HEAVENLY BODIES: FASHION AND THE CATHOLIC IMAGINATION

Costume Institute Benefit on May 7 with Co-Chairs Amal Clooney, Rihanna, Donatella Versace, and Anna Wintour, and Honorary Chairs Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman

(New York, November 8, 2017)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that The Costume Institute’s spring 2018 exhibition will be Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, on view from May 10 through October 8, 2018 (preceded on May 7 by The Costume Institute Benefit). Presented at The Met Fifth Avenue in both the medieval galleries and the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the show will also occupy The Met Cloisters, creating a trio of distinct gallery locations. The thematic exhibition will feature a dialogue between fashion and masterworks of religious art in The Met collection to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. A group of papal robes and accessories from the Vatican will travel to the United States to serve as the cornerstone of the exhibition, highlighting the enduring influence of liturgical vestments on designers.

“The Catholic imagination is rooted in and sustained by artistic practice, and fashion’s embrace of sacred images, objects, and customs continues the ever-evolving relationship between art and religion,” said Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO of The Met. “The Museum’s collection of religious art, in combination with the architecture of the medieval galleries and The Cloisters, provides the perfect context for these remarkable fashions.”

In celebration of the opening, the Museum’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 7, 2018. The evening’s co-chairs will be Amal Clooney, Rihanna, Donatella Versace, and Anna Wintour. Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman will serve as Honorary Chairs. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

“Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “Although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion.”

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition will feature approximately 50 ecclesiastical masterworks from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside the Vatican. These will be on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries and will include papal vestments and accessories, such as rings and tiaras, from the 18th to the early 21st century, encompassing more than 15 papacies. The last time the Vatican sent a loan of this magnitude to The Met was in 1983, for The Vatican Collections exhibition, which is the Museum’s third most-visited show.

In addition, approximately 150 ensembles, primarily womenswear, from the early 20th century to the present will be shown in the medieval galleries and The Met Cloisters alongside religious art from The Met collection, providing an interpretative context for fashion’s engagement with Catholicism. The presentation situates these designs within the broader context of religious artistic production to analyze their connection to the historiography of material Christianity and their contribution to the perceptual construction of the Catholic imagination.

Designers in the exhibition will include Azzedine Alaïa, Cristobal Balenciaga, Geoffrey Beene, Marc Bohan (for House of Dior), Thom Browne, Roberto Capucci, Callot Soeurs, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Maria Grazia Chiuri (for House of Dior), Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana (for Dolce & Gabbana), John Galliano (for House of Dior), Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, Craig Green, Madame Grès (Alix Barton), Rei Kawakubo (for Comme des Garçons), Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld (for House of Chanel), Jeanne Lanvin, Shaun Leane, Claire McCardell, Laura and Kate Mulleavy (for Rodarte), Thierry Mugler, Norman Norell, Guo Pei, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (for Valentino), Pierpaolo Piccioli (for Valentino), Elsa Schiaparelli, Raf Simons (for his own label and House of Dior), Riccardo Tisci (for Givenchy), Jun Takahashi (for Undercover), Isabel Toledo, Philip Treacy, Donatella Versace (for Versace), Gianni Versace, Valentina, A.F. Vandevorst, Madeleine Vionnet, and Vivienne Westwood.

Exhibition Credits
The exhibition—a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters—is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, working together with colleagues in The Met’s Medieval department: C. Griffith Mann, Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters; Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator for The Met Cloisters; Helen C. Evans, Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator of Byzantine Art; and Melanie Holcomb, Curator.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the interdisciplinary architecture and design firm, will create the exhibition design with The Met’s Design Department. Raul Avila will produce the gala décor, which he has done since 2007.

Related Content
A publication by Andrew Bolton will accompany the exhibition and will include texts by authors David Morgan and David Tracy in addition to new photography by Katerina Jebb. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

A special feature on the Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/HeavenlyBodies, provides further information about the exhibition.

The exhibition is made possible by Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman, and Versace. Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

WILL COTTON EXHIBITION – MARY BOONE GALLERY


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.


WILL COTTON
“Cocoa Queen”
85” by 54” (215 cm by 137 cm)
oil/linen
2016
COPYRIGHT: WILL COTTON.
COURTESY: MARY BOONE GALLERY, NEW YORK.
(MBG#11949)

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.

WILL COTTON
“Departure”
75” by 50” (190 cm by 127 cm)
oil/linen
2017
COPYRIGHT: WILL COTTON.
COURTESY: MARY BOONE GALLERY, NEW YORK.
(MBG#12053)

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.

WILL COTTON
“Hostess”
65” by 46” (165 cm by 116 cm)
oil/linen
2016
COPYRIGHT: WILL COTTON.
COURTESY: MARY BOONE GALLERY, NEW YORK.
(MBG#11929)

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.

