Hey, it’s Vezzoli here. Good morning!
Where are you?
Upstairs in my second bedroom in Silverlake, CA. Where are you?
In an office which has been my temporary home for the last ten years, right in the heart of Milan. Less sexy than Silver Lake, but I can’t complain.
I made it sound sexier—I’m in my office as well. Is that your office?
Very nice. Makes me want a cocktail, but it’s too early here.
Hey, you are in Hollywood after all!
Haha, there’s a lot of room to mingle in Hollywood.
Hollywood can be dangerous. It seems open, then all of a sudden it dawns on you.
Wow, you are prepared!
Wasn’t there something like this on the façade of Spago in its heyday?
Hmm. Not familiar with that part of Spago’s history. Those were Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s eyes, fifteen stories high with no text. Really nice.
Please don’t think I confused the two things. I would never swap Spago for Buffy 😉
Hollywood is kind of a scary place.
I totally agree. It’s the only place where I felt my mental health was in serious danger. That’s why I love your work so much! Because to me you are basically the only worldwide acknowledged photographer artist that is capable of showing with elegance the dark side of that moon.
I’m having a Sally Field moment: “You really like me!” Speaking of the dark side, did you hear the Kenneth Anger phone messages?
YES. But somehow I try to disassociate you from Anger, because I felt the industry punished him for his honesty. He became some sort of scapegoat. Like Capote, but without a Warhol to rescue him.
He’s a very punishing character, as well as a genius, a true pioneer. I never thought about him in connection to Capote and Warhol, but there is a link. Building up glamor and tearing it down. I can relate to those impulses.
But you are much lighter than Anger, and I mean this in a positive way. If Anger were commissioned a campaign for Cartier, the entire Richemont group would sink, haha.
Haha LMAO. Yes, I’m Sally Field in comparison and grateful for that really.
Now I feel like the one without the fabulous Burton quote.
Did you look at movie star portraiture when you were very young?
All the time. Inevitably.
“Your name here.”
I guess the entire trajectory of my work for the last fifteen years was an attempt to get rid of the Hollywood inferiority complex!
If it worked, give me the secret.
I think I have almost recovered, but I have to stay away from LA. As soon as I land there, no matter what, that intoxicating mixture of perfection, loneliness and pretentiousness just drives me insane. But if I stay away, I forget and I’m safe.
Funny, I find the art world effects with an inferiority complex that is even stronger.
Well I guess so, but there is no real mystery. Look, these are the new uniforms for the police in Denmark!
Chic! Very Tom of Finland!
I know, it’s hilarious. Beyond camp. Too much even for me. I wonder how Gore would have commented on this.
He would have loved it!
The portrait you did of him is a masterpiece! That piece of gilded furniture evokes his glorious past, as well as his knowledge in history and the past.
Thank you! Gore was a delight. I shot him twice. The first time I went by myself and was terrified.
Same here. I went alone, to ask him to act in my Caligula. He was charming and unfazed, and said, OF COURSE, I’LL BE YOUR SVETONIUS. I almost fainted! The smartest human being I ever met.
Intimidatingly so, but he was so gentle with me, especially the second time I took his picture. I had printed a Cibachrome print of my favorite from the first session and brought it as a gift for the second session, and I think it touched him. He opened his favorite bottle of Claret for me and drank scotch and we got to hang out for a long time. One of my favorite connections with a subject. He was a true regal. His knowledge and clarity were supreme, but he was also funny as hell that day. We were coming on to the spirits and somehow drugs came up. I told him I had to be careful when it came to cocaine. He said, “What a shame, you have such a lovely nose to do it with.”
I felt like Greta Garbo in that moment.
At a dinner for my opening at Gagosian, Paris Hilton gate-crashed. She was at the height (?) of her fame, and I went there to make a formal introduction to Gore. Of course, he had no idea who she was, and turned to me and made a quiet remark: “PARIS, WHAT A FUNNY NAME FOR A GIRL.”
Love it. Sue Mengers. Never got to meet her. BUMMER.
Yeah, Me neither, funnily enough. I shot her house for Paris Vogue and she just barked orders from her bedroom to her cleaning lady, wondering why I was taking so long in her study. Her Rolodex was a life’s work for her and could have been for me, too. LOL
Sounds like the documentary Maximillian Schell did about Marlene Dietrich. You only hear her voice. She never shows up.
Dietrich’s lingerie crypt.
Woooooof. I’m getting horny almost. So should we talk about sex?
When it comes to sex, the best thing to do is not talk too much, right? Just DO IT.
Perfect ending for this interview. I am mesmerized. I might just go back home and follow your advice. By the way, I’m so ignorant—I never realized those gorgeous Tom Ford splashy perfume ads were shot by you!
Oh wow, thank you! Tom’s been great to work with. Glad you love those.
Honestly, would you take a pic of me one day? I am so vain.
You probably think this song is about you? 😉 Sure, I’m getting good with my iPhone for these selfies to procure hot man meat.
Super, bravo! If you do so, then I’ll finally put my face on Grindr and get rid of the black square, haha.
Haha, yeah I let the paranoia go for now being on Scruff. It’s the only place I feel comfortable being a STAR! Oh wow, that boy’s come is still on my arm… 😉
Jeff Burton (American, b. 1963) is a photographer who lives and works in Los Angeles. He is represented by Casey Kaplan, New York, and Franco Noero, Turin.
Francesco Vezzoli (Italian, b. 1971) is an artist who lives and works in Milan.
He is represented by Gagosian Gallery; Almine Rech, Paris/London/Brussels; and Franco Noero, Turin. Vezzoli's solo exhibition “Eternal Kiss” is currently on view at Almine Rech, London, through 3 October; in November, Performa 15 will feature an ambitious new work realized in collaboration with American classical ballet dancer David Hallberg.
Images: Jeff Burton, Negligee, 2013; Oscar, 2010; Untitled #141 (Camaro), 2000; Untitled (Laundromat Floor), 2008; Untitled #176 (Hollywood OD), 2003; Roederer, 2010; Untitled #211 (Hand in Butt), 2006; Untitled #122 (Rhinestone Car), 2000; Untitled #229 (at Herb Ritts’), 2007; Sasha Grey, 2010; Kenneth Anger, 2007; Untitled #213 (Two Palm Trees), 2006; Untitled (Leopard Phone Case), 2013. All images courtesy of the artist; Casey Kaplan, New York; and Franco Noero, Turin