We expose the creative tension that lay behind one of Pirelli's most iconic calendar years, alongside one of the images considered too risqué for publication...
The Pirelli Calendar is something of a cultural institution. Dating all the way back to 1964, it was initially created as a corporate gift for important clients and VIPs – but has since become a barometer of the era in which each respective issue was created: every annual edition a time capsule documenting the renowned models, actresses and photographers of its time. Traditionally featuring a variety of titillating moments captured by industry legends from Richard Avedon to Patrick Demarchelier, it was recently announced that Pirelli will be, for 2016, eschewing its traditionally hyper-sexual imagery for portraits of powerful women like Fran Lebowitz, Tavi Gevinson and Serena Williams – surely a testament to the evolution of contemporary feminism. Yet there is one historic year that particularly stands out as a peak moment within the calendar's illustrious history: 1973, the year that united two of the world's most renowned creatives in a brilliantly fetishistic fashion shoot that had some creative contradictions lurking behind the scenes.
"The tension between Brian Duffy and Allen Jones was unbelievable, as each thought his job was more important," explains calendar art director Derek Forsyth in the new Taschen retrospective of the archive, Pirelli - The Calendar, 50 Years And More. "The way it worked was that we took the picture, had special big prints made which Allen drew on and then Philip Castle, who'd done the poster for A Clockwork Orange and airbrush work on David Bowie's Aladdin Sane, sprayed over them.” The liberty that Duffy took in interpreting Jones’ initial sketches for the shoot was problematic for the boldly brilliant artist, who felt subsequently disregarded. “Pirelli were a bit afraid of it, and one image was rejected out of hand before printing” explained Forsyth, of an image that features a ball of vanilla ice cream dripping between a pair of breasts. Apparently they looked too much like buttocks; a slightly bizarre likeness to take specific offense to in such a provocative series – as Jones stated with a wry irony, showing a bum would “have been truly perverse.” One month before publication, the image was banned – as was the one below, considered too risqué for its time.
In spite of whatever disagreements were going on behind the scenes and at Pirelli headquarters, the 12 images that made the cut are among the archive's most iconic. A time during which Roxy Music and David Bowie were making album covers (often with the likes of Duffy creating the artwork) that simultaneously embraced and satirised provocation, the series does exactly that: captures a tongue-in-cheek approach to female sexuality within a fantastically graphic framework of fantasy. The 1973 Calendar is one that has come to define Pirelli, Jones and Duffy alike – and is still hanging on walls and in galleries long past its presumed sell-by date.
Pirelli - The Calendar, 50 Years And More is published by and available via Taschen