. My curatorial effort has been to turn the Broad collection’s comprehensive holdings of Sherman’s work into a meaningful show, which requires editing, sorting, and generating connections between the series, as well as identifying and securing key loans.

This exhibition is on one hand a comprehensive survey of Cindy’s work, on the other hand it puts an emphasis on movie culture and the cinematic. Cindy Sherman is one if not the most influential contemporary living artists, and the exhibition offers the rare opportunity to be amazed by her various incarnations. The interconnectivity of each distinct series allows us to expand our ideas of Cindy’s practice and lets us understand how focused and broad the work has moved throughout the years.

Untitled #70, 1980 chromogenic color print, object:20 x24in.(50.8 x60.96cm) © Cindy Sherman, Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

Interview by Chelito Villaflor


iris04_mekas_webJohn & Yoko on a cruise boat up the Hudson river, July 7, 1971 | 17 x 22 inches, Archival Photographic Print. Edition of 3 + 2 AP, 2013

Recognized as one of the leading figures of American avant-garde filmmaking, Jonas Mekas is a pioneer in the craft and has become an icon in the world of fine art. Through his accomplished career as a filmmaker, photographer, poet and organizer, Mekas firmly established filmmaking as a widely accepted means of artistic expression. Through his lens, Mekas has captured some of the most beautiful, provocative, and interesting moments of celebrities, nature, and Mekas’ distinct view of life. Some of his most famous subjects include noted filmmakers, Jacqueline Kennedy, and artists like Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, and Elvis Presley. Another large portion of Mekas’ work is concerned with the more intrinsically personal moments of nature: family, being human, and appreciating life beyond the conventional.  Known also as a curator and an icon of contemporary American culture, Mekas documented the works of many other famous artists, notably listed are the works we have published here of John Lennon with Yoko Ono on a cruise boat and Andy Warhol posing with an academy award. Jonas Mekas’ work has been exhibited at the finest museums worldwide, and is this issue’s Icon in recognition of his lifetime of work innovating the world of film and photography.

-Benjamin Price

iris04_mekas_web2Andy Warhol, 1971 | 17 x 22 inches, Archival Photographic Print. Edition of 3 + 2 AP, 2013


Interview by Marc Sifuentes | Photography by Bettina Rheims


Madonna laughing and holding her breast, September 1994, New York © Bettina Rheims | Courtesy of Taschen

Today in social media, whether through Instagram or Facebook, there is heated debate throughout the world surrounding gender constructs and sexuality. Thanks to Bettina Rheims and other female pioneers of the arts, women are able to express their own views of what it means to be female through images rather than just words. Beginning her career in France in 1978, Bettina photographed the female body, and her love of shooting flesh began. Soon that love turned into a career of portraying women as raw, sexual, real, and obstinately their own. Now, from Lena Dunham to Laverne Cox, powerful influencers are free to share their own views of what they think it means to be a woman. Her latest book published by Taschen, self-titled Bettina Rheims, is the largest retrospective she has undergone so far, and each turn of the page exemplifies Rheims’ fascination with gender constructs, fragility and strength, and her signature blend of eroticism, vulnerability, and womanly beauty. We were fortunate enough to talk to Bettina and learn about how she first began behind the camera, working in photography for the past four decades, and what is next for her in the world of gender studies, fame, and feminism.

I wanted to start from the beginning of your career and ask if there was a single event which inspired your decision to become a photographer?

I never had a career plan; I never thought beyond the next step. When Serge Bramly gave me a camera in the mid-seventies, and I looked through the viewer, I had the feeling that I was home. I had all sorts of stupid jobs and none of them were really interesting to me. I looked through the viewer of that camera and I thought, “Wow this is incredible! I am going to spend the rest of my time focusing on what I want to look at and editing out the rest”. I never thought it could be a profession. I was raised to believe that I had to have a boring profession, and maybe I could do something on the side for pleasure. The idea that I was going to spend the rest of my life wanting to run to work was something I never thought about.

How do you feel your friendship with Helmut Newton influenced your career, if at all?

