Take a Look Behind the Scenes at Bottega Veneta’s Stunning Visual Artist Collaborations
Creative director Tomas Maier teams with Ryan McGinley, Annie Leibowitz, and more.
What do Nan Goldin, Annie Leibovitz, Ryan McGinley, Robert Longo, and Alex Prager have in common? All of them have worked with fashion house Bottega Veneta as part of The Art of Collaboration, creative director Tomas Maier’s ongoing project in which he enlists contemporary artists to help create the Italian luxury brand’s seasonal campaigns.
Maier teamed with Goldin in 2010 for a shoot in what he described in the book as “an old tumbledown house in a bad neighborhood on Staten Island.” (“I think the shabbiness and rawness of the environment inspired her,” he added.)
In 2007, Maier traveled to the East London studio of Sam Taylor-Johnson, former Turner Prize-nominee-turned-50 Shades of Gray director, for a theatrical photo shoot capturing the various stages in a relationship.
For its most recent fall/winter ad campaign, Bottega Veneta brought on board photographer Jürgen Teller (who also recently shot Kim Kardashian to bizarre effect). The photo session took place in the former home of influential mid-20th century Italian designer Carlo Mollino.
Choosing the artist for each collection is an important part of Maier’s process, but one that only begins once the clothing designs have been finalized, and the silhouettes, fabrics, and color palette are all in place.
“We always try to think how a specific collection could fit with a particular artist’s work, and from there we determine the choice that makes the most sense for both us and the artist,” Maier told artnet News.
For Maier, it’s the full picture that matters, not the clothes—”the better the clothes are, the less you see them,” he’s fond of saying. Maier wants the artist’s personal style to be present in the finished image, as in Longo‘s 2010/2011 campaign, which revisits the Men in the Cities series for which he is perhaps best known.
It’s the artists, not just big name fashion photographers, who help set the Bottega Veneta brand apart from the competition—”Not that we don’t think they’re great,” Maier clarified. “But it’s a little boring when it’s all the same names.”
Working with artists presents different challenges than those encountered in traditional shoots with commercial photographers, but when there’s a perfect match between an artist and a collection, “you do anything you have to do to make it happen,” Maier said.
McGinley was particularly difficult to nail down, for instance, because of his work in film, which takes him “on these mega-trips across the country” from May through October. “We ended up at the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, a last minute switch from the original location, but it was during the one week of the year when the azaleas were in bloom. That was so special it had to be a part of the shoot.”
Sometimes, it’s the unexpected challenges that can prove fruitful. “We wanted to shoot with sunlight, but it was pouring all day,” Maier recalled of a 2013 shoot with David Armstrong (who died in 2014). “It was gloomy and there was no sun out. Everything went wrong and then went right.”
An accomplished if somewhat reluctant fashion photographer (he once told the New York Times “what I loathe is modern fashion photography—the bells and whistles and light and foolishness”), Armstrong took advantage of the moment, capturing quiet, melancholy beauty.
The end result was yet another success story for The Art of Collaboration: “When I have such a huge amount of respect for what they do,” noted Maier, “how could the outcome go wrong?”
See more photos from the book below.
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