The Secret & Sexy World of the Pirelli Calendar

Extravagant budgets. Gorgeous photos. The world’s top models and intriguing celebrities. Combine that with the Italian tire known for its history of winning races and you get the highly anticipated, ever elusive Pirelli calendar.

Since 1963, when it started as a pinup calendar to gift the company’s clients and customers, the Pirelli Calendar has pushed boundaries. From its humble start on greasy garage walls, it has become elusive to the point of mythical. Reserved for the elite, only a limited number are produced and they’re adamantly not for sale. Want to get your hands on a copy? Good luck. The calendar is practically impossible to find. That’s what makes its collectability factor so high and its images so iconic.

In previous years the calendar was a spiral-bound, traditional wall-hanging calendar. It’s evolved over the years and today it is presented as an art object with high-quality prints presented in a way that is both thoughtful and elegant. The actual dates, though present, are remarkably understated with the artistic vision taking the lead.

It’s so well known that it’s even got its own nickname -“The Cal.”

With nudity taking a central role in several editions in the past, it has never shied away from controversy. Has it been created to respond to a “boy’s club” mentality? Or has it expressed female empowerment? Is it eye candy or art? The discussions swirling around the calendar are perhaps more provocative than the photos.

Still, it is undeniable that the calendar is craved and coveted. It’s revered in the fashion world and respected as a photographic work of art. Here in the auto industry? We’ll leave judgements aside and enjoy the calendar for what it is: a beautiful piece of art that is the tire company’s more creative outlet.

In recent years, the “Cal” has taken a more varied direction artistically – while also staying tied to the history of the institution. The 2018 calendar, for instance, featured a reimagining of Alice and Wonderland – this time with an all black cast, a theme that also took center stage in the 1987 edition of the calendar.

In 2016, celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz bucked tradition and selected powerful, professional women to star, mostly clothed, in the calendar. The exception, Amy Schumer, seemed to have missed the memo to bring her wardrobe – or to be self-conscious about her tummy looked. The following edition featured celebrities of all ages, including actress Helen Mirren – who was 71 at the time, without a masks of makeup and digital enhancement, proving, without a doubt, that natural beauty is ageless.

These changes have been applauded by the press for portraying women less as objects, and more as strong characters.

While tires had originally taken a noticeable role in the calendar, they gradually became less prominent. In 1984, they began to take a backseat, represented in subtle ways, such as a pattern in the sand or printed on bare skin. By 1994, tires, with a few rare exceptions, had been eliminated altogether.

The 2019 calendar is an exploration of the dreams and desires of four women, namely ballet dancer Misty Copeland, models Gigi Hadid and Laetitia Casta, and actress Julia Garner. Photographer Albert Watson conceived the theme. Watson, known for iconic portraits of Steve Jobs, Alfred Hitchcock and Kate Moss, shot the calendar in Miami and New York, four timeless stories in true cinematic style. “I wanted to create something that was more than just a portrait of somebody – I wanted it to look like a film still. I wanted people looking at the Calendar to see that my aim was photography in its purest form, exploring the women I was photographing and creating a situation that would convey a positive vision of women today.”

The 46th issue continues to break stereotypes and tradition. It’s more visionary and socially conscious. Whether you choose to see it as a “girlie” calendar or an artistic celebration of beauty, it’s up to you.

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