He became sort of my mentor. I met him through Nicole Wisniak who was doing this amazing magazine called Egoiste, and Helmut was her star photographer. They published my series of pictures of strippers, and Helmut said he wanted to meet the woman behind them. I was very shy about meeting him. He was something big, and I was only twenty-five years old. He decided he was going to coach me somehow. So, every Thursday when Helmut and (his wife) June were in Paris, we would meet for dinner and I would bring my latest pictures. He would criticize them, too much sometimes, but it grew into a real friendship. Helmut encouraged me a lot, he was the first person who told me I should work in color because I was only shooting in black and white. He said if I was going to be a photographer, I had to start shooting in color and going out in real life.

When Helmut would give you a harsh critique, did you ever argue that you had your own style and beliefs that you wanted to stay true to or did you absorb his criticism and learn from it?

I wasn’t taking all of his advice because his vision of women was so different from mine. Our pictures were very different. He was into luxury and treating women like objects in his photography, and I have a different relationship with women. One day I figured enough was enough and I decided “to hell with him” and I slammed the door on our relationship. We did not talk for awhile, but soon he came back. It was like it always was, but he never asked to see my pictures again. He would come to all of my shows though.

Do you remember what Mr. Newton might have said that upset you at that time?

Yes, I think it was some stupid ad job, and he said this horrible thing. He came to my studio one Sunday and he asked to see my latest work. There was a big portfolio that he started going through, and at one point he said, “Do people really pay you to do that?”. I was so offended. I wasn’t going to take it anymore. That was it professionally, but we stayed friends.

You were talking about the relationship you have with women as your subject, what do you feel are some of the main differences between European and American ideas of feminine sexuality?

I think we Europeans are a much more open and straightforward, and there is a lot of hypocrisy in America these days about magazines and what people do and show. What is “politically correct” has become huge in the States and if I had started my career again thirty years later I wouldn’t have found a magazine in the States, maybe a little underground magazine, but no major one would publish my work. In Europe, it’s different. We have always talked in a much more open way about sexuality. It’s not even an issue, it’s just there, a part of our everyday life. Not that I find European magazines very exciting these days, but basically I think we have lost a lot of our freedom. I used to love looking at photography books and magazines, and today I would not know what to buy. Everything bores me and it is so predictable.

I feel like there is a lot of political correctness happening right now which has censored and changed the dialogue of the arts. On Instagram you cannot even show a woman’s nipple without being reprimanded with a warning from the company.

Well, that’s ridiculous! I mean, this is part of the general hypocrisy!

It is also specific to women. If men are shirtless you can post as many nipples as you want, but if a woman does then the photo gets deleted and she becomes a target for bullies and internet trolls.

Well, beyond Instagram, do you think Robert Mapplethorpe could be doing today what he was doing decades ago throughout his whole career?

No, probably not. (laughs)

Probably not. We were pioneers! We were opening doors.

Rose Mc Gowan sinking in a bath of roses, September 1996, New York © Bettina Rheims | Courtesy of Taschen

You have allowed us to publish some of our favorite images from your new retrospective book published by Taschen entitled Bettina Rheims, could you tell us how you came up for the concept of Rose McGowan in a bathtub full of roses?

Well, I was working very closely with a magazine called Details, and at the time it was a very brilliant magazine. James Truman was the editor-in-chief, and they had a brilliant stylist, Bill Mullen, and we worked very closely together. I worked with them for probably four or five years, five or six times a year. They were inventing stories and I went to the states and shot them. I cannot remember exactly, but I do remember that everything came from our conversations with Bill. We were very free with the pictures and what we wanted to do, and the celebrities were also very free and very brave with the images. They were going ahead and giving their best, and it was really a very creative time for me. Bill and I had an ongoing conversation and I said let’s put her in the bathtub, and the roses would eventually appear and we started pulling them apart. I never really have a concept of what I am going to shoot. I know who I am going to shoot, where I am going, and basically what kind of styling I am going for. I make this stupid list of props which always includes flowers and maybe food, and depending on where we go it just builds up. Working with me is more like a performance.

Many celebrities and their publicists seem to be much less open to risk taking than in the past, do you receive restrictions from talent that might limit your creative vision?

