The first ever retrospective of Guy Bourdin opens at the V&A

The exhibition features much more than the fashion shoots of the provocative French photographer

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The V&A stage the first ever retrospective of Guy Bourdin (1928-1991), the cult French photographer whose influential, sexually charged colour spreads once outshone the monochrome work of rivals on the pages of top fashion magazines (17 April-17 August). From the mid-1950s onwards, Bourdin distilled a distinctly compulsive, intoxicating vision full of unresolved hints of sexual innuendo laced with hidden, transgressive desires. Alongside the famous fashion shoots, Bourdin obsessively recorded his milieu in films and photographs. For the first time, this installation in the V&A’s Contemporary Space, reunites both private and published elements of his work. One room has a selection of editorial and publicity stills from the mid-to-late 1970s peak of his career, displayed as contemporary prints by leading printer, Pascal Dagnin. Films made by Bourdin on the sets of fashion shoots are shown in tandem, opening new perspectives on his visual and emotional search for material. A second room complements the first with hundreds of unpublished, private images—polaroids, early black and white material, slides, sketches and notes—all devoid of either fashion or human figures, offering unexpected, behind-the-scenes, glimpses into Bourdin’s visual vocabulary and recurring motifs. His advertising and editorial work, during his 1970s high-profile years, shattered the conventions of fashion imagery, revealing, as no other photographer then could, that seduction lies in the image, not the product it promotes.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Guy Bourdin'

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