WILL COTTON
“Joyous”
80” by 50” (203 cm by 127 cm)
oil/linen
2017
COPYRIGHT: WILL COTTON.
COURTESY: MARY BOONE GALLERY, NEW YORK.
(MBG#12052)

PETER SAUL “FAKE NEWS” EXHIBITION – MARY BOONE GALLERY

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.

PETER SAUL
“Donald Trump in Florida”
78” by 120” (198 cm by 305 cm)
acrylic/canvas
2017
COPYRIGHT: PETER SAUL.
COURTESY: MARY BOONE GALLERY, NEW YORK.
(MBG#12030)

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.

PETER SAUL
“Quack-Quack, Trump”
78” by 120” (198 cm by 305 cm)
acrylic/canvas
2017
COPYRIGHT: PETER SAUL.
COURTESY: MARY BOONE GALLERY, NEW YORK.
(MBG#12031)

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.

PETER SAUL
“Return to the Alamo”
78” by 120” (198 cm by 305 cm)
acrylic/canvas
2017
COPYRIGHT: PETER SAUL.
COURTESY: MARY BOONE GALLERY, NEW YORK.
(MBG#12023)

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.

PETER SAUL
“Blue Boy with Ice Cream Cone”
84” by 72” (213 cm by 183 cm)
acrylic/canvas
2017
COPYRIGHT: PETER SAUL.
COURTESY: MARY BOONE GALLERY, NEW YORK.
(MBG#12059)

MARC JACOBS AND RUPAUL HOST DRAG BALL BENEFIT FOR PLANNED PARENTHOOD

NEW YORK, NY – September 8 – Last night at Marc Jacobs Beauty & RuPaul’s DragCon Present: Fashion Does Drag Ball, RuPaul and Marc Jacobs welcomed guests to their benefit for Planned Parenthood at McKittrick Hotel. The event also celebrated New York Fashion Week, along with the inaugural RuPaul’s DragCon NYC, taking place this weekend at the Jacob K. Javits Center.

RuPaul served as DJ, playing sickening music, encouraging guests to lip sync for their lives and sashay on the dance floor.

“Dancing to the beat of a different drummer is what DragCon is all about, and last night we danced, danced, danced!” -RuPaul

Additional photos are also included of guests including Michelle Visage, New York Housewife Luann de Lesseps, Paulina Porizkova, Nina Agdal, Derek Blasberg, and numerous contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race including Detox, Raja, Miss Fame, Milk, Bebe Zahara Benet, Violet Chachki, among others.

Marc Jacobs Beauty & RuPaul’s DragCon Present: Fashion Does Drag Ball was sponsored by World of Wonder, Marc Jacobs Beauty and VH1.

Reunited with my sis @violetchachki. #NYFW #missfame #violetchachki #fashionwives

A post shared by Miss Fame (@missfamenyc) on

After three successful years in Los Angeles, the inaugural RuPaul’s DragCon NYC takes place Sept. 9-10 at the Jacob K. Javits Center.

Presented by RuPaul and World of Wonder Productions, RuPaul’s DragCon is the world’s largest annual celebration of drag culture. The two-day convention welcomes fans of all ages and backgrounds to unite and celebrate the world of drag in a friendly and accessible environment.

For more information on RuPaul’s DragCon NYC and a full list of exhibitors, programming and merchandise, please visit: RuPaulsDragCon.com. Buy tickets here.

DEPECHE MODE GLOBAL SPIRIT TOUR COMES TO NORTH AMERICA

Depeche Mode will embark on North American leg of the Global Spirit Tour with 30 shows scheduled for the US and Canada.

Image courtesy of depechemode.com.

One of the most influential, beloved and best-selling musical acts of all time, Depeche Mode have sold over 100 million records and played live to more than 30 million fans worldwide. Formed in 1981, Depeche Mode – Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher – continue to win critical and commercial acclaim around the world both in the studio and on the road, with innumerable artists citing them as inspirations and innovators.  The band’s 13 studio albums have reached the Top Ten in over 20 countries, including the US and UK. Their last studio album, 2013’s Delta Machine, debuted at #1 in 12 countries around the world, and launched a world tour that saw the band play to more than 2.5 million fans. In fall 2016, Depeche Mode’s Video Singles Collection, a definitive 3 DVD library anthology containing more than four hours of their groundbreaking music videos, was released by SONY Music Entertainment. Their 14th studio album Spirit and the Global Spirit Tour are poised to continue the band’s history of musical innovation and the band’s critical and commercial success.

Following an extensive European summer tour, the 28 show North American run, exclusively promoted by Live Nation, will kick off on August 23rd in Salt Lake City, UT and will stop in 26 cities across the United States and Canada, before wrapping up in Edmonton, Alberta on October 27th.

Iconic, multi-platinum musical pioneers Depeche Mode released a digital bundle featuring remixes of their track “Going Backwards”.  The bundle includes 12 remixes of “Going Backwards” as well as special remixes of “Poison Heart” and “You Move.” The release will be available through all digital and streaming services; fans can purchase here: http://smarturl.it/GoingBackwardsRMX

Image courtesy of depechemode.com.