If people did not think my images suited them then they wouldn’t work with me. Some big celebrities have declined to work with me because they say that it is not a good fit for them, and I totally respect that! We all have the freedom to say yes or no. When I have a feeling that someone would not fit into my world, would not want to play these games with me, would not want to collaborate, would not want to trust me, then I just say no. It’s like a blind date. You have to make people fall in love with you and the other way around, and it has to be a feeling that you will be together for the rest of your life, and after a few hours you just leave them and never see them again! I love that. (laughs)

Kind of like a one night stand. (laughs)

bettina_madonna1_web_rgbMadonna lying on the floor of a red room, September 1994, New York © Bettina Rheims | Courtesy of Taschen

Well that brings us to this photo of Madonna, and considering everything you have said, we also know that Madonna is known to be very controlling, and she has a vision that she very rarely strays from. How did you find working with her on the creative level?

The fascinating thing is that she saw this book, my most famous book, Chambre Close, which features women taking off their clothes, anonymous women that I found in the street who took off their clothes in this cheap hotel in Paris, the ones you find near a railway. Madonna said, “Find this woman I want to work with her”, and it was easy because she was already into it.

She would not come to Paris and there were no hotel rooms like the ones in Chambre Close in New York City, so we had to fly over with these huge rolls of wallpaper and props to create the Parisian hotel room. It was just brilliant! One of the longest shoots ever, many hours, a whole night. I was exhausted. We had enough pictures to do a book, so I said let’s call it a day and go to sleep. But she just wanted to keep shooting more! She approved loads of photos, and she just loved them all. It was fantastic. I have barely used any of them really, out of the ones that she approved. Sometimes you meet someone and it’s amazing chemistry. 


Breakfast with Monica Bellucci, November 1995, Paris © Bettina Rheims | Courtesy of Taschen

Another photo we love is of Monica Bellucci with a plate full of pasta, can you tell us the story behind this photograph?

Well, that is a very old picture. I was working a lot with Monica when she was a model, and at that time girls started being very skinny and models started to become very androgynous. Monica was always really a feminine woman. We were in a tiny apartment shooting for The Face, a British magazine, and the stylist pulled out this latex type of red dress and I thought something was missing in the picture. I thought about Monica looking like one of these Italian actresses, like Sophia Loren, and in those films you would always see the female character cooking or eating in the kitchen.

So I thought let’s push it to the edge and give her pasta, and the pasta needed to be red because of the dress, and then it built up and suddenly this picture had become iconic, and I really do not know why or why any of these pictures became so famous. Some of these have been with me and surrounding me for more than twenty years but people still want to publish them and collector’s still want to buy the prints. I still haven’t really figured out what gives an image this iconic quality.

I think it has to do a lot with what you were saying earlier. When you have a good creative team and everyone connects, there’s this magic that happens–

It’s a magic moment and you know it doesn’t happen every time. After all these years you can always make a picture that can be published, but to make a great image, it’s a miracle. I know when the image is there. I stop shooting because there is like a red light that turns on in my head and I know that it cannot get better.


Kristin Scott Thomas playing with a blond wig, May 2002, Paris © Bettina Rheims | Courtesy of Taschen

Our next photo is of a brunette Kristin Scott Thomas pulling off a blonde wig; can you tell us more about that image?

I remember my favorite hairdresser David Mallett was doing the hair, he was working with me constantly at that time and I remember calling him the night before and telling him to bring a blonde wig. I didn’t know what I would even do with it, or if she would even wear it, but then we went with it and it was perfect– but something was still missing. It was too normal, too pretty. Then as you would strip someone, I started stripping the wig off, and then it just happened. Intuition. The perfect moment. It’s what I love about photography.

From your vast library of archival photography, how long did it take you to edit down the photos to the final 500 images that are in this latest retrospective book?

A year of working on editing and doing the layouts and I wanted to have this little diary that would describe the life of a photographer. What my life has been like and the people who have helped me, taught me, collaborated with me, and inspired me. While also giving a tribute to all of the people who aren’t really talked about like the teams of assistants and hair and makeup, without these people none of these images would exist. I am not a writer who is alone with a white page and a pencil. It was probably two years total from meeting with Taschen to finishing everything.

As a woman working in photography for decades, did you find it hard starting out in a predominantly male-dominated industry years ago?

No. No, when I started in the late 70’s there were very few women in photography. A lot of women would say you betray us, but this was a long time ago. Feminists were angry with me because they thought these sexualized pictures should be taken by a man and not a woman, but eventually they understood and they backed me up. Obviously, those (images) could only be shot by a woman. This complicity, this close relationship, this trust that women have with me, they would not have it with a man. Not the same way. It could be more of a seductive relationship, but with me it’s a game and they know it is not a dangerous game. What’s the worst that could happen? They could regret they did a picture and call me back, but it doesn’t happen.

