Mario Testino exhibit at MFA Boston

The following post was written for me by Michael Constantinides.

testino-mfa-bostonMARIO TESTINO: IN YOUR FACE is on view at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts until February 3, 2013.

The line at the MFA’s main entrance started outside the building but, thankfully, kept moving – almost every person in that line waiting to view the broadly publicized Mario Testino “In Your Face” exhibit. I saw some boys buying MFA memberships on the spot, which instantly bestowed upon them the right to immediate entry into the building, bypassing the line (“I don’t do lines”, I overheard). And all this for good reason. These people just knew they were about to become intoxicated with photographs so esthetically gratifying (JLo’s turquoise Narciso Rodriguez gown billowing in the wind as she tethers 5 Doberman Pinschers), yet so vivid and realistic, arguably almost harsh (every follicle of fuzz on Kate Moss’ otherwise perfect nose visible, right there – IN YOUR FACE). Visitors will smirk at the handsome Tom Brady captured in a cute boyish grimace as he mimics the bark of his fellow model (Tom’s wife, Giselle, is herself the subject of several pieces on show). They will also admire Demi’s statuesque body, which certainly has me upping my squat routine – you’ll see for yourselves – the photograph that is. And of course who doesn’t want to revisit the iconic female nether region trimmed not into a mundane landing strip but in the shape of an angular letter G (that’s for Gucci)? The exhibit consists of approximately 120 super-enlarged, striking images that will send you into a visual crescendo.

And yet, regular museum goers may leave the exhibit feeling disillusioned – not with the Testino show – that’s exquisite – but with what seems to keep museums open these days: art not in its own right, but only as associated with either fashion or celebrity. Yes, fashion is sublime. Philosophically, however, there’s something sad about the reality that museums, those beacons of learning and civilization, have to pivot their shows around our celebrity-obsessed “culture”, or face extinction. And it’s true, indeed, that museums were not built to be empty so curators are justified adapting and doing whatever it takes to get people in there – hopefully people curious enough to wander off into the other areas and maybe become interested enough to return – perhaps buy or actually use that membership. Mr. Testino is a brilliant photographer and an artist in his own right who deserves to be showcased and honored. But I’d still have liked to see a line this long for, say, the Hopper exhibit or the Titian show a few years ago.

So do I recommend this exhibit? O-M-G, yes, go! You’ll love it. But here’s my suggestion – make an evening of it and do give the Linde Contemporary Art Wing a visit too. Also, do try the Allure of Japan show (running until December 31). Between exhibits, indulge in an espresso or – gasp! – dessert at the MFA’s colossal sun-drenched atrium café. You may be surprised with what you’ll discover on a day with the arts.

About Michael:  A former banker, Michael C offsets the sobriety of his professional life with his passion for design, music, the arts and anything beautiful.

© Michael Constantinides 2012 – all rights reserved

2 responses to “Mario Testino exhibit at MFA Boston

  1. Thanks, Liz – I agree. And as much I enjoy Chihuly’s explosions of color, I would advise you NOT to see the documentary about his work, especially WHO does it (hint – it’s not him). I suspect that would kinda put you off… :-/

  2. I recently saw the show and had some similar thoughts about those modern art big questions: What is Art? Should Art Represent Culture? etc etc. But, as you mention, Testino is an extremely talented and establish artist who turns these pop culture subjects INTO art. If the subjects weren’t familiar faces, people would focus more on the traditional elements like composition, color, and texture – all of which are stunningly presented in this collection of images.

    And I agree, I wish there was more enthusiasm for other artists whose work is not centered around pop culture (although the Chihuly show was packed all the time – maybe part of the reason is because both the Chihuly and Testino shows were/are advertised on every MBTA bus in the city?). Either way, I’m content if someone who would never have visited the MFA goes to see Testino and then spends literally 4 minutes walking through some other wing just to get there. That might be enough to spark some future interest.

    Thanks for your review, I enjoyed reading it!

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