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MADRID — “I end up taking off people’s clothes; I don’t know why, maybe it’s the intimacy or the element of conspiracy but in the end it’s a present, it has to do with trust,” said Mario Testino on the eve of his first exhibition here, “Todo o Nada” (“All or Nothing”). “For instance, when I shot Jennifer Aniston after her divorce from Brad [Pitt], my reaction was to make her as sexy as possible, not the victim.”
And sales have to come out of that, he added. “We’re part psychiatrist, part salesman.”
The 54-photo exhibition at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum features everything from Stella Tennant dressed as a modern-day Marie Antoinette in powdered wig and lavish ruffled ballgown to a nude Sienna Miller with the tiniest five-point star on her bikini line.
“My natural reaction to the Thyssen offer was to do it because in the last 10 years, portraits have taken over my life and I thought my fashion work was not really being seen,” said Testino. “It’s exciting to think what you’ve done might stay in the annals of history, that it’s not banal but lasting.”
The Peru-born Testino said an exhibition in Spain was an additional draw “because even though I live in London and the Anglo-Saxon culture has helped me to be me, exhibiting here is almost like being accepted by my own. The cultures are similar, but my work is sunnier, with more color than traditional Spanish art.”
Testino currently has his own gallery on his mind. Still in its early stages, the namesake foundation-gallery (“I like to call it an association”) will open next year in Lima, Peru, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the photographer’s career. Housed in a circa 1850 building, the exhibition space will promote Lima’s urban tourism “and open doors for young Peruvians; it will allow creativity to develop,” the photographer said.
One idea for an upcoming show is a display of regional costumes, which he calls “our sense of fashion. Imagine me dealing with the most amazing dresses in the world and then going back to Peru to discover these equally wonderful clothes.”
Earlier, during a press conference at the museum, Testino said Kate Moss has been a great influence “not just because of her beauty. There are thousands and thousands of models, but very few with her attitude toward life.”
Asked which portrait in the exhibition he would keep, “It’s difficult, my world is one of extremes but I would keep a nude, maybe the one of Demi Moore,” who is baring her toned bottom in nothing but stiletto heels.
And having shot many of the world’s most famous models, Testino weighed in to the controversy over undernourished mannequins in comments sure to stir the ire of those advocating for nutritional codes and age limits on models. “I think the world has greater problems than anorexia,” he said. “Fashion uses young models, it always has, and of course they’re skinny. I was skinny too at their age.”
“Todo o Nada” runs through Jan. 9.