Vinyl and CD versions of the bundle will be available in September. “Going Backwards” is the second single from Depeche Mode’s 14th studio album, Spirit, which debuted at No. 1 in multiple countries including Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal and Denmark. Proving to be not only a fan but critic favorite, Spirit additionally debuted in the Top 10 in 15 countries, including coming in at No. 5 in the United States and the United Kingdom, all while earning critical acclaim, with Q Magazine calling Spirit “the most energized Depeche Mode album in years”. See below for track listing of the remix collection.

Long celebrated for quality videos as innovative and provocative as the music they make, Depeche Mode also recently released a compelling visual for “Going Backwards.” The stunning video, featuring a stripped-back performance of the track and filmed in 360 degree technology, can be seen online here:http://smarturl.it/GoingBackwards360. The video was directed by Timothy Saccenti, known for his immersive photographic style, and features Depeche Mode in a stylized, full-scale video experience.

Spirit was produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, and marks the band’s first collaboration with Ford (Foals, Florence & The Machine, Arctic Monkeys) and serves as the follow up to the band’s blockbuster 2013 album Delta Machine, which debuted at #1 in 12 countries.

Image courtesy of Columbia Records.

Depeche Mode is currently supporting the release of Spirit with an extensive world tour – The Global Spirit Tour. The first leg kicked off May 5th in Stockholm, Sweden and stopped at stadiums in 21 countries across Europe. Depeche Mode will soon embark on the North American leg of Global Spirit Tour. The 30 show North American run, exclusively promoted by Live Nation, will kick off on August 23rd in Salt Lake City, UT and will stop in 26 cities across the United States and Canada, before wrapping up in Edmonton, Alberta on October 27th. For the full tour schedule and to sign up to receive news and announcements of tour dates, please visitwww.depechemode.com.

On the North American leg of the Global Spirit Tour, the band will continue their charity partnership with Swiss watch maker Hublot, raising money and awareness for charity: water toward their mission of providing safe drinking water to everyone in the world.

The Global Spirit Tour is in support of the band’s 14th studio album, Spirit, released March 17th via Columbia Records. The album’s powerful and timely first single, “Where’s The Revolution”, was well-received by critics and fans alike, lauded as a strong “return to form” for Depeche Mode. Spirit has garnered critical acclaim in early previews, with Q Magazine calling it “the most energized Depeche Mode album in years”.

Depeche Mode Global Spirit Tour – Fall 2017 North American Tour

August 23 Salt Lake City, UT USANA Amphitheatre

August 25 Denver, CO Pepsi Center

August 27 Detroit, MI DTE Energy Music Theatre

August 30 Chicago, IL Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

September 1 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena

September 3 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre

September 5 Montreal, QC Centre Bell

September 7 Washington, DC Verizon Center

September 9 New York, NY Madison Square Garden

September 11 New York, NY Madison Square Garden

September 13 Tampa, FL MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre

September 15 Miami, FL AmericanAirlines Arena

September 18 Nashville, TN Ascend Amphitheater

September 20 Austin, TX Austin360 Amphitheatre

September 22 Dallas, TX Starplex Pavilion

September 24 Houston, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion presented by Huntsman

September 27 Phoenix, AZ AK-Chin Pavilion

September 30 Las Vegas, NV T-Mobile Arena

October 2 Santa Barbara, CA Santa Barbara County Bowl

October 6 San Diego, CA Mattress Firm Amphitheatre

October 8 San Jose, CA SAP Center

October 10 Oakland, CA Oracle Arena

October 12 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Bowl

October 14 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Bowl

October 21 Seattle, WA KeyArena

October 23 Portland, OR Moda Center

October 25 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena

October 27 Edmonton, AB Rogers Place

Citi® is the official credit card of the Global Spirit Tour. Citi cardmembers will have access to presale tickets beginning Tuesday, March 7 at 10AM through Citi’s Private Pass® program. For complete presale details visit www.citiprivatepass.com.

AT&T is sending customers to the front of the line with AT&T priority pre-sale ticket access also beginning on Tuesday, March 7 at 10AM via the AT&T THANKS program. For complete pre-sale details visit att.com/frontoftheline.

PORTALS

In our modern world, where communication is omnipresent via social media, texting, and online forums, it is a novelty to find a method of communication that goes beyond words on a screen. Amar Bakshi was shaped by his experience with a grandmother whom he maintained a relationship through an electronic medium, and his long bus rides back to law school during which he struck up conversations with random strangers to pass the time. However, Amar felt as if the same devices that keep us connected to our friends and family were restricting us socially. Social media outlets like facebook and communication apps like skype encourage conversations with the same people, and limit experiences with new people. It is with this revelation that Amar created Portals.

