2012 October 18

Mario Testino's Boston Retrospective

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Anna Wintour, Mario Testino and Gisele Anna Wintour, Mario Testino and Gisele
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(BOSTON) Is Boston usurping New York as the center for fashion fine art? Despite the Big Apple's blockbuster McQueen exhibit, recent Cindy Sherman retrospective, and the Prada-Schiaparelli bonanza, the chilly New England city was hand picked for Mario Testino's first stateside showing of "In Your Face" and "British Royal Portraits" at the Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibit, sponsored by Stuart Weitzman, features two different exhibit spaces. "In Your Face" is the larger selection with 122 portraits of larger than life dimensions. The dimly lit basement of the MFA opened the gallery with a montage of televisions and moving footage of the photographer in action, and on location. Once you made your way inside, vast rectangular rooms had ledges running around the walls with image after image resting on them. Stark white and black frames allowed the pictures to speak for themselves, and of course, there was a lot to speak about. Supes like GiseleKate MossStephanie Seymour, Candice Swanepol, Daria Werboy, Karlie Kloss, Naomi Campbell, and the like burst out of the frames in vivid, contrast rich shots from fashion editorials that once graced the pages of V, Vogue, British Vogue, and French Vogue. For any magazine connoisseur, it was like stepping into the best curated fashion editorial compilation you've ever seen. There was also a heavy dosage of celebrity portraits, such as Madonna's Ray of Light album cover, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie mugs, a plethora of Gaga (each almost unrecognizable from the last), Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ashton Kutcher. 

The "British Royal Portraits" stand alone in a separate wing of the museum, which seems appropriate when comparing the content and subjects of the two Testino exhibits. The considerably smaller space reflected the intimacy of the portraits that hang within it. Only 16 portraits of the royals are displayed, each showing a different aspect of the British royal family, whether it be HRH Charles in his garden, or the queen exiting a state function. Testino, who first shot the royal family at the 1981 wedding, has developed a rare intimacy with the fiercely private clan. He has been commissioned to take the royal Christmas card, as well as Prince Henry and Duchess Catherine's engagement photos. However, without a doubt, the most poignant of the portraits was that of the late Princess Diana, a picture snapped for Vanity Fair shortly before her death in 1997. 

Mr. Testino himself was on-hand shortly after the preview for a question and answer session with Malcolm Rogers, the Ann and Graham Gunn director for the museum who approached him to do the exhibit. (Later that night, Anna Wintour, Gisele, Alessandra Ambrosio, Candice Swanepoel, Joan Smalls, Erin Wasson, and Karlie Kloss showed up for the grand opening.) Dressed in a sleek and subtle all black uniform, Testino spoke about his journey to photography, noting mishaps in waiting tables and a departure from terry cloth lilac suits along the way. Though the photographer is known for shooting international campaigns for luxury houses like Versace and Gucci, he is perhaps best known for his Vogue contributions, which he spoke to. On Anna Wintour, Testino said: "We go back a long time, back to when she was at New York magazine. I shot her son's passport photo when he was in her arms. She's a Scorpio like myself, so she's straight forward, but I respect that." He mentioned that before he finalized the images for the "In Your Face" exhibit, he showed her the selection and took out three photos that she did not like. For a man who considers Kate Moss and Her Royal Highness some of his friends and subjects, there was a tangible sense of humility and respect he has for his art. "I used to be known for the staged aspects of my shots. Now I build them, create them, and then destroy them to get a more natural effect," he added. As he took questions from the crowd, a gaggle of young bloggers in the front row posed provocative questions about the definitions of beauty in fashion. "Magazines need to be aspirational, you know." Then he quipped, "We have so many bloggers in the front row! It took me a hundred years to get there!" 

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