The Years of La Dolce Vita – The Birth of Celebrity Culture in Focus, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, 39a Canonbury Square , London N1, until 29th June 2014
Rome in the1950s and 1960s saw the birth of celebrity culture and the establishment of paparazzi photographers who often are the bane of the famous but whose images the public eagerly await.
It started because Italian cinema was flourishing thanks to the films of directors such as Fellini, Antonioni and Pasolini and the fact that American filmmakers wanted to use Cinecittà Studios as they were less costly than Hollywood. Stalwarts of the cinematic archive such as Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) were shot there.
This meant that film stars came to Rome and after working at the studio in the day time went to the vibrant Via Veneto with its bars and restaurants to relax in the evening. Thus stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Alain Delon, Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Baccall, John Wayne and Charlton Heston became targets of the paparazzi.
However, then as now, not all stars appreciated being the focus of a camera lens in their personal time and there are some images of them trying to stop the photographer shooting them. The ones of Anita Ekberg trying to scare off paparazzi are well worth going to see on their own.
Ekberg was, of course, a major star in Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) and this eponymously titled exhibition combines the real-life images of Marcello Geppetti with behind-the-scenes shots on the film set by its cameraman Arturo Zavattini. Indeed it should be remembered that Paparazzo was the name of a charcter in the film. It adds up to a very enjoyable and heady mixture that brings the era to life with clarity and focus.