What began “as a daydream” now has over 20 locations all over the globe. Amar’s “Portals” are gold-covered shipping containers and tents that look like they belong in The Fifth Element. Within the containers are darkened rooms that allow the participants to have face-to-face conversations with another Portal across the world. The climate-controlled environments have been optimized for these conversations, with high-definition cameras allowing the immersive experience to provide the most realistic projection of the other Portal. Participants may talk for however long they desire, as long as the other Portal is willing to comply. The Portals, originally intended solely for conservation, have become home to intimate concerts, family reunions, and moving displays of dance. Amar “expected the Portals experience to be neat, unexpected – maybe cool. But we were surprised to find it had such an emotional effect.” Amar and his team regularly have to pull participants out after conversations run longer than two hours. Portals are staffed by a full-time “Portal Curator” who help participants with translation, interpretation, engaging the broader community, and organization of special events.

These Portals have an element of privacy and anonymity that is lost in today’s world. Amar explains “Cell phones don’t work in the Portal. Nothing is live-tweeted. Participants are unlikely to see their counterpart abroad again, so whatever they say is not likely to make its way back to friends at home. Third, the conversations felt relatively natural. Instead of talking to a disembodied head on a computer screen, participants spoke to a full, standing human being – fidgeting and swaying – and made direct eye contact, unencumbered by goggles or headphones.” These intimate and privatized experiences lead to more wholesome and engaged conversations that have led to the Portals becoming a international fascination.

All Portal sites can be found here: https://www.sharedstudios.com/sites
More information about Portals can be found here: http://www.amarcbakshi.com/portals/
To organize a portal for your community, visit: https://www.sharedstudios.com/contact

Article by Sol Thompson
All Images courtest of Shared Studios

 

PIERRE ET GILLES

40 ans, 2016, Model : Pierre et Gilles, Without Frame : 105 Å~ 84 cm, With Frame : 123.5 Å~ 102 cm Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris˝ Pierre et Gilles, Courtesy Galerie Templon, Paris et Bruxelles

Interview by Alvio Mancuso

Intro by Benjamin Price

Pierre and Gilles met in Paris in their 20’s and soon thereafter, they began an artistic collaboration that would influence a whole generation of creatives. Before meeting in 1976, Pierre had established a career as a photographer and Gilles as a painter. Once Gilles took his brush to the first portrait, their union as artists was formed. Pierre and Gilles have worked in unison for forty years, photographing icons such as our cover star Rossy de Palma, Kylie Minogue, Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Madonna, and so many others, all of which have been catalogued in a fabulous new book entitled Pierre et Gilles: 40, published by Flammarion.

Their work explores concepts of identity and how we view celebrity, culture, sexuality, and ourselves. Photographing everyone from icons in popular culture to strangers they found on the streets of Paris; Pierre and Gilles create fantastic dreamscapes and insert their models into the realms which they create. Images are then edited, and through Gilles’ paint and airbrushing, they are manipulated manually for color, light, and anything else the duo seeks to create. Transforming people into mermaids, Hindu goddesses, and monsters, their work questions our perception and blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy, ugly and beautiful, boy and girl, etc. The two brilliant artists had time to sit down with Iris Covet Book and discuss their lives together, their career, their models, and their future.

How did you meet and when did you realize that you were going to have such a fruitful artistic relationship?

Gilles: We met in September 1976, it’s been forty years. We met at a party thrown by the designer Kenzo (Takada) for the opening of his boutique at Place des Victoires.

Pierre: It was love at first sight. It was a good party, we were all drinking and Gilles jumped me! Then we left the party on a scooter and we haven’t left each other’s sides since.

Gilles: Pierre was a photographer, and I knew his photographs and his work. I was painting and making collages and after a few months we started to work together. It came to us very naturally. We were each doing our individual jobs and ended-up helping each other and sharing ideas. One day I got the idea to paint on one of Pierre’s photograph because the colors were not right for our vision, so I started to paint the eyes and the face, and we found something we loved and we worked together from that day forward.

Pierre: After that we never wanted to work separately and we didn’t want to work with anyone else. Only the two of us.

What was your first project together, and do you remember what the experience felt like collaborating with your lover for the first time?

Pierre: Our first project was a series of photographs of our friends inspired by photo booth picture strips because Gilles had a big collection of those from many years ago.

Gilles: I was addicted to these photographs! I was taking them every day and asking all of my friends to be in them. I started a huge collection. We got inspired by these photographs because the colors were really bright. Then we started a series of Polaroids with our friends; they were making faces and having fun, but we thought that the colors were not bright enough, so I painted the colors and retouched the faces and felt we found something important there. We were so happy, and working together was so comforting. We felt that we were lifting each other up. Pierre had his own personality, and I had my own, but we totally felt that we were completing each other since that first project together. Pierre was more into fashion and I was an artist drawn by contemporary art; putting our two personalities together was good for each of us. You have an instantly recognizable aesthetic to your work, how did you develop your distinctive style?

