Celebrating renowned fashion photographer Paolo Roversi’s work, an exhibition of his published series of images NUDI is opening to the public with the curation of Maison Random. Originally released as a photobook in 1999, Maison Random based the exhibition on NUDI because of its ability and implication in representing Roversi’s artistry as that of a ‘painter of images’.
The contemporary art institution is well within their reasoning – at its foundation, Roversi’s photography focuses on both the melancholic and ethereal of fashion, and NUDI reflects this. The exhibition views NUDI in retrospection and the full figure portraits literally bare all: they are stripped of the emphasised sexuality that can be found in fashion, but instead, they present grace and a universal humanity.
An 18th century Italian chapel in Roversi’s hometown of Ravenna houses the exhibition, which seems even more fitting for what NUDI represents. Models like Kate Moss and Devon Aoki feature amongst many others, both famous and unknown. They are real, living artwork captured in the flesh and, most importantly, are also vulnerable yet ethereal as Maison Random describes in this interview. Roversi has previously stated that he’s ‘always in search of this beauty’ and in this interview, Maison Random discuss their belief in how he has found it with NUDI, along with the significance of Roversi’s creative methods, and his relationships with his subjects.
How did the idea for the NUDI exhibition form originally?
As part of the curatorial team at Maison Random, we decided to take the name from the homonymous book published by Paolo Roversi and Steidl/Stromboli editorial in 1999. We thought of this particular collection of images because we believe they represent him as an artist in the broadest sense of the term, and these images are very representative of his most intimate work and personal vision.
Could you tell us more about the location for this exhibition and its significance to Paolo Roversi and his work?
Paolo was born in Ravenna, so this place holds a special place in his heart as he always speaks of it. The choice to present this exhibition in his hometown is not a casual one but rather an obligation, a debt, that the city of Ravenna owes him as a master photographer. We chose the Chapel at Palazzo Baronio, Maison Random’s headquarters in Ravenna, in an effort to treasure Paolo’s work as part of the city’s cultural and artistic patrimony, much like its famous mosaics. Built in the 1700s, Palazzo Baronio was first home to noble families, then Circolo Cittadino for over 100 years, now an art space and private club looking forward to opening its doors to the public this September to celebrate Paolo Roversi.
How did you decide which photographs would be included in NUDI?
It is impossible to make a choice of Paolo Roversi’s shots, but it is our obligation to be able to show them at their best, so this was extremely difficult. At the same time, we aim to complete and enlarge this collection so that all the photographs in the NUDI series are eventually presented all together without any particular preference, making no difference between them. The idea is to have this as a permanent homage to Paolo that keeps developing, growing and changing.
How did the Polaroid 20 x 25 format influence how the photographs would be presented in this exhibition space?
These photographs are unique platinum palladium prints that cannot be reproduced. The particular rapport of friendship and intimacy that Paolo has with his models made these extremely pure images possible, in which the human body is represented in the form of vulnerable mystical icons, Venuses of light. Placing them in the Chapel aligns with the intention to form a sacred space to hold and cherish them as such.
What were some of the challenges you faced when working on curating the exhibition?
The only challenge when working with an artist such as Paolo is the need to represent him and honour him well as he and his work deserve.
Are there any rare photographs or information that will surprise the audience attending?
The audience should not expect to find what usually comes first to mind when we speak of Paolo Roversi. On this occasion, we wanted to present the most artistic facet of his work. What is most surprising is how fresh and modern the approach of the human body appears though these images were taken over twenty years ago. The portraits speak of a timeless idea of beauty; there’s grace and delicacy evoked in these shots, almost stripped of all sexuality, representing all humankind as one.
Are there any photographs you find particularly drawn to? Why?
The portrait of Devon, which reminded me of Botticelli’s Venus, or the portrait of Audrey, in a spontaneous position. She seems to be emerging from an illusionary forest. I actually love every single image in the collection.
In your opinion and after curating NUDI, how is Paolo Roversi’s incredible experience and talent reflected in the photography and this specific exhibition?
These images are the result of thorough work that show his experience in “speaking” with light and developing techniques, achieving ethereal, marble-like creatures. All through his work we have seen Paolo in search for the purest form of Beauty. It’s as if this has been his motivation in all his life’s work. We believe he has achieved that here.
Contact Maison Random to book a viewing.