Art&Style

The exhibition The People I Like

The artistic legacy of Giovanni Gastel

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
Giovanni Gastel and the exhibition The People I Like — Lombardia Secrets

Until May 22, 2022 at the Milan Triennale, the exhibition The People I Like allows us to explore the artistic soul of Giovanni Gastel, "poet of photography and photographer of poetry", as he used to define himself.

Giovanni Gastel is one of the few photographers to have not only crossed, but literally created the world of the fashion system as we know it, from the 1980s to today, with an ever-renewed creative drive and a unique and recognizable stylistic code.

Born in Milan in 1955, by Ida Pace Visconti di Modrone, sister of Luchino Visconti, and Giuseppe Gastel, as a boy he began experimenting with various artistic forms, primarily poetry, and became passionate about taking pictures “a bit like all photographers, by traveling”, as he wrote later. In 1977 he opened his own studio, initially specializing in still life pictures, and the first great opportunity is offered to him thanks to Christie’s for which he begins to shoot antique houses and precious objects which are then auctioned.

Giovanni Gastel and the exhibition The People I Like — Lombardia Secrets
Giovanni Gastel and the exhibition The People I Like — Lombardia Secrets

If I could tell you a story, I would tell you about a melancholy child who saw Beauty come looking for him from the shores of a lake. (…) He followed her and she defended him from the harshness of living. He did not live happily ever after. But he lived with great intensity that sublime journey we call life.

(Giovanni Gastel)

In 1981 he met his first agent Carla Ghiglieri who brought him closer to the world of fashion reportage. Through her he got the famous appointment at Vogue Italia: while he was in the waiting room to see the editor of the magazine, Flavio Lucchini, Gastel witnessed, in fact, a dispute between him and Oliviero Toscani, then one of the main photographers of the publication, who left slamming the door whilst yelling at Lucchini that he would be in big trouble without him.

Famous is Lucchini’s reply: “How will I do without you? I’ll take the first asshole that passes by”, and that was Gastel who was waiting outside the door. Thus, in the early 1980s at the age of 25, he began working for the legendary Vogue, thus giving way to his fast and relentless rise.

Giovanni Gastel and the exhibition The People I Like — Lombardia Secrets

In 1997, the consecration: the Triennale dedicated a major solo exhibition to him curated by his friend Germano Celant, projecting him into the undisputed Olympus of the sacred monsters of world photography, from Giampaolo Barbieri to Ferdinando Scianna, from Helmut Newton to Richard Avedon.

Again, Triennale di Milano today pays homage to Gastel’s great creative genius with an exhibition that in a certain sense can be considered his artistic testament, the last one conceived in his life by the master who suddenly passed away on March 13 2021.

Giovanni Gastel and the exhibition The People I Like — Lombardia Secrets

The exhibition The People I Like, curated by Uberto Frigerio with design by Lissoni Associati, presents over 200 portraits, testimony to the immense variety of illustrious encounters that characterized Gastel’s long career, chosen among the “souls” that most loved and inspired him from the world of culture, design, art, fashion, music, entertainment, politics.

If for Gastel “creation is an attempt to redesign the world”, through his portraits we can read his personal vision of life, made up of cultured and kind souls, of beauty and elegance, where rebellion and darkness are granted only to those who use them to make things better or inspire others.

Giovanni Gastel and the exhibition The People I Like — Lombardia Secrets
Giovanni Gastel and the exhibition The People I Like — Lombardia Secrets

The secret of his portraits? “In my photos the light must not rest on people but go out through them from within” said the master, as if trying to let their soul leak out. So, he did in his studio in Via Tortona (in the photos), shooting the protagonists of his art with laidback elegance, “friends” who were then encouraged to wait in his cool library lounge, between a flute of champagne and a chat, to see him reappear after a while smiling with the finished portrait in his hand. A few tens of minutes were enough for him to create for eternity and make every face so damn beautiful, as only he knew how to do.

“I always tell the person I’m about to photograph a phrase that explains how I mean the portrait:” I’m not a mirror, I’m a filter. The portrait I’ll make of you is you, filtered by who I am (my fears, my joys, my solitudes, my poems); you will come out in the form of an interpretation of you. I give my reading which is not absolute reading. I filter through everything I have read, seen, studied and I give back to you…”.

You are so missed.

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Exhibition The People I Like

Giovanni Gastel and the exhibition The People I Like — Lombardia Secrets

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