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Madonna Interview : Aperture

Vince: Do you remember what you bought?

Madonna: This is a good question for my art dealer. I bought a Leger and I bought a Frida Kahlo self-portrait, but I don’t know which came first. But I remember buying it and I had just gotten married and it looked completely out of place in my house in Malibu (She laughs in a light, breathy burst). But those were my first paintings.

Vince: And were those things that you had always wanted – always hoped to have?

Madonna: Well I’ve always been kind of obsessed with Frida Kahlo, so I was really into the idea of getting something that belonged to her. And then from Frida Kahlo I found out about Tina Modotti and then I started collecting her stuff and Edward Weston, and one person always leads to another person with me, because for me it started with Diego Rivera, then it went to Frida Kahlo, then it went to Tina, and Edward and… (She trails off.). Also, if you’re into Picasso, and you want to find out about him and that whole area of art and European culture, then you start reading about Man Ray and the surrealists and Andre Breton, and all of a sudden you’re in that whole world and you start having interests in other people. It’s like a disease.

Vince: Of the best kind.

Madonna: Lately, I’ve gotten more into newer photographers. I’m really into Guy Bourdin (Note by Bourdin was the inspiration behind the visuals of Madonna’s 2003 video Hollywood) right now; I’ve got a couple of his photographs in my bedroom that I wake up to every morning. I just move all over the place, really.

Vince: That’s been my impression whenever I read about the art that you have; it seems to be very wide-ranging.

Madonna: It’s more that a sensibility appeals to me. I’m really interested in two things in art. One is suffering, and the other is irony and a certain bizarre sense of humor. And that you can find everywhere.

Vince: Who else beside Guy Bourdin would you consider somebody new for you?

Madonna: That I love? Well I love Nan Goldin. She’s amazing. Now I’m into color photography – don’t get me wrong. I still love black and white – and I like a lot of the really young photographers. I interviewed Mario Testino for his show in Naples and Rio, and he has a new book – it’s great! Fantastic book – I love it. And I did a piece for him for the book and we had a lengthy discussion about young photographers that we really like right now. Like Mario Sorenti – people that are considered fashion photographers. For instance, I love Inez van Lamsweerde. She photographed me for Spin magazine and she is unbelievable. She’s Dutch.

Vince: What is she like? I’m really curious about her work.

Madonna: She’s so interesting. She’s tall; she’s got really long black hair; she looks like a Modigliani painting. She and her boyfriend (Vinoodh Matadin) work together and he does all the art direction. They make such beautiful photographs, and they do a lot of campaigns for a lot of young designers.

Vince: A lot of their work looks very computer-altered. Did they do that with you?

Madonna: Not that I know of, because I don’t like that. I knew I was going to get it with… what’s his name? I’m sorry I had too much gas and I can’t remember anyone’s name right now. David LaChapelle! Because you can’t work with him without being computerized.

Vince: It’s part of the look.

Madonna: Yeah. Anyway, I just love van Lamsweerde’s photographs, but I’m into Sean Ellis and Mario Sorrenti. Their photographs are very cinematic and they’re like a whole new wave, I think, of photography that transcends fashion and Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier – that whole school of photographers, who I think were really inspired by Avedon and Helmut Newton.

Vince: You brought up Mario Testino. I’d been wondering who would be the official photographer of your baby and he’s not the person I would have expected.

Madonna: Why, who would you have expected?

Vince: Someone you had worked with before, like Herb Ritts or Steven Meisel.

Madonna: Herb Ritts did take photographs of my daughter that are quite beautiful, two days after she was born, and those are all framed and in my house in L.A. But more like the classic, black-and-white; there are some beautiful, beautiful shots of her foot in my hand – incredible. There are some shots that look like photographs Man Ray did of Lee Miller, too. My hair was really blond and I had red lipstick on and they were black and white; just the way he processed them, they look very Man Ray-ish. But Mario’s really one of my favorite photographers right now, which is why he ended up taking the official portrait of me and her together. And when she had a real personality; I mean, babies don’t have personality when they’re two days old. I suppose some people think they do, but they’re just amoebas. They can’t even focus on anything.

Vince: I thought Testino’s pictures were wonderful.

Madonna: Believe me, there’s a lot more. He captures something about her. He has a real, natural kind of journalistic style of photographing that I like, which I think is better for a baby who’s running around and can’t stand to sit still. It’s not about lighting or anything, it’s about capturing her doing something, and he took some fantastic pictures of her.

Vince: It was those pictures that convinced me he was more interesting than I’d thought.

Madonna: Have you ever met him? He is a scream. He’s so much fun. He’s the kind of guy who will photograph you, and if he doesn’t like the way you’re standing or something, he’ll kick you. And he’s constantly singing and moving around the room and he’s so full of life, and I feel like his photographs are, too. He creates an atmosphere, a relaxed atmosphere, and then he just starts taking pictures. Which is very, very different than someone like Steven Meisel, who is really precise. (She says this last phrase with a deliberate pause between each word.)