Earlier we discussed working with celebrities in the past, but what about today’s celebrity? Who would you be inspired by today in this new age of social media?

I would love to photograph Kim Kardashian. I think she is fascinating. I would love to go back to LA all of these years later and do another LA story. All of these girls, I am fascinated by these “It Girls” who have really done nothing but be there. They don’t do such great movies, they don’t have such a great voice, but they’re just there. For somebody of my generation, it’s absolutely fascinating.

I saw yesterday that Kim Kardashian is on the cover of Forbes Magazine because of what she has done with social media and how she has been able to brand herself and make millions simply by posting on Instagram and Snapchat. She is a social media mogul now. She captioned her own post of the photo #notbadforagirlwithnotalent.

I mean, I love the idea of no talent turned into genius! I have always been interested in what’s happening in the present, I’ve always been inspired by people I had found on the street, etc. You know, I wouldn’t post pictures of me or my grandson or even pictures of what I have on my plate, but you have to be fascinated by that. I would love to go back and do a new LA story with Bill Mullen, it would be great.

I wanted to also ask you about all of the books that you have published, and if you had to choose, which one is closest to your heart?

Oh my god that’s like asking which one of my family member’s would I not drown! Of course my heart goes to this current one because I worked so hard on it. I did it because I am a grandmother. Benedict Taschen was asking me for a long time if I wanted to do a big Bettina book and I always said it was too early, but then I became a grandmother which became something major in my life. I never thought I would, I thought I’d be dead! So, if I disappeared tomorrow I want to leave him something that he would know his grandmother by. I want him to read the text and see the images and go, “Wow, she really was different”. I love all of the books I did with my gender questions and I love my celebrity books and I love Chambre Close. My big pride is that maybe, just maybe, I have opened up some doors for people. I have helped people understand things that were not out in the public. I think that’s what we should do as artists, open doors. If they want to try to understand something or learn something, that’s how I start to work on a series. Because if I do not understand something. It always starts with a question, and I try to answer with my camera.

Was that your approach with diving into Gender Studies?

It really started with androgyny in the late 80’s. It was during the AIDS epidemic and all of our friends who were dying. I lost many of my friends in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I was doing a casting for a job, and at that casting was this man named Cameron who had long hair and who was very, very beautiful, but not feminine, more like a Christ figure. This girl came in named Josie who looked like a little boy, but had a woman’s body. I did a polaroid with the two of them, and I started wondering what is this androgynous thing and what is happening? This hasn’t been around since the 20’s. Then I went to London and started casting and I found this bunch of kids who weren’t able to have sex anymore because of AIDS,
so their only approach was seduction. They found this new androgyny, playing on both sides. After meeting Kim Harlow, I did a book, Kim, where she was transitioning and it was my first approach with transgenderism. Then she introduced me to her friends in the early 80’s, and people had no desire to look at transgender people. They thought they were just drag queens and they should just stay in the woods. Slowly, little by little, this phenomenon started to grow and take up space. I did a casting on Facebook and
said if you feel different and feel you belong somewhere else then send us a picture. I got hundreds of pictures from the suburbs of Rio to Orange County, from everywhere. Crying for help, saying “take me, I want to pose for you.” Then they came and it was brilliant! I met all of these people who decided they were a part of the third sex. It is fascinating, this new phenomenon.

Did you feel like you were helping them, the people who you met throughout those castings, by immortalizing their stories through photography?

There has always been that thing. I was going to bring them out of their bedrooms, from their closet, and they were proud of that. We talked and made this beautiful soundbyte where they discussed their difficulties and issues with family and friends and sex. It was brilliant. I have this feeling that when you support a cause like that you add stones to a monument that is being built, and it’s great! Voila!

Actually, in our last issue we did an interview with the curator of the Irving Penn exhibit, and she mentioned that a lot of people were attending without any knowledge of film photography. She had to come up with an interactive way for them to realize that the images had an art to them because of the lighting and the the developing and the dark room. Many people today do not understand that the technical side of photography is also part of the art process.  How do you give photography advice to the younger generation?

