Cool & Noteworthy 2012: Assignments that prove the age of enlightened commissions isn’t dead yet

Maurizio Anzeri for Fendi

Fendi was launched by Edoardo and Adele Fendi in 1925 as a fur and leather shop. In 1997, Silvia Venturini Fendi gave the brand a new lease of life when she designed the now-iconic diminutive ‘baguette’ handbag. This year, Fendi commissioned Italian-born artist Maurizio Anzeri to create a video celebrating both the handbag and designer, showing a ‘moving still’ image of Silvia’s face and her hands holding the bag, and animating an embroidered intervention stitch by stitch.

“I met Silvia by chance at the Basel Art Fair a couple of years ago,” says Anzeri. “We started to talk and the idea came up to do an animation; I liked that Silvia was willing to put her own face on the line. She’s Silvia Fendi, she could hire a model.”Anzeri usually works alone, but says he’s always up for collaborations if they allow him to do something new. “I’ve wanted to do an animation for a long time, but didn’t know how to go about it. So when this project came up, I was interested because I could work with Marco Molinelli [a film director with animation experience]. We spent seven days working on it because we had to shoot every stitch – I told him that by the end we would either hate each other or want to get married.”

Everyone brought their own expertise to the project, and together they were able to create something bigger than they could have done alone, he says. Molinelli was willing to experiment and encouraged Anzeri to stitch exactly as he saw fit. “It was the first time I had worked in this way,” says Anzeri. “Unlike in my artwork, for example, I didn’t stitch directly onto the photograph, I had to work on blue paper [footage of which was then transposed onto the image].”

In fact, Anzeri says he learned so much working with Molinelli that he is confident he could tackle an animation on his own. “If it’s an interesting project, there’s nearly always something that comes out of it,” he observes.


Image © Matthew Stone.

Matthew Stone for Yuima Nakazato

Matthew Stone is first and foremost “an artist and shaman”, and while he’s contributed to magazines including Dazed & Confused and Visionaire, he doesn’t usually shoot commissions. So when Japanese fashion designer Yuima Nakazato approached him about a photographic project involving a series of nudes, it took him a while to agree.

But Nakazato’s S/S 2012 collection was actually inspired by Stone’s nude photographs, so he wanted to leave Stone free to shoot his own way. “When I first saw his photography, I was drawn into the Matthew Stone world,” says Nakazato. “I wanted to embrace the inspiration for this collection. I pretty much entrusted the photoshoot to him, but if I had an idea he would willingly take it on.”

Stone looked at images of the clothes online and the two discussed the project via Skype. They then met up in London and “quickly became friends”. The shoot took place shortly afterwards in a friend of a friend’s garden, with Stone, Nakazato and the models all camping together for the duration.

“Yuima had a romantic idea of a utopian community,” says Stone, “where nudity is not seen as shameful. It was easy to stay true to this, considering the nature of my own work.”
After the shoot Stone made a large edit of the images and sent them back to Nakazato. The designer suggested a few images he wanted to add, and the pair then worked with an art director, Robert Brendan Patrick, to further refine the series. It was printed in a limited edition book, The Body Beyond, and published by Jansuke Yamasaki in January.

“Entrusting my vision to someone else was an interesting experience,” says Nakazato. “This kind of collaboration, born from trusting relationships and the support of countless people, is not something you come across everyday.”


Image © Donald Weber.

Donald Weber for Canadian Art

Donald Weber prefers working on personal projects to taking commissions, funding himself through grants and bursaries, and paring his living expenses down to the bare minimum. But he will take commissions if they’re right, so when Canadian Art magazine asked him to go to the Arctic for a special issue on Canada’s northern territory, he was interested. He was given four months to decide what he wanted to shoot and complete creative freedom, and says it was almost too much. “The editor Richard Rhodes said, ‘Do what you want.’ I usually love freedom, but a total lack of boundaries impossible. I need something I feel I can break.”

Weber headed to the archives at the Art Gallery of Ontario for inspiration, looking at its extensive collection of Inuit art and artefacts. While there he remembered filmmaker and photographer Robert Flaherty, and a series of portraits of Inuits he made in the 1920s and 30s using only seal oil lamps and a large format camera. Then he met up with contemporary filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, who once said: “The Inuit are the only people to go from the Stone Age to the Digital Age in one generation.” Those two factors sparked an idea: go to the Arctic and shoot the locals using only the light of their digital devices. 

Canadian Art loved the idea and funded Weber’s trip to Igloolik in Nunavut. It was an expensive trip, says Weber, but “Canadian Art believes in commissioning photographers and will actually pay expenses – and pay a fee”. 

Initially, it was hard to get the locals on board, but after attending a local meeting they became curious about “this crazy photographer taking pictures in the dark”. Working in a darkened room, he asked his subjects to pull out whatever digital devices they had on them and used a Canon EOS 5D MkI to shoot “because it can handle low light”. He ended up with 20 portraits, 10 of which he sent to Rhodes at Canadian Art.

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