Sex. It’s an intimate reproductive act that’s seen itself at the centre of social dissension for centuries. It’s also the name of Madonna’s provocative photobook from 1992 and a special exhibition at Art Basel in Miami Beach that marks 30 years since it initially erupted a chorus of controversy. From Saint Laurent Rive Droite – the maison’s multi-destination concept store – the iconic book’s lasting impact comes alive with 25 blown-up images culled from the books pages and uninhibited prints plastered on the walls of an ephemeral beachfront box built especially for the world’s premier contemporary art fair. Curated by both Madonna and the Saint Laurent’s creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, it revives revolutionary imagery lensed by industry kingpin Steven Meisel.
When the coffee table book first came out, it was a controversial sensation that sent shockwaves reverberating across the globe. Its bold, erotic content, soft-core pornographic disposition and liberated views of sexual self-expression – especially with regard to women and women’s pleasure – were susceptible to immense backlash at the time. However, the book sold over 150,000 copies on its first day in the United States and topped the New York Times Best Sellers list for three weeks. In a matter of days, Sex went on to sell more than 1.5 million copies worldwide and remains one of the most in-demand out-of-print publications of all time. Envisioned by Madame Madonna, Sex is a seminal artifact of the past, of culture and of style – the tantalising echoes of its provocative pages still felt today – having paved the way forward for countless artists and left a profound impact on the blueprint of sex-positive, contemporary media culture. It’s a bold reclamation of sexuality in the face of society’s domineering purity culture.
To celebrate the re-edition of Madonna’s Sex by Rive Droite published by Callaway, New York, a bespoke run of 800 copies created exclusively for Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello are on sale at Art Basel for the 30th anniversary too.
For a lucky few, an auction with a limited number of copies signed by Madonna herself are up for grabs, will also be held in a few months time. All proceeds from this will go to her Raising Malawi charity, which since 2006 has supported Malawi’s orphans and vulnerable children by providing critical resources such as education, medical care, food, shelter and psychosocial support in response to the orphan crisis that was created by the AIDS epidemic.
Saint Laurent Rive Droite: Sex by Madonna, is only on display until Sunday, December 4, and the doors of the pop-up gallery are open to anyone over the age of 18, for free!
Photography by Steven Meisel.