I wouldn’t know what to say. I don’t think photographing your food and your clothes is the way to get there. I mean, I think you have to have a vision and subject. You have to bring something new. The world is full of images. We’re overwhelmed! We’re drowning in images.

Today, if I were young, I definitely would not have become a photographer. Also, nobody realizes how much work it is, You know, to have a show at twenty five years old and be brilliant for five minutes is not that difficult. When you last for almost forty years and you are still working hard and getting up with headaches and toothaches and still getting to work, then you realize that this is all just work. Maybe you do not have to study, but it takes the experience of life. I don’t believe you can become a great photographer in twenty years, I think you have to live your life and then try to start thinking.

You spoke about how the book was for your grandchild, but what would you want your legacy to be as a photographer in general?

I don’t know, I never think about that. I think, “I am going on vacation now, but what I am going to be doing when I get back? Do I have a project? Do I have an idea?” Legacy would be very presumptuous. What’s the future of the world? What do we leave for our children? What great values, what essential thing? This is more important to me than what do I leave them.

I believe that we live in a very complicated time and there are so many issues that are more important than my own legacy. I just hope that we can conserve our freedom, that the environment isn’t going to eat us up– there are so many big issues at the beginning of this millennium. I have always lived an honest life and my work was always honest, it has always come from my heart. There was never a calculation to see what I had to do to work in fashion or what I had to do to work with certain people. I just kept on doing what I thought was right.  ‡


Karen Elson, nue couronnée de fleurs, Octobre 2000, Paris  © Bettina Rheims | Courtesy of Taschen


Similar to the art that she creates, different opinions abound regarding Marina Abramović. She has been called an enigma, an icon, a sell-out, a genius, a dilettante. Form your own opinion on the controversial artist in Walk Through Walls, a never before seen look into the early life and creation of one of the most recognizable artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Her origin story informs an incomparable artistic career that involves pushing her body past the limits of fear, pain, exhaustion, and danger in an uncompromising quest for emotional and spiritual transformation. The beating heart of Walk Through Walls is an operatic love story—a twelve-year collaboration with fellow performance artist and provocateur Ulay, much of which was spent penniless in a van traveling across Europe until the relationship began to unravel and came to a dramatic end atop the Great Wall of China.

Marina’s life has been singular, and her voice on the page—its cadence steeped in her Balkan roots—is nothing short of electrifying. You hear her perfectly imperfect English on every page and the result is enchanting. In story after story, Marina plumbs the sublime march to artistic truth, and along the way she evokes not only her own coming of age, but an era of artistic ferment and possibility, the thread of which she has never lost. Her stalwart insistence on facing pain and fear and vulnerability in the starkest possible terms as an artist comes to life in this vivid, candid memoir.

Published by Crown Archetype | Released October 25, 2016


Untitled (Grace Hartzel by Willy Vanderperre for Vogue, March 2016), acrylic on magazine page, 11 x 8 inches, 2016

Michael De Feo has elevated fashion ads to a new realm of fine art with his signature floral graffiti he applies to commercial glossy corporate ad campaigns of mainstream media.

Michael De Feo, who was profiled this spring in The New York Times, is a painter with a penchant for street art, gaining inter- national recognition for painting over outdoor fashion ads with buoy- ant floral patterns. In Crosstown Traffic, De Feo treats Rice Gallery’s front glass wall like a supersized commercial display kiosk, enlarging a selection of fashion ads from magazines, printing them at nearly billboard size, and hand painting over them.

Michael De Feo, Crosstown Traffic, 2016 Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas Photo: Nash Baker © nashbaker.com

De Feo plunges inside the seductive, fantasy world of high- end advertising, normally kept at a distance behind glass or beneath the sheen of a glossy magazine page, and adds a human touch. Says De Feo, “One of the compelling aspects of working on fashion advertisements is that although I’m subverting the ads, they frequently end up reading like they were designed that way.”

Known as “The Flower Guy,” De Feo has painted flowers on the streets of New York and in over 60 cities internationally. His iconic line drawing of a curving stem topped with daisy petals can be seen sprouting from the bases of telephone poles, tucked in between signs, and embellishing a myriad of surfaces. A project that started nearly 25 years ago and continues today began with a simple aim, says De Feo, “to spread some cheer and smiles in a city full of concrete, steel, and glass.”

