The history of the Pirelli Calendar can be divided into three different eras:
- The first decade, from 1964 to ’74, which was followed by a break in publication (for nine years) due to the world recession sparked by the Yom Kippur war and the oil crisis;
- The second decade, from ’84 to ’94, which saw the Calendar being relaunched and becoming progressively more successful;
- From 1994 to the present, spanning the turn of the millennium, during which time “The Cal”™ has achieved cult status as a trailblazer.
The decade from 1964 to ’74
The early years of “The Cal”™ were the days of the Beatles, rock music and the mini skirt, but also youth protest movements and anti-Vietnam peace rallies. The Calendar soon cast off its original role as a “corporate freebie” for key clients, becoming an exclusive publication destined for a select few recipients.
The models were mostly young newcomers, photographed in atmospheric, elite settings: exotic beach backdrops and natural locations. But even these early glossy images yielded a glimpse of the Calendar’s true aesthetic and cultural philosophy: “The Cal”™ aspired to be a sign of changing times. In 1968 Harri Peccinotti took inspiration from the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Allen Ginsberg and Ronsard, while the following year he rejected formal poses for more natural, spontaneous shots captured on California’s sunny beaches. In 1972 Sarah Moon became the first woman photographer to shoot the Calendar, shattering taboos along the way.
The announcement in March 1974 that publication was to come to a halt caused much more of an outcry in the British and international media than the launch had, a sure sign of the growing success of the Pirelli Calendar. The following decade various books, collections and anthologies, in different languages, were devoted to it, the most famous being a 1975 publication covering the ten years of “The Cal”™, complete with a nostalgic foreword written by none other than David Niven.
The decade from ’84 to ‘94
1984 finally saw the hotly awaited return of the Calendar. Under a new art director, Martyn Walsh, the Calendar went back to its roots, including discreet, almost subliminal references to the Group’s hero product: tyres. On the beaches of the Bahamas, alongside the beautiful models photographed for the 1984 Calendar by Uwe Ommer, mysterious tracks appeared in the sand: the tread pattern of Pirelli’s latest creation, the P6 tyre. In terms of product placement it was a subtle but all-pervasive presence, evoking the technology that dominated the era.
In 1987 Terence Donovan created a groundbreaking Calendar featuring only black models, which included a 16 year old Naomi Campbell at the start of her career. The following year Barry Lategan included a male model for the first time in this traditional showcase of female beauty. In 1990 Arthur Elgort produced the first Pirelli Calendar all in black and white, devoted to the Olympics and the German film director Leni Riefenstahl.
From 1994 to the present day
In 1993, coinciding with the end of another decade and after a change in the company’s top management, there was another important turning point. Pirelli upped its ante internationally, launching high profile advertising campaigns (including the famous image of sprinter Carl Lewis in red stilettos) and the Calendar became one of the key tools for conveying the Group’s new image. The artistic direction moved into the company’s Milan headquarters and it was decided that all references to tyres should be dropped. “The Cal”™ thus went back to being itself, an artistic publication with no limitations or restrictions placed on its creators except the canons of style and good taste. Pirelli, after all, is an international brand that is not identified with a single product family, but evokes a broad spectrum of values and meanings, first and foremost a commitment to innovation and the quest for excellence, elements that have always inspired the Calendar too.
In 1994 Herb Ritts launched the new era of “The Cal”™ with a phenomenal line-up of supermodels: Cindy Crawford, , Helena Christensen, Kate Moss and Karen Alexander. His calendar, entitled “A Homage to Women” set out to capture “the women of the 90s and their place in the world: proud, sexy and beautiful on the inside”. Since then the creative talent of the photographers and the spellbinding allure of the models have been the cornerstones of the Pirelli Calendar’s success. Its connection with the world of fashion and “glamour” have become even stronger: for runway stars, appearing in “The Cal”™ is the equivalent of making it, and the competition between newcomers is fierce.
The biggest names to grace the last few editions of the century include: Christie Turlington and Naomi Campbell (again) in 1995 (photography by Richard Avedon); Carré Otis, Eva Herzigova and Nastassja Kinsky in ’96 (photography by Peter Lindbergh), and Inés Sastre and Monica Bellucci (the first Italian model) in ’97. In 1998 Bruce Weber devoted a few shots to male film stars and singers, including Robert Mitchum, John Malkovich, Kris Kristofferson, B.B.King and Bono, while Alek Wek and Laetitia Casta were the faces of 1999, shot by Herb Ritts, and 2000, by Annie Leibovitz.