Pierre: To have a style comes naturally, you don’t have to look for it.

Gilles: It came pretty naturally, but when you see the first image that we did together called Les Grimaces, a series of nine portraits on different colored backgrounds, you can already recognize our style. Of course it evolved and was more pop at that time. You need to stay true to yourself, and we did stay true to ourselves. We were inspired by pictures that we would see on the street markets in Morocco; they were de-saturated portraits of celebrities. We also both grew up surrounded by the Pop Art of Andy Warhol, and other artists like him, which inspired us as well. Our style comes from a lot of different elements: image conception, light, the way we paint the photographs: it’s our spirit.

You work in a multi medium platform: photography, painting and even set design and building. Why is it important for you to work this way?

Pierre: We are very crafty, and we love to do everything ourselves from the beginning till the end.

Gilles: Above all else, what we like to put forward is the subject (that we our photographing) because our subject is the inspiration. We started with the photo booth inspired photographs which were mostly portraits; we have always done portraits with the body and the stage as well. However, most of the time we focus on only one person. It can be more, but it is very rare for our usual work. There are icons that we love whom we are drawn to because of their personality. Our models are very different, all with different origins, sexuality, and every body type from very muscular to slim. We love unique people and love to explore the differences.

Pierre: We want to be part of our subject’s world.

Who were your early influences or mentors?

Pierre: We were very inspired by cinema.

Gilles: Pop Art was also something that was very important for the two of us. I have loved Andy Warhol since I was fifteen years old when I discovered his work and his personality. He wasn’t hiding who he really was: his homosexuality, his life, and the people that he surrounded himself with. We were inspired by the movies from James Bidgood like Pink Narcissus. We found in his movies a sensibility that resonated with our own. Your big breakthrough was a shoot you both did for Facade magazine, and it included pictures of Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop, and Mick Jagger.

Vénus marine, 2000, Model : L.titia Casta Without Frame : 122.5 Å~ 91.5 cm, With Frame : 228 Å~ 164 cm The Cultural Foundation EKATERINA, Moscou ˝ Pierre et Gilles

What happened when those photos came out and how did you feel about the publicity?

Pierre: Yes, it was very impressive to meet these people.

Gilles: We started strong with all these personalities; it was an underground magazine for a small audience, a bit like the equivalent of Interview Magazine at that time. Working with these celebrities brought us to the spotlight and that is when it really started for us. First, we were working only for magazines and then we did our first music single cover for Amanda Lear. We were working for press, newspapers, different magazines like Gai Pied and Playboy, fashion show invitations for Thierry Mugler, etc. We were doing a lot of different things and it was a very good training for us.

Much of your work is inspired by celebrity, mythology and religion. What is it about these themes that draws you?

Gilles: That’s true we do work with these themes. We like when people play a role, but a tailored role that will fit their personality. A role that we feel they can play and that will elicit our sensitivity. For instance, when we shot Karl Lagerfeld, we thought of his cat and then we thought about the James Bond movie Spectre and the cat in it, so we sat him in a big chair with his cat. We mix reality and fiction, and we play with different elements that will fit with our model’s personality.

Pierre: We also play with color and try to find the color that fits with the person we are photographing. We have a very close relationship with all the people we work and we had worked with. When we look at our work, it’s like a family album. It’s a mix of celebrities, but also unknown people and friends. We love both worlds!

What are the qualities that you look for in a potential male model for your art? Are their any nuances in masculinity that you are attracted to?

Pierre: It depends a lot on what we want to express at the time of the shoot.

Gilles: We work very rarely with models from agencies, and we like to work with unique personalities. We are mostly drawn by someone’s personality first. We don’t have any definite physical features that we like to work with; we can work with someone very androgynous, very masculine, very slim, very muscular, with unique facial features. We love to express something different and create different emotions.

Do you have recurring muses that you have worked with over the years? If so, what has made your collaboration with them successful?

Gilles: We have recently worked a lot with Zahia. Also, Marie France with whom we worked with when we began until recently. Zuleika (Ponsen) was a muse since the beginning whom we photographed a lot. She starred in our portraits called “La Meduse”, “La Pleureuse”, etc.

Pierre: We worked with Dita Von Teese as well and we actually are currently working again on a new portrait of her. We photographed a lot of boys as well that are not necessarily well-known.

Gilles: We love to work with all these people because they inspire us, they just understand our world and they can play so many roles.

How does it feel to have four decades of celebrated art work under your collective belt with a highly anticipated retrospective book Pierre et Gilles 40 commemorating your careers?

Pierre: We did this book year-by-year instead of doing it by theme. It allowed us to see the evolution of our work through the years.

