212GALLERY’s own Max Vadukul recently collaborated with Ai Weiwei, the “most powerful person in the world of art,” according to Art Review magazine.
Mr. Ai created a story line for a series of photos that were shot on location in New York, by the photographer Max Vadukul as Mr. Ai looked on, art directing via Skype on a laptop computer from his home in China.
The photos will appear in W magazine’s November issue, the sixth annual one devoted to art. W’s editor, Stefano Tonchi, approached Mr. Ai, the outspoken Chinese artist and dissident, to do the cover not long after he was released from detention. Mr. Ai, was detained by Chinese authorities in the spring, was released under close surveillance in June.
“There is nothing quite like it,” said Vadukul, who had his first U.S. solo exhibition at 212GALLERY last March.
“He has an extraordinary vision,” said Vadukul. “He sees something that nobody else sees. That’s why he’s such an acclaimed artist. I’m mindful that I’m creating his vision. W is known for creating fine art work and then if you bring in a photographer known for his art reportage work- it’s exciting. This is the one assignment which will never be repeated again.”
Not only did Mr. Ai agree to do the cover, but a schema for a series of photos reminiscent of photos he took of the Tompkins Square riots in the 1980s, when he lived in New York. “We left it open to him to create an original work,” said Diane Solway, W magazine’s senior editor.
The resulting scene takes place at Rikers Island. They refer to Mr. Ai’s own confinement, which China’s government has forbidden him from discussing.
For Mr. Vadukul the challenge was in translating Mr. Ai’s aesthetic for W’s fashion readership.
In an October 12th, New York Times article about the collaboration, Mr. Ai specified that he wanted street clothes, in the cover photo, shot in Flushing, Queens. The model, instead, is wearing an outfit by Alexander Wang. Mr. Vadukul made some suggestions — like shooting in black and white, which he said Mr. Ai agreed with — but he was mindful that he was there to execute another person’s vision.
“I would show him the images live on the screen,” explained Vadukul. “We had skype set up in this prison. I was showing him where I’m going to shoot, frame by frame, getting him involved in the process. I felt like I was giving his vision a lot of feeling.”
“It was very surreal,” said Ms. Solway. “We could see him on the screen, scrolling through the images.”
“This is his story,” said Vadukul. “I’m doing what he’s expecting. For me, the excitement has been, firstly, to have the chance to collaborate with an artist of his stature, then to hear him actually give a very strong direction.”
“Art is traditonally most effective when it makes a social comment and he’s certainly succeeded in doing that,” said Vadukul. “He is the big big kahuna out there.”
Max Vadukul was born in Nairobi, Kenya and currently works and resides in New York City. Best known for black and white and portrait photography, Vadukul follows in the tradition of “art reportage” photography, which he describes as “taking reality and making it into art.”
In the 1990’s he established himself with a large body of work for French Vogue – a large portion of which was created with his wife, the eminent fashion editor Nicoletta Santoro, with whom he has collaborated for years. He has produced three books, is a film director, and recently created a series of dance and music videos for Yoji Yamamoto’s “Coming Soon” clothing line campaign. He has also branded his trademark style on campaigns for Chloe, Commes Des Garcons, Armani, Emanuel Ungaro, Sandro, and HBO's "Six Feet Under."
Vadukul shoots regularly for W Magazine, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Vogue China, and others. He has long standing relationships with such magazines as French Vogue, Italian Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue and The New Yorker, where from 1996 to 2000, he was staff photographer, a title previously occupied by Richard Avedon.
212GALLERY features innovative, established and emerging international artists working across media including, photography, painting, sculpture and mixed media.
Gallery Hours are Monday through Saturday 10-7 and Sunday 10-6.
212GALLERY 525 East Cooper Avenue, next to Ralph Lauren
Please call 970-925-7117 for further details.