Women’s Wear Daily
04.18.2014
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Guy Bourdin: Portrait of an Artist

Nearly 15 years after his death and about 30 years after much of his work was shot, Guy Bourdin seems to be getting his due through an exhibition.

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Nicolle Meyer as photographed by Guy Bourdin
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NEW YORK — Nearly 15 years after his death and about 30 years after much of his work was shot, Guy Bourdin seems to be getting his due through an exhibition, a two-volume book packed with never-before-seen images and a new home of sorts at Phillips de Pury & Company.

The photographer's muse, Nicolle Meyer, gives an insider's view writing in "Guy Bourdin, A Message For You," newly published by Steidldangin. Those images can also be seen at Phillips' downtown gallery through Saturday. After an eight-year run at the Pace MacGill Gallery, Samuel Bourdin, the late lensman's son and sole owner of his estate, has pulled up stakes in favor of Phillips. Of his decision to switch camps to the auction house, which will exclusively sell Guy Bourdin prints, Bourdin said, "I need someone to really have faith in my father's work. I think it's time he got some recognition. It's good to change sometimes. I'm very happy about the decision."

Peter MacGill of Pace MacGill said, "We served a purpose over a period of time of which I'm proud. In today's art world, sometimes it's a very positive thing that these things be done in steps and stages. This is an example of that."

Like other Guy Bourdin aficionados, Bourdin's son takes issue with how the controversial photographer was misunderstood by the media. "He never socialized, so they made him out to be this weird creature who was hidden away. They had to make up stories," he said. "I want people to see his work because that's what he did all his life — work."

Work, he did, though some argue that his risqué shots bordered on the misogynistic or pornographic. Steidldangin's release of the book doesn't exactly diminish that eyebrow-raising reputation. Most of the shots feature Bourdin's muse, Meyer, heavy on the lipstick, skimpy on the clothing and often in compromising positions. The book's title, for example, borrows from a photo of an envelope stamped with that saying and an image of Meyer's lower half squatting in a leotard, sheers and high heels.

But the book's editor, Shelly Verthime, who conceived the idea of having the first retrospective of Bourdin's work at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 2003, noted that he painted and sketched all his life, and used photography as a stage. He was so fastidious that he often built elaborate sets for one-day shoots. For a shot of Meyer dolled up as a sexy salesgirl on a ladder, he built monochromatic white shelves stacked with 500 white shoeboxes and barked, "Maintenant," "now" in French, to catch her dropping a shoebox.
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