The twenty-first century opened with a Pirelli Calendar photographed in Naples by Mario Testino, starring among others Gisele Bündchen and Frankie Rayder. In 2002 the Calendar featured numerous actresses and two celebrity granddaughters: Lauren Bush (aged 17, the granddaughter of George Senior) and Kiera Chaplin (granddaughter of the great Charlie). The 2003 cast, photographed once more by Bruce Weber, was a particularly impressive one: with three Italian beauties (Mariacarla Boscono, Eva Riccobono and Valentina Stilla) alongside famous models like Sophie Dahl, Heidi Klum, Karolina Kurkova and Natalia Vodianova, and male stars from film and sport (Alessandro Gassman, Stephane Ferrara and Richie La Montagne).
In 2009 famed artist Peter Beard took “The Cal”™ to Botswana, shooting internationally acclaimed models like Daria Werbowy, Lara Stone and Mariacarla Boscono. Beard, who lived in Kenya for 30 years, is one of the world’s greatest photographers of the mystery and allure of Africa. The 2010 edition was entrusted to the American photographer Terry Richardson, “enfant terrible ”known for his raunchy, provocative style, working with laid-back, sassy characters like Miranda Kerr, Lily Cole, Rosie Huntington and Ana Beatriz. Behind the 2011 calendar was the creative genius of Karl Lagerfeld artist, aesthete and multi-talented fashion legend. In his Paris studio Lagerfeld created “Mythology”, a calendar that reflected his passion for classical Greek and Roman culture. His dazzling cast of male and female personalities included the models Baptiste Giabiconi and Brad Kroenig and the actress Julianne Moore. The 2012 edition was the work of Mario Sorrenti, the first Italian photographer, who chose Corsica as the setting for “Swoon”, starring Milla Jovovich, Kate Moss and Isabeli Fontana.
In 2013 “The Cal”™ was entrusted to Steve McCurry, one of the world’s most famous photo reporters, whose shots for Pirelli revealed the changing social and economic situation in Brazil. His cast, which included the Brazilian actress Sonia Braga, the singer Marisa Monte, and the models Adriana Lima, Petra Nemcova and Summer Rayne Oakes, all shared a common commitment to charity work, supporting NGOs, Foundations and humanitarian projects.
2014, the 50th anniversary of The Cal™
To celebrate this milestone anniversary, Pirelli has decided not to produce a 2014 Calendar, but instead to release the unpublished 1986 Pirelli Calendar created by Helmut Newton, which to date has been kept under wraps in the company’s archives. The lengthy reconstruction work carried out by the Pirelli Foundation contributed to making this project possible.
2015, Calendar Girls by Steven Meisel
The creator of the forty-second edition of The Cal™, Steven Meisel is one of the world’s most successful fashion photographers, and is known for his eclectic but also reserved personality. He brought the absolute centrality of women back to the Pirelli Calendar in its most classic format. 12 months in 12 shots. In his photographs, Meisel brings us some of the key aesthetic models of our time: advertising icons, stars of the silver screen, the explicit rebelliousness of fashion.
2016, Annie Leibovitz
In 2016, Annie Leibovitz’s Calendar focuses on the woman as the bearer of positive messages. The American photographer gathers together thirteen distinguished women who have achieved important milestones in professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic life.
2017, the third Pirelli Calendar by Peter Lindbergh
The 2017 edition sees the German master become the only photographer to have been asked to produce the Pirelli Calendar for the third time. It was Peter who shot the Calendar of 1996 in the El Mirage desert in California, and the one of 2002 at the studios of Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles.
2018, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Tim Walker
For the 45th Calendar edition, shot in London, the British photographer Tim Walker applied his unmistakable style of extravagant sets and romantic motifs, to revisit one of the classic stories of British literature: "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland".
2019, DREAMING by Albert Watson
For the 46th edition of the iconic Calendar, the celebrated photographer Albert Watson has created a series of vignettes centring on the dreams and aspirations of four successful and talented women.
The result is 40 beautiful and cinematic images taken on location in Miami and New York all on the theme of ‘Dreaming’.