Ten’s To See: ‘Gian Paolo Barbieri: Beyond Fashion’ at House of Lucie, Ostuni

Deep in the heart of Italy’s White City (Ostuni) lives a new, retrospective exhibition celebrating the indelible legacy of the Milanese fashion photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri. Part of a pivotal collaboration between the House of Lucie, Ostuni, The Lucie Awards, the Fondazione Gian Paolo Barbieri and the Milanese gallery 29 Arts In Progress, from tomorrow until August 31, Gian Paolo Barbieri: Beyond Fashion will open its doors to the public. 

At 86-years-old, Barbieri is a tried and true master of his craft, having lensed intimate and cultured images of supers including Veruschka, Naomi Campbell, Marpessa, Eva Herzigova and actors Monica Bellucci, Mina and Isabella Rossellini that edged on ironic. Not to mention iconic figures whose impact defined the zeitgeist of their time. That’s Audrey Hepburn, for anyone who doesn’t already know. Capturing the elegant Belgian-British movie star in Valentino for Vogue Italia back in 1969, he has cemented his spot as one of the most influential international photographers in the fashion arena. 

from left: Audrey Hepburn in Valentino, Roma, 1969 and Dalma Callado in Gianfranco Ferré, Milano 1979

But his resume doesn’t end with Hepburn – despite how seminal that was. Since opening his own studio in Milan in 1964, mere months after assisting mid-century fashion photographer Tom Kublin, he has only garnered greater status. Influenced by art history, exotic outdoor locations and cinema –which echoes his early experience working at the Roman film studio Cinecittà – in his carefully studied and balanced use of lighting, he veritably stands out amid the oversaturated landscape of fashion imagery. 

For decades, his fascinating pictures have filled the pages of Vogue Italia, Vogue Paris, Vogue America, L’Officiel, GQ and Vanity Fair and he’s lensed provocative yet alluring campaigns for major fashion houses including Valentino, Gianni Versace, Gianfranco Ferré, Giorgio Armani, Bulgari, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and Vivienne Westwood. He has contributed to the collections at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and National Portrait Gallery, Vienna’s Kunstforum, the MAMM and the Erarta Contemporary Art Museums in Russia, the Musée du quai Branly in Paris and the Nicola Erni Collection in Switzerland. In June 2022, the first documentary film made about Barbieri’s life and work was released and, entitled The Man and the Beauty, it won the audience award in the Biografilm Art & Music section of the Biografilm Festival in Bologna. 

Having received the Lucie Award for Best International Fashion Photographer (Outstanding Achievement in Fashion) in 2018, Barbieri’s visual authority still stands. The Lucie Awards are an event founded by Hossein Farmani that honours the greatest achievements in photography with a biennial awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York. The House of Lucie, on the other hand, is a contemporary photography space to showcase the extraordinary work of the Lucie Awards honorees, which of course, includes Barbieri. 

from left: Catherine Noyez, Interview Mag., Milano, 1986; Naomi Campbell in Yves Saint Laurent, Parigi, 1988; Christy Turlington in Yves Saint Laurent, Parigi, 1988; Aly Dunne in Gianfranco Ferré, Milano, 1992; Vivienne Westwood, Londra, 1998; and Isa Stoppi, Milano, 1968

On view are an amalgamation of masterworks and never-before-seen photos pulled from the depths of his extensive archive ranging from the 1960s to the turn of the century. Often adhering to the lighting style of film noir, before having a hand in a more technicolour, surrealist quality and developing a innovative outlook toward set design and styling, Barbieri garnered his reputation not just for his idiosyncratic point of view, but for his friendships with the designers who were at the vanguard of Italy’s transformation into a fashion capital and who catalysed a revolutionary new era for costume and fashion. 

For Barbieri, fashion without art becomes “naked and empty”. So his way of handling the camera sought to free the women he worked with “from the classic canonical poses of fashion photography, becoming spokeswomen for a new, unconventional type of elegance which reveals a more nonchalant and sensual side.”

It’s been over 60 years since Barbieri stepped onto the scene; more than 60 extraordinary years defined by high fashion friendships, cross-continental creations and magnificent moments frozen in time. Gian Paolo Barbieri: Beyond Fashion isn’t one to miss. 

Head to the House of Lucie, Ostuni, Corso Garibaldi 16, Puglia, Italy, between July 5 and August 31 to experience the entrancing display.

Top image: Tree Allen in Callaghan by Versace, Milano 1978. All photography by Gian Paolo Barbieri, courtesy of Fondazione Barbieri and 29 Arts In Progress Gallery Milan. 


Laura Alvarez, Venezuela, 1976

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