Untitled (Kiera Knightly by Mario Testino for Chanel), acrylic on bus-stop shelter advertisement, 68.5 x 47.5 inches, 2016
Untitled (Gisele Bundchen by Patrick Demarchelier for Chanel), acrylic on bus-stop shelter advertisement, 68.5 x 47.5 inches, 2015



Valentino Haute Couture, 2010 

The fashion world has cherished fashion illustration as a high art form for centuries. We have all been in awe over the long and graceful graphite lines of flowing silk, shadows and tones of watercolor, or choppy textures of pastels or charcoal that perfectly create the mood of the garment while still looking effortless. One of the reigning kings of fashion illustration is undoubtedly David Downton, the London transplant has become a seminal figure in the realm of fashion illustration
from his early work for couture designers and now to his appointment as the first ever fashion artist in residence at Claridge’s Hotel in London. However, his work transcends fashion illustration as he does not focus on the garments, but rather the personality behind them which has enabled him to garner an impressive client list within and without fashion that includes Chanel, Dior, Tiffany & Co., the Victoria & Albert Museum, Cate Blanchett, Dita Von Teese, Catherine Deneuve, Iman, Linda Evangelista, and Paloma Picasso. After one sees Downton’s work it is easy to see how he could have collected such a star- studded following. Here he tells us first hand how he became such a large figure in fashion illustration, his thoughts on the industry, his favorite clients, and where he thinks it is going with the advent of social media and the wide access we all have to fashion images and illustration.

What drew you to fashion and to sketching garments?

I was sent to illustrate the haute couture collections twenty years ago on the whim of an art director I knew. In a sense, I never really left that first job. It was a baptism by fire. Prior to that, I hadn’t really thought about being a fashion illustrator. I suppose you could say fashion ‘happened’ to me, and I am very grateful it did.

What type of garments/designers inspire your work?

I have always loved Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Dior, Schiaparelli: designers with art and artistry in their DNA. I have been lucky in that I have worked with some of the most extraordinary talents. My main job is to observe, absorb, and record what I see. I don’t create, I react.

Was there a person in your life who inspired you to become an artist?

I had discovered my talent as an artist when I was very young and was encouraged to use it by my parents. I also realised early on that people who didn’t draw thought that what I did was magical and I suppose I just enjoyed the attention. From then on, other people always inspired and encouraged me to work on my skills and show off.

Using brush strokes to create movement, and negative space, what do you find to be most important – the woman, garment, or the mood?

I believe that you need all three working together. The Chinese say you need eye, hand, and heart to create a great drawing. I agree.

Photograph of David in his studio by Jacobus Snyman 2015.

Your illustrations are so unique to a style that is all your own. How did you develop this signature style?

It evolved gradually. I don’t really think of it as a style, more as a response to the subject. I think there is much too much focus on style, especially when you are starting out. Style isn’t something you pursue, it’s something that will find you, when you are ready.

You have said in interviews that your favorite subjects are the subjects that have great lines and body shapes could you name some favorites?

Carmen Dell’Orefice, Erin O’Connor, Dita Von Teese, Iman, Anna Piaggi, Farida Khelfa. It’s a long list and I don’t want
to be rude and leave anyone out. I am attracted to style and beauty, character and individuality. The person across the drawing board is the drawing.

Who would be one of your dream subjects? Past and present?

From the past: Garbo, Ava Gardner, Josephine Baker, Edith Sitwell

Today: Tilda Swinton, Grace Jones, Julianne Moore. Another long list and that’s without including men.

Who are some fashion illustrators that you admire and why?

From the ‘Golden Age’, Gruau, Antonio, Vertès and Tom Keogh. Today: Stina Persson, Tina Berning, Bil Donovan, Richard Haines, Carlos Aponte, among others. All of them draw brilliantly and have a personal viewpoint as well as a strong sense of design and colour. They don’t rely on gimmicks or chase ‘likes’. Of course, the opinions that really matter come from your peers.

Erin O’Connor, Paris, 2002 Headdress by Stephen Jones for Dior Haute Couture.

Which are your most memorable brand collaborations?