Gilles: Our style is still here but has evolved. We started with something more Pop and simple “mise en scene”, and then you can see that we evolved to something more complex and developed. The models change through the years. It reminds them of the good memories of working together when going through the book. It’s been a fantastic journey through the forty years. We are so happy to see what we did, but we are not nostalgic, just excited for what is coming next.

What do you think about the reaction audiences have had from your work throughout your forty-year career? Do you see a difference of how U.S. audiences react versus European?

Pierre: We feel that our images can touch people everywhere in the world…

Gilles: …In Japan, Russia, Australia, Europe, America… we don’t feel like there are a lot of borders.

How does it feel to have used your revolutionary subject matter and style to bring a mainstream voice for gay culture?

Pierre: It was pretty natural. We didn’t really have to put it forward, but naturally, as we are a couple and we did not hide it, it came out. Also, the inspirations which we followed with sincerity touched the gay community. We received a lot of letters from gay people who told us that our work helped them to accept themselves and their sexuality.

Gilles: As we said, our work explores the difference between individuals and shows people the beauty in homosexuality, and that is very important to us as well. What was one of your most memorable photo shoots that we will find in your new book?

Pierre: It’s pretty hard for us to choose because every shoot is unique. Every time we meet new people it is a new surprise. As we live in the present, we love the last images that we did. For instance, we just photographed Beatrice Dalle whom we have known and loved for a long time.

Gilles: We recently shot K-Pop celebrities, and we loved that very much as it was new and interesting to us.

You have worked with some of the most iconic artists, designers, performers, etc. including Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Dita Von Teese, Kylie Minogue, Karl Lagerfeld, Mick Jagger, and Iggy Pop; what was your favorite collaborative experience?

Pierre: I loved to photograph Sylvie Vartan as she was my idol when I was a child and as a teenager; I was way more impressed when I met her than when I met Madonna or Kylie Minogue for example (laughs).

Gilles: Though meeting Madonna was also an amazing experience, she was at the Ritz Hotel in Paris and she made someone call us to go meet her, and that same night we went to the Zingaro Circus together with Jean-Paul Gaultier. It was in the 90’s. They are incredible memories. We met Kylie Minogue in Sydney when she came to our exhibition, and then we shot her in Sydney. We have worked with a lot of amazing, unique, and different personalities and it has given us these incredible memories.

Are there any celebrities, designers, or artists that you would like to work with that you haven’t yet?

Gilles: Yes, for sure! There must be people we didn’t work with that we’d like to, but we like surprises so we’ll see. It comes to us pretty randomly depending on people we meet and the occasions. It takes time, but we trust the future.

In a digital age where people can easily manipulate photos via Photoshop, why is it important to you to stay true to a more organic process of airbrushing and acrylic paint that you have perfected?

Gilles: We started retouching pictures way before Photoshop. At that time the pictures were almost never retouched. Even today we stay true to ourselves following the same process. We still retouch everything by hand and we still build our set in studio. The only thing we changed is that we started to shoot digital, but it has not been a long time that we switched maybe two years, and we are happy with the result.

Pierre: We really stay true to ourselves, we stay very artisanal and crafty. We love to build our own sets. Our models are really (physically) displayed in it. We are a very small team and we love to do everything ourselves. We just have an assistant and the both of us. We take care of each step of the process from the set design to the final frame we use for each photograph.

When your careers first began in 1976, did you find it hard to gain acceptance from either realm of art or fashion?

Gilles: There were people that loved our work since the beginning and were very supportive. We waited until 1983 to do our first exhibition due to the fact that before that people and art galleries were not ready to show our work. It happened only in 1983. We started with the smaller formats, and now we exhibit our bigger formats, but the most important thing for us this whole time has been to stay true to ourselves.

In the future, what projects can we expect from you?

Pierre: Just the continuation of our work. A new “novel to follow” (laugh). .

 Sainte Mary MacKillop, 1995, Model: Kylie Minogue Without Frame: 85.7 Å~ 71.4 cm, With Frame: 112.7 Å~ 98.5 cm, Collection St.phane Sednaoui, New York ˝ Pierre et Gilles

JONAS MEKAS

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

RJ RAIZK

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Creative Direction by Louis Liu | Makeup by Lydia Brock

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RJ Raizk presents himself as an embodiment of his brand: an austere and seemingly-aloof specimen of cool, tinged with angst–an inevitable by-product of any creative trying to “make it” in New York. But there is something more seductive and sincere about the artist than his all-black-wearing persona. The 29-year-old who transplanted from Ohio to attend School of Visual Arts just over a decade ago, has been incubating his creative sensibilities with a New York state-of-mind. “I’m just planting all the seeds, so I can get the fuck out of here.” His breed is the kind of artist that is navigating a post-digital and post-recession career path while reenvisioning ways to create a sustainable life and career as an artist.

