The first exhibition of work by world-renowned photographer Mario Testino in the Middle East casts a light on decades of creative celebrity portraits


The Dubai arts scene is hotting up and world famous photographer Mario Testino has his finger on the pulse. HEAT is the first exhibition of Testino’s work in the Middle East and brings together over thirty iconic images from the past three decades. Sitting at the crossroads of portraiture, fashion and fine art, Testino’s practice is representative of a life lived in the company of the most famous and photogenic personalities of our time.

“Energy, creativity, glamour and excitement are what Dubai and Mario Testino are all about,” explains curator Simon De Pury. “You can’t help but leave the exhibition feeling positive and upbeat. Testino shows everyone at their best”. Testino has visited Dubai twice before and finds the city fascinating, describing its “constantly evolving creativity.”

De Pury praises the exhibition venue, a pop-up space in the Dubai Design District, “a prototype of an ideal gallery.” The photographs have been expertly printed, framed and lit, each iconic image larger than life.

Keith Richards & Mick Jagger, Los Angeles, British Vogue, 2003

Keith Richards & Mick Jagger, Los Angeles, British Vogue, 2003

Testino’s images of Kate Moss epitomise a generation. From her early catwalk days in the 1990s, to the present, Testino has been capturing intimate moments of the supermodel. Moss coyly hides behind a mask or is depicted face-on in vivid technicolour face paint, the photograph I Love You in a red frame matching the model’s lipstick. Testino is fascinated with materials and the sensual qualities of fur, diamonds or feathers. Actress Sienna Miller in Rome wears a dress of Ostrich feathers; Giselle Bünchen steps out of a taxi resplendent in dazzling diamantes.

The show show includes male celebrities: Elton John, Brad Pitt and the classic double portrait of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The captivating Cara Delevingne has taken over the mantle of Moss as Testino’s major muse. Terrifyingly, Big Sur places her alongside a real bear. Jennifer Lopez is a powerful figure, walking vicious dogs alongside a swimming pool. Perhaps the most illuminating works are shot in Testino’s home country of Peru. Lamas and models in traditional, colourful costumes are set against dramatic skies and mountains, a celebration of light, colour and life, Testino’s major fascinations.

HEAT continues in the Dubai Design District until April 15

by Laura Egerton

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The One – on – One Issue #35, on page 20.