The Pirelli Calendar. The name alone evokes a history of exclusivity, sex appeal, and artistry. Since 1964, the calendar, or “the Cal,” as it’s fondly known, has featured some of the world’s most beautiful models photographed under the artistic direction of renowned photographers. With only 40,000 calendars produced yearly and none available for purchase, the Cal’s status is of an iconic collector’s item. Yet simple eye-candy it is not; inaugural art director Derek Forsyth, made clear from the beginning that the Cal’s purpose is to provide more than mere titillation. Since the release of its initial edition conveying the optimism of the sixties, the Cal has always captured the zeitgeist of every year it documents.
As a result, in addition to celebrating artistic vision and the human form, the Cal has been used to relay myriad sociocultural messages. In 1987, for example, Terence Donovan photographed only black models in protest of prevailing racial prejudice. For 2016, Annie Leibovitz, returning for her second stint as the Cal’s photographer, will not shoot models, but 13 internationally influential women. A rare occasion for the Cal, the women will be photographed fully clothed.
Leibovitz’s chosen calendar girls are diverse. Women of all shapes, sizes, and colours will grace the newest Cal in a celebration of not only physical beauty, but of the mind. Yoko Ono, Fran Lebowitz, comedian Amy Schumer, and model-turned-activist Natalia Vodianova will be featured. President of Lucasfilm and brand manager of Star Wars Kathleen Kennedy will be photographed alongside 19-year-old Style Rookie editor Tavi Gevinson, as well as athlete Serena Williams and businesswoman Mellody Hobson. Further, expect portraits of singer/songwriter Patti Smith, Academy Award–nominee Ava Duvernay, and philanthropist and art collector and educator Agnes Gund. Leibovitz cast her eye internationally as well, including Yao Chen, the “Angelina Jolie of China,” and Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, renowned for her filmography and photography exploring identity in the Islamic world.
True to its founding values 52 years later, the 2016 edition of the Pirelli Calendar speaks to the spirit of our time, celebrating cerebral and physical beauty alike as we depart from tradition yet again.