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Would Tyson Beckford ever do the Pirelli Calendar? “Hell, yeah!” he said. “I don’t care what they would ask; I would love to do it.” As for the calendar’s famed nudity? Everyone’s favorite male model merely shrugged. “Only here in America do we run away from nakedness,” he said. “Everywhere else, they embrace the beauty of a woman.”
Beckford turned up at New York Fashion Week’s Moynihan Station on Saturday night to check out “The Cal: Pirelli Icons,” an exhibition of images from the famed Pirelli Calendar. While women have been the focus of the calendar since its inception in 1964, curator Amedeo Turello points out that men indeed have been featured.
“Bruce Weber produced images based on the idea of women that men die for, and men that women die for,” he explained, noting that John Malkovich and Dermot Mulroney were among the men asked to participate. The final page of that 1998 calendar featured Weber’s image of Robert Mitchum, who had passed away the previous year, with the photog’s thanks to the actor “for being a tough-guy poet and a gentleman who always loved the embrace of a lady.”
That series didn’t make the cut of the 150 images on display for this exhibition, which instead features women in all stages of dress and undress, from Naomi Campbell and Nadja Auermann to Yoko Ono and Serena Williams, both of whom were photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the 2016 edition.
Why do photographers and subjects alike love this assignment? “Pirelli gives total freedom to the artist,” Turello says. “It’s not a question of sexual approach; it’s just a question of freedom. It’s not a company project, but an artist project. The role of Pirelli is to just pay the bill. They’re very clever that way, because the results from year to year are always different and always amazing.”
As for favorites, Turello prefers the images from the 1980s, a period he calls “truly magic,” though he also thinks Leibovitz’s images for this year’s calendar — featuring Williams and Ono, as well as Amy Schumer, producer Kathleen Kennedy and others — are game-changers: “She did a masterful job — they’re beautiful and elegant and also very intimate and simple.” It’s also notable that, other than the husband-and-wife team of Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Leibovitz is the only other woman who’s been asked to helm the project.
Will this year’s calendar attain the same cult status as past editions? Consider that Beckford has already received not one, but two. “I always get two — one to hang, and one to keep in its original box,” he said. “You put together some of the most iconic women in fashion and some of the most iconic photographers in the business, and you can’t go wrong. It’s art, beauty and genius, all in one.”
LEGENDARY: Cindy Crawford posed for the 1994 Pirelli Calendar. (Photo: Courtesy of Pirelli)
“The Cal: Pirelli Icons” will be on display at Moynihan Station through Feb. 18.
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