I just worked on the poster and graphics for the opera La Traviata, in Rome. It was directed by Sofia Coppola and designed by Valentino which was a very exciting collaboration for me to be a part of. I have been drawing Valentino couture for 20 years now, and it continues to be a magical experience working with such skilled designers, artisans, and models. One of my other favorite jobs was when Chanel commissioned me to cover their Metiers d’art collection outside Edinburgh. Of course, I am always relishing my ongoing role as artist in residence at Claridge’s hotel in London, illustrating some of the most fabulous women in the world.

Who was the first person to commission a piece from you?

I did a book cover right after leaving Art College. It was a disaster.

What do you think of other artist that copy your style?

It happens to everyone who achieves any level of success. At first, I’ll admit, it was a bit of a shock. I would hate to
be the discount version of someone else (although of course I have my influences). Ultimately though, it is not my concern, there are too many other important things in the world to think about.

For you, what is the hardest part about being a fashion illustrator?

Fashion never stops. You have to keep up and stay relevant. I always feel that every year, on the first of January you set the clock to zero and start again. I like to think that it’s a positive to reinvent myself and push my abilities so my clients stay happy, and I remain proud of my work.

Erin O’Connor, Paris, 2002 Headdress by Stephen Jones for Dior Haute Couture

How do you know when it’s time to stop working and declare your illustration as complete?

You have to learn to listen to your ‘inner voice’. As a rule of thumb I stop a little before I want to and then revisit the drawing after a cooling down period. For me the worst drawings are the ones where I didn’t catch the moment and stop in time. It’s a very precise skill.

Where do you go to escape and relax? Where are your favorite destination spots?

To really relax, I go to Ithaca, my favourite Greek Island. If it’s a mixture of work, relaxation and fun, L.A or Paris always inspire me. I love Venice in the winter, Rome anytime. I live in the countryside but am basically an urban dweller, so I usually head for cities.

Throughout your illustrious career, what has been the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part is undoubtedly the people you meet and work with along the way.

YSL 2016

Fashion illustration has had a very long and beautiful place in fashion history, what do you think the future holds for the profession?

I think it’s exciting that so many people want to take it up. Fashion illustration never ‘went away’ but now it is seen as a viable career and that is attracting a wide range of talent. That can only be good!

How do you think the fashion industry has changed over time?

The biggest thing is the digital revolution and the need for fast fashion. Also couture has whittled down to half of what it used to be and that took a toll on many facets of the industry.

If you were not working in fashion illustration, what do you think you would be doing?

I don’t have any other skills, so I’ve never really thought about it. That said, I am starting to write here and there and I
am really enjoying it. I haven’t written anything properly since school, so I am starting all over again.

Interview by Marc Sifuentes


This Howard Bingham print, Ali vs Liston II, 1965, is one of four gelatin silver prints that come with the GOAT Champ’s Edition. Each print is signed by Howard Bingham and Muhammad Ali. Copyright: Howard Bingham, GOAT / TASCHEN

When Cassius Clay was twelve years old, he experienced his first personal injustice when his bike was stolen, and from that day on he spent his formative years training to fend for himself and prevent further injustices which would become a theme in his life’s work. After years of training and hard work and dedication, Muhammad Ali won his first Olympic Gold Medal at the age of eighteen shortly after his high school graduation. His boisterous personality and larger-than-life spirit bolstered his name and image at the Olympic games and then later into international fame. The future three-time Heavyweight World Champion was not only interested in training and sore muscles, but in Ali’s own words, “boxing was just a means to introduce me to the world,” and soon the man became an international sensation and the posterboy for American strength, pride, and prowess. Throughout the rest of Muhammad’s life he fought for racial equality as one of the most influential black men in the world, protested the war in Vietnam and its injustices, and would go on to start the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center after he was diagnosed with the degenerative disorder.

Copyright: Neil Leifer, GOAT / TASCHEN Photo 1966

Pictured above: A dramatic and perfect overhead shot by Neil Leifer, generally regarded as one of the greatest sporting images of all time, featuring the prostrate form of Cleveland Williams and in high contrast, Ali in victory pose, during a knockdown in their 1966 title fight. Leifer captured the shot at the Houston Astrodome from 80 feet above the ring. With equally unique good fortune, he then activated the remote control camera at the perfect moment. Leifer himself regards this as his favorite photograph from a 40 year professional career. ‡

Greatest Of All Time: A Tribute To Muhammad Ali available at Taschen.