The infamously risqué Pirelli calendar reaches 50: Has it moved with the times?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Or does it even need to? Golden anniversary edition of 'the Cal' has just launched, with great pomp, in Milan

Before the unveiling of the 2014 Pirelli calendar in Milan on Thursday, there was intense speculation about the direction that “the Cal” would take for its 50th-anniversary issue. Would the greats such as Naomi and Helena return, or would they go with a newcomer such as Cara? And just how nude would the women be this time around?

Click here or on 'view gallery' for more pictures from the Pirelli 50th anniversary calendar

The Pirelli calendar, which began in 1964 as a way of marketing the Italian tyre company, has gone on to pair the biggest models of the day with the finest photographers in the world. It is familiar to some for its gratuitous use of the female form; to others, it represents high art.

Hiring award-winning photojournalist Steve McCurry for the 2013 edition, who insisted that the models (including Karlie Kloss and Adriana Lima) kept their clothes on, was a shrewd move for the company. With particularly racy contributions from Mario Sorrenti and Terry Richardson in earlier years, the company was facing almost annual accusations that its product was no more than soft porn.

In the end, it was announced that the 2014 edition would be an unreleased black-and-white calendar by the late Helmut Newton, originally intended for the 1986 issue but which was never published due to an error in commissioning. Featuring three clothed models cavorting around Monte Carlo and Tuscany, according to the press release, it channels Newton’s “love of vitality and vibrant eroticism”.

 Among recipients of the calendar - of which there are 20,000 - are corporate clients, CEOs, and, perhaps more surprisingly, members of the British royal family and our Prime Minister. The gift cannot be purchased in shops, although, depending on the year and condition, can be found for up to a few thousand pounds on eBay.

But at a time which has fierce discussions about the lack of women in positions of power, and their continued objectification (see how the “No More Page 3” campaign has gained serious traction), does an old-fashioned pin-up, however glamorous and well-executed, seem a bit out of touch? Pirelli must be aware of such accusations: prior to the unveiling, there was an on-stage discussion between leading art experts and professors about how the calendar is an important cultural document.

However, all those involved in the calendar insist that it marks a prestigious moment in their careers. Far from feeling exploited, models appear overjoyed to take part. In a film shown at the presentation, Kate Moss, who has appeared numerous times in the calendar, describes her first time participating in 1994 as “the best job ever”. “I think Pirelli is always of the moment – it’s such good quality and something you haven’t seen before,” she added. Sienna Miller, who featured in 2003, insists: “It feels great to be a part of something that is so famous and has been around for so long.”

Past photographers are equally proud of their involvement. “It’s like joining a club,” says Annie Leibovitz, who took the reins in 2000. “A very exclusive club.” Clive Arrowsmith, who shot the calendar in 1991 and 1992, told The Independent. “It’s a very unusual thing. It’s like a knighthood of photography really.”

While walking with Arrowsmith around a retrospective exhibition in HangarBicocca, Pirelli’s contemporary art venue in Milan, he highlights the diversity of images on show. “What I tried to do with mine was to bring some creativity mixed with eroticism,” he says. “There is the same mix in the Renaissance paintings. These pictures have a presence about them. It’s not all just tits.”

Throughout the morning, there was much talk about how the calendar has always reflected a changing society. Pirelli’s chairman, Marco Tronchetti Provera, concluded the press conference by toasting “to the next 50 years”. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star