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FACING FACTS: Lapo Elkann, a man who lives his days with dramatic flourish, has joined the ranks of Italy’s great face-pullers and champion gesticulators in a new book of photographs called “The Italian” (Skira Editore).
In the tradition of Italian comedic actors such as Totò and Roberto Benigni, Elkann — president and founder of Italia Independent Group and a grandson of Gianni Agnelli — has answered a host of questions, both silly and serious, with his face and body alone.
Inspired by the 1949 book, “The Frenchman: A Photographic Interview,” by Philippe Halsman, the writer Glenn O’Brien asked Elkann questions ranging from “What makes Italian women special?” to “It’s been said that [your company] is in a position for a fantastic IPO…”
The latter elicits an open-jaw, bug-eyed look captured by Wayne Maser, a close friend of Elkann’s, who shot all of the book’s images in black-and-white.
(Clearly, Elkann has since pulled himself together: Italia Independent Group was listed on AIM Italia Alternative Capital Market last June.)
Elkann also responds to provocations such as: “You’ve been called a degenerate,” to which he responds with a raise of his ginger eyebrows; and “Newspapers reported that you were seen entering a hotel at dawn with a married woman,” which elicits an image of Elkann hiding his head under his pinstripe jacket.
“I love my country and when Glenn and Wayne asked me about doing an Italian version, I said ‘Why not?,’” Elkann said recently during the book launch at the Robilant+Voena gallery in London.
“Italy is a nation filled with beauty and irony, and irony is key. This book is a joke — a joke done with quality,” said Elkann, who was decked in a Rubinacci pinstripe suit, an Italian Independent red pique shirt and Marinella tie, embroidered with a small Italian flag.
The book is published in paperback, and Elkann and Maser said the goal was to produce a piece of art that doesn’t cost a fortune. “We wanted it to be accessible, not distant and not too expensive — affordable art,” said Elkann.
“No one thought it would work…but Lapo was amazing,” Maser added. “He’s an actor, a silent movie star. He has a real sense of comedy. I was thinking: ‘Where has this dude come from?’”