Already amassing a hefty resume of commercial projects and commissions with MTV, Restoration Hardware, and several of New York’s finest hospitality spaces, including trendy Meatpacking nightclub, Up&Down, The Tribeca Grand Hotel, and several private residences commissioned by interior design clients; RJ’s work is dynamic and impactful, making it easy for his audience to connect with his work. Much of his work could be interpreted as studies in dualism, drawing inspiration from some of the most diverse geometric structures and organisms found within the natural world as seen in the artist’s intricate and polarized black-and-white pattern work. Raizk’s work fluidly moves between analog and digital processes, at times incorporating both into the same piece.

While modernizing representational subject matter through simplified form and playful design, Raizk’s work is balanced by a highly-controlled process in which he attempts to utilize his physical body for a mechanical “printer-like application”, creating nearly-perfect pattern-repeating murals that are only seemingly-organic. A glance through the artist’s portfolio, which he endearingly refers to as his “pattern book”, reveals that RJ’s work is delicate and energetic at the same time. Patterns that look like constellations, electrons, cell mitosis, photosynthesis or seed-germination all make an appearance
in optic black and white ink on paper, all created entirely by hand. It is easy to be awed by the kind of discipline such detail requires, “I’ve done this one for the entire entrance of Up&Down,” he exclaims proudly, pointing to a pattern that could easily be the microbial makeup of a plant under a microscope.  “I did this one for my friend’s place and I’ve done it for restaurants, to prints on canvases for people, to just prints on paper.  I’ve done it just about everywhere. I’m leaving it open to every type of medium. It doesn’t have to be just drawn or painted.”

Many of the patterns within his body of work have been scanned to create digital file assets that can be further manipulated and used as source material for RJ’s intricate digital collage work. “A lot of people don’t understand that digital work takes about as much effort and time as analog. They don’t think digital is as authentic as you doing it by hand.  But in actuality, the amount of time and effort it takes to make a digital piece is the same because you’re collaging this giant thing and it’s your work.  So, just because there’s a computer between you doesn’t mean that it’s less effort.” For last year’s Miley Cyrus-hosted MTV Video Music Award, the artist was commissioned to create advertising collateral featuring the popstar, and suggested that the computer is simply another medium. “I love that I can combine my digital with my hand-drawn and I think that’s one of the best stuff I’ve done.”

iris04_rj_feature_online3Work In Progress: Constellation Mural, Hand Drawn Silver Ink On White Wall, At Collective Design Fair, 2016

Raizk’s first solo show, hosted by friend and fashion powerhouse, Nicola Formichetti, the artist made a return to a more traditional process of pigment dye and acrylic paintings on canvas, showcasing his skill-set as an abstract painter. Paintings carried over from the solo exhibition were quickly snatched up by Restoration Hardware’s newest division, RH Contemporary Artists, which markets a curated selection of artists’ work to it’s long-established cult-following consumer base in the world of home decor.  The potential of dipping his toe in the world of interior design and luxury furnishings and fabrics isn’t a bad idea. It’s easy to envision Raizk’s titillating patterns as fabrics, wallpaper, or carpeting that could wrap any textiled surface.

Positioning oneself for potential licensing deals is good business for any artist. Still, for many millennial creatives living in New York, post-graduation career aspirations can seem daunting, especially when trying to understand how to generate the cash flow to make a dream happen. “If you’re looking into studio spaces, they’ll be $2000 a month that’s a 300 square foot box with no window. If you want a window, then it’s over $3000,” he said, recalling the reality of astronomical rent that has posed a challenge for so many of New York’s artists. “But yet, everyone needs artists, but no one’s willing to cater to them.”

Merging his talent with a business-savvy drive, RJ’s career path hasn’t come without its criticism. “They are like, ‘Why don’t you just get a job on the side?  Why don’t you do this?’  And I’m like, ‘You guys don’t understand.  If I had a job, I wouldn’t devote any time to this.  I’d be coming home, going to sleep, waking up, going to the job.’  I need freedom to be able to make stuff, because then, the payoff is actually worth it, now.  It’s frustrating, because no one really understands and they’re just like,

‘You just don’t want to work. You’re just lazy.’ And I know that’s not true, because how did all this stuff happen?”

Fortunately, Raizk has effectively been able to maneuver said challenges, learning to employ the same cerebral dance between left and right brain (as seen in his pattern work) and flow effortlessly between them at will. This duality carries over into the profound underlying themes within RJ’s work. This is apparent in his crayon drawings of aliens that have become popular cult t-shirts. The series features aliens trying to understand a variety of human emotions, masquerading as tongue-in-cheek t-shirt designs that could easily be sold for the masses.

“I hope you know I’m not that serious,” he jokes while showing me a crayon drawing of two aliens holding hands with a sphere of rainbows drawn around their hands with the slogan “Searching for a connection”. One could understand them as a deeper commentary on the theory that life is a computer simulation being understood by a post-human civilization, an idea effectively juxtaposed by its delivery in the form of an infantile crayon drawing, reminiscent of childhood.

