One, none, one hundred thousand. The power of transformism in Sandro Miller’s Malkovich at the Stelline Foundation

Sandro Miller Annie Leibovitz Meryl Streep
Annie Leibovitz / Meryl Streep, NYC (1981), 2014 © Sandro Miller / Courtesy Gallery FIFTHY ONE, Antwerp

If for the others I was not what I had believed to be for me up to now, who was I? ” (Luigi Pirandello, ‘One, none, one hundred thousand’)

Arthur Sasse, Albert Einstein sticks out his tongue, 1951

Ironic. Shameless. Iconic. 61 works by the photographer Sandro Miller, starring a Muse of excellence – the American actor John Malkovich – are exposed to the Stelline Foundation in Milan until February 6, 2022. The exhibition, entitled Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich. Homage to Photographic Masters presents one of the most famous and celebrated series of the American artist.

Philippe Halsman, Salvador Dalì, 1954

A true hymn to our multiform ego and to the various facets of the human being: who are we for others?

The exhibition, edited by Anne Morin and organized by Skira, proposes 61 images that pay homage to thirty-four masters of photography, such as Albert Watson, Annie Leibovitz, Bill Brandt, Diane Arbus, Herb Ritts, Irving Penn, Pierre et Gilles, Richard Avedon and Robert Mapplethorpe, in which John Malkovich – friend and accomplice by Miller – reinterprets the famous shots, transforming himself from time to time into iconic characters such as Marilyn Monroe, Salvador Dalì, Mick Jagger, Muhammad Ali, Meryl Streep, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway and many others.

Man Ray, Tears, 1932

Each of us has a hero or person that we admire. We praise them, we worship them and we put them on a pedestal. It can be a religious figure, a Hollywood actor, a sports star like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. For me, the great masters of photography are like sports champions: I recreated their photographs as a sign of respect, love and admiration. ” (Sandro Miller)

Diane Arbus, Child with Toy Hand Grenade, 1962
Pierre and Gilles, Jean Paul Gaultier, 1990

The shots are preceded by a meticulous research in which Miller and Malkovich – expertly assisted by costume designers, make-up artists and set designers – carefully analyze every detail of the originals, probing the works of the great photographers to bring out the maximum virtues, contradictions and weaknesses of the characters portrayed. .

Christopher Makos, Lady Warhol in piedi, 1981
An unusual Hitler

The collaboration between the two shrewd artists, which began in the 1990s, has allowed Miller over time to reproduce with enormous skill all the details of the photographs taken as a model: from the elements that make up the set, to the particular cuts of light, to the shades of color or black and white, enhancing the chameleon skills of Malkovich, who in every pose changes not only expression, but also sex and age, becoming man or woman, old man or child, sensual or enigmatic, gloomy or joyful.

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Green, 1962
Annie Leibovitz, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1980
Jim Marshall, Johnny Cash shows the middle finger, San Quentin prison, 1969

I didn’t want to make a parody: I ​​really wanted to pay homage to those masters and their shots, which changed my point of view on photography. Their images were a great source of inspiration for me, making me the photographer I am today. To do that, I needed an actor who put his whole self on the line. I would like people to look at them and feel their evocative power, the narrative power of every single portrait. These images are iconic because they recall an unforgettable feeling, thought or memory. ” (Sandro Miller)

David Bailey, Mick Jagger, Fur Hood, 1964
Mapplethorpe, Ken Moody & Robert Sherman, 1984
Head and Fruits by Sandro Miller, 2018
Sandro Miller

It is therefore a Pirandello game of masks and identities, but of a very serious kind: what is the appropriation of the work and the undue appropriation? Where is the threshold between fiction and reality? When and where does irony enter the scene? These and many other questions arise admiring the works of Miller, in a crescendo between the amazement for the impeccable stylistic perfection and the synergistic ability of the two artists to make people laugh heartily. A combo that makes reality and illusion merge, creating an unmistakable and inimitable mix.

Bert Stern, Marilyn in rose rosa, 1962
Richard Avedon, apicoltore, 1981
Herb Ritts/ Jack Nicholson, London (1988), 2014a © Sandro Miller/ Courtesy Gallery FIFTYONE, Antwerp
Herb Ritts and Jack Nicholson’s famous Joker

What is your favorite photograph or – at least – the one that represents you the most?

It is very difficult to say which is my favorite. It was at the age of sixteen, when I began to study and love photography, that I was inspired by these iconic images. When I saw them in a gallery, in a book or elsewhere, my legs began to “melt” from the emotion. They moved something inside me enormously. They are all very intimate to me, but if I had to choose one, I would choose the Picasso shot by the famous Irving Penn.

Irving Penn, Pablo Picasso, Cannes (1957)

It was the image that started my career. I looked at her and – at sixteen – I knew my life was going to change. My mother was raising three children alone, my life was a disaster: but from the moment I saw that shot, I understood that my life had a purpose. He then starts taking professional photos from the age of eighteen onwards.

Courtesy of the Artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery Yousuf Karsh – Ernest Hemingway (1957), 2014 – Homage – Malkovich and the Masters

How come the connection with theater, cinema and the whole environment of the‘entertainment? What was the Red string that led him to such a singular idea?

Films are life to me. Cinema is life that flows. You learn so much from what you see in the movies. I have this strong affection for people, an affection that is almost visceral. I like people’s stories, understanding their joys or their failures. I’ve always tried to empathize with people. Maybe because my mother had a really hard life, so my heart from a young age understood what it meant to feel severe pain. Cinema is a platform full of feelings. I want to convey the same sensations of cinema with my photos: I love that people feel in strong connection with the images I produce, because everyone must feel understood [ndr: calca sul to feel], as if you really know them. I really want to continue my work through other people’s stories.

So the most important purpose is to convey empathy with your shots?

Not just empathy, what I want are emotions. When I realize I can make people feel emotions, I’m sure I’m on the right path: when I can almost touch the feelings of others and make people feel better, brightening up their days, I know I have finished my job.

Albert Watson/ Alfred Hitchcock with Goose (1973), 2014 © Sandro Miller/ Courtesy Gallery FIFTYONE, Antwerp
Diane Arbus/ Identical Twins, Roselle, NewJersey (1967), 2014 © Sandro Miller/ Courtesy Gallery FIFTYONE, Antwerp
Courtesy of the Artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery William Klein – Smoke and Veil, Paris (Vogue) (1958), 2014 – Homage- Malkovich and the Masters

The two hours of visit have flown by: it’s time to look around one last time. Fiction surpasses reality (or perhaps improves it?) And for a moment we no longer know who or what is really represented there. It’s all absurd, but perfect. And, therefore, let the magic begin.

Courtesy of the Artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery Andy Warhol – Self Portrait (Fright Wig) (1986), 2014- Homage- Malkovich and the Masters

That my thoughts had to see with that hair, of that color, which could no longer be there or be white or black or blond; and with those greenish eyes, which might as well have been black or blue; and with that nose that could have been straight or snub? I could very well feel a deep dislike for that body there as well; and I felt it. ” (Luigi Pirandello, ‘One, none, one hundred thousand’)


Homage to Photographic Masters

Milan, Stelline Foundation

Open until February 6, 2022

Edited by Anne Morin

Timetables: from Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00 – 20.00

(the ticket office closes half an hour earlier)


Full: € 10.00

Reduced: € 8.00

Special reduced: € 6.00

Reduced schools: € 5.00

Stelline Foundation

Corso Magenta 61, 20123, Milan

tel. +39.02.45462.411

[email protected]

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