As certain as a bad hangover on New Year’s Day are the resolutions and self-made promises of January detoxes, cleanses and health kicks. Amongst all the talk (and let’s face it, it’s almost always just talk), there is hope, because with the new calendar year comes new calendars; and if you want inspiration that’s going to last all year round I suggest you buy one, a naked one. I’m not talking about one with 12 months’ worth of scantily clad, heavily photoshopped Justin Bieber photos, or Page Three girls on a beach, I’m talking about true art in celebration of the human form.
‘Form and Desire’ is the aptly named exhibition of 40 years of photography from the best of the best of these calendars: the Pirelli.
The location of the exhibition is as fitting as its name: the fashion Mecca that is Milan. While clothes are few and far between in the shoots, the models, stylists and photographers are some of fashion’s finest. The 2015 Calendar is shot by Steven Meisel, styled by Carine Roitfeld and features Adriana Lima, Joan Smalls and Natalia Vodianova to name just a few.
Previous photographers include Richard Avedon, Peter Lindbergh, Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino and Karl Lagerfeld, whilst the likes of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Heidi Klum and Eva Herzigova appear as models.
Pirelli is fashion, and not just because, as Vivienne Westwood famously announced, “Fashion is about eventually being naked”. The exhibition in its own words is about photography as a “testimony of particular changes, of new styles, of new ideas, of many creative and technical innovations”, just as fashion is.
The 200 photos in the exhibition are displayed accordingly – not chronologically, ironic given that is an exhibition of prints from calendars. They are grouped in five rooms, each room’s collection highlighting a different aspect of the calendar that has run through 40 years of different concepts and photographers. Finally, Meisel’s photos for this year are presented, and they have saved the most overtly sexual for last.
However, there is another surprise too, amongst all the latex and fetish gear: Candice Huffman. She is the calendar’s first plus-size (read: normal size) model. “My presence on this set,” she said, “the most glamorous in the world, is a sign that things are really changing.” She’s right, of course.
Having visited the exhibition during a vacation spent scoffing pizza and pasta in Italy, I hoped to find inspiration for a cleaner, leaner 2015. Instead, I found true inspiration for a happier, but no less glamorous, one.
Some might say that in this age of Facebook event pages and smartphone reminders there is no longer a need for the traditional calendar, but I believe they still have a place, marking the passing of time with regularly changing art.
Unfortunately this is inspiration that I cannot hang on my wall all year round, as the calendars cannot be bought but are merely sent to a select and secret lucky few. So, while I’m working on looking ‘sexy’, not ‘scary’, in the hope of one day getting sent one, I suppose I’ll have to content myself for the moment with the RAG Blues Naked Calendar.