Vanessa Beecroft - "VB72B"

“Fashion photography, like fashion in general, is not something superficial. It’s a language that enables [one] to face many different topics, going beyond a mere representation of a dress.” This is how Vogue Italia’s senior photo editor Alessia Glaviano introduced the first edition of Photo Vogue Festival, a manifestation focusing on fashion photography and running in Milan from Nov. 22 to 26. Founded by Vogue Italia with the support of the city’s municipality, and chaired by Franca Sozzani and Glaviano herself, the event features a series of free exhibitions and lectures.

One of the most prominent among these is artist Vanessa Beecroft’s monographic exhibit, which was previewed on Nov. 23. Called “Vanessa Beecroft — Polaroids 1993/2016” and running from Nov. 24 to 29, the show gathers enlargements of Polaroids presented in the historic rooms of Milan’s Royal Palace, overlooking the iconic Piazza del Duomo.

The centrality of the female figure, which is at the core both of the manifestation’s program and Beecroft’s show, was highly celebrated by Milan’s Royal Palace director Domenico Piraina. During a press preview, the director mentioned former exhibitions held at the venue, including Richard Avedon’s monographic show in 1994 and recent Herb Ritts and Giovanni Gastel’s exhibits, and praised Sozzani’s and Glaviano’s choice to focus on women photographers, setting “the Photo Vogue Festival on a different perspective.”

“I’m so honored to have the chance to show [my work] here,” said Beecroft regarding the historic Milanese venue. “Living so far from this Italian artistic and architectural heritage, I find it so interesting to be able to show a contemporary work in such a noble location,” she added, underscoring how she considers this contrast much more intriguing compared to the use of modern, aseptic and empty spaces. “This venue elevates my work and makes me consider it even more important than before,” said Beecroft, revealing she got emotional once she saw her images presented in the rooms of the palace.

Beecroft’s color images are single or group close-ups centered on women’s body parts. Realized with a Renaissance-inspired mind-set, the Polaroids have been shot over the past two decades during the artist’s performances.

“[The Polaroids] have been realized due to my incapacity in representing the female figure in an appropriate way,” said Beecroft, stressing how photography has been a necessary medium to document her performances, which were ephemeral. “Neither sculpture, drawing nor painting were fitting to communicate properly some elements about women, so I used the performance, and the photography as consequence,” she concluded, underscoring how the camera is not her main medium, even if she’s very grateful to it.

Vanessa Beecroft - "Merida"

Vanessa Beecroft – “Merida”.  Courtesy Photo

This is not the first time that Beecroft has shown her work in Milan; she had made a performance commissioned by PAC, Milan’s Contemporary Art Pavilion, in 2009. Beecroft is not new to the world of fashion either, counting collaborations with different brands, ranging from Valentino and Tod’s to Kanye West’s Yeezy line.

Glaviano reiterated that Beecroft is not a fashion photographer but a more complex artist. Engaging such personality is part of Glaviano’s strategy in creating and offering to the audience an annual appointment between renowned artists and emerging photographers. “The goal is to create a metaphorical and physical place of change, a meeting point where there’s space to talk, because I noticed there’s a huge need of this, especially among the young [people],” Glaviano said.

To this end, a series of talks has been added to complete Photo Vogue Festival’s program. Held at the industrial venue of Base Milano, in Milan’s design-oriented Tortona district, a packed schedule of free lectures about photography is expected to involve prominent personalities like Paolo Roversi, Amanda Charchian, Christto & Andrew, among others.

In addition to these, other two exhibitions, called “The Female Gaze” and “PhotoVogue/in Fashion,” are held at the same venue. The former centers on women photographers — including Cindy Sherman, Camilla Akrans and Ellen von Unwerth, among others — who have revolutionized and empowered the female figure through their work. The latter displays a selection of images collected through Vogue Italia’s web site’s scouting program.

Cindy Sherman - "Untitled Film Still #50"

Cindy Sherman – “Untitled Film Still #50”.  Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

A range of side events held at Milan’s main galleries and exhibition venues also enhances the manifestation. “I want to highlight Photo Vogue Festival’s importance for what concerns the overall cultural offering of the city,” said Milan’s assessor for culture Filippo del Corno. “[This event] surrounds the city with an abundance of initiatives and offerings, which are strongly defining the positive moment Milan is living right now,” he concluded.

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