“Are we nothing but aliens experiencing human emotions for the first time?” I propose.

He agrees, “I think so.”

Here, Iris Covet Book sits down with the New York City-based artist at our photoshoot in Soho, NY.

iris04_rj_feature_online4Right: TERRAIN, 2016 | Black pigment dye and acylic on canvas | 60 x 48 inches | Available on rhcontemporaryart.com
Left: 
GRADIENT, 2016 | Black pigment dye and acrylic on canvas | 72 x 48 inches | Available on rhcontemporaryart.com

When did you know you wanted to become an artist?

It’s funny, when I was a child I was constantly drawing all over the walls of my parents’ house. At the time, my mom freaked out because I had just destroyed her newly painted shutters. She actually ended up saving the shutter with my markings on it. In class, I was one of those kids that never paid attention to the teacher and would just draw and scribble on the side of my notes and on the back of tests, wherever I could find an empty space on paper. I guess I could say I wanted to be an artist my entire life.

Has this been a career path that you always saw for yourself?

Ever since I was about 13, I knew that a normal life was not for me and I could not handle a 9-5 office job, it would give me anxiety and still does to this day thinking about it. I had this deep instinctual feeling to follow my dreams and what truly made me happy, and that’s how I decided that unless I pursued art I would not be happy. I would rather die than not do what I like to do for the world around me.

What influences have helped shape your creative process?

I was one of those kids who loved electronics and video games, the universe and the cosmos and the stylized drawing of anime and Japanese art. A nerd at heart. The way they could create such movement and drama with such simple line work was what really intrigued me. I’m also inspired by how organic structures of plants and the cosmos create such beautiful patterns.

Was there ever a time you were afraid or uncertain to express or put yourself out there creatively because of what others might think?

I want people to appreciate it as much as you do. When I was younger it was more difficult but now it has gotten a lot easier, the feedback has been nothing but positive so it keeps me going.

Is your work an emotional process or more of a technical process?

When I paint it is more emotional, and free flowing due to the movement of it. When I draw its more technical, I go into an almost robotic mode when I draw, it’s very repetitive. When I combine the two I feel the most complete.

When commissioned for interior design projects, how do spaces and architecture inspire the work that you create within them?

I have a portfolio of all my patterns that I have drawn over the years, and continue to make new ones for myself.

When I am commissioned for an interior design project I select the pattern that works the best with the space. With paintings, it’s the same process, I’ll show examples and work with the style of painting they want for their home.

What is something you hope your audience experiences when they enter a space that you have done?

Ultimately, I just want people to feel good about what they see and give them a feeling of awe. That’s why I like doing hospitality spaces so much, because if people are enjoying themselves in
the space, I feel like their reactions will be more positive.

So that you automatically feel energized being in it?

I’m basically taking a really stark, boring space, adding something crazy to it that is mine. So, it’s basically like me going out and leaving a giant autograph in a space and people really love it.

iris04_rj_feature_online7Work In Progress: Constellation Mural | Hand Drawn Silver Ink On Black Wall | At A Private Residence,2016.

Do you feel like an incredible amount of energy has surged through you physically when you have completed a mural?

After I’ve finished, then I’m basically brain dead. I’ve been focused during the whole process and then once I’ve finished, I literally cannot do anything else. I feel like I’ve given all of myself to this work.

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur in addition to being an artist and is there a balance between the two roles?

They do go hand in hand, you have to be smart about your work and how it represents your brand, your brand being yourself. Today, people want to know everything about you and what you represent.

How have you overcome the challenge of making art a viable business and what advice would you give young creatives hoping to make a career as an artist?

I have overcome the challenge by being very patient. You have to be patient. Sometimes the world isn’t as forward thinking as you are but overtime the world will catch up to your speed. My advice to young creatives is, keep practicing your craft and keep doing what you love to do. If your heart and soul is present in your work, you will always find success. Especially in this day and age with social media and all the other platforms that we have to show our work to the world. Keep putting your work out there, and positive things will come to you.

What makes you feel nostalgic?

I was a small town boy, in Wilmington, Ohio growing up. When I think about the fun I had running through the streets, bike riding through the neighborhoods, walking to the one gas station to buy candy, climbing trees, I feel nostalgic.

What makes you feel cerebral?

I love walking around the city and listening to music, I could do it all day when I’m not working. The music I listen to ranges from ambient, vapor wave, electronic, techno, hip-hop and classical. Music in general at all times makes me feel very cerebral.

Do you have anyone that you look up to professionally?

Yayoi Kusama and Keith Haring, I believe we are cut from the same cloth.

How has art helped you discover yourself or the world around you? What personality traits has it helped you develop?

It’s the core of my being and is the basis for everything I am.  ‡

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BETTINA RHEIMS

Interview by Marc Sifuentes | Photography by Bettina Rheims

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.  ‡

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