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Photographer Oliviero Toscani to address issues of ethics and social responsibility in art at SU Florence
Photographer Oliviero Toscani to address issues of ethics and social responsibility in art at SU Florence March 28, 2008Daeya Malboeufdmking04@syr.edu
World famous and controversial photographer Oliviero Toscani, best known for his advertisement campaign for the Italian clothing company United Colors of Benetton, will spend April 2 on the campus of SU Florence (SUF). His visit is dedicated to the theme of ethics and social responsibility in advertisement and the role of the arts in addressing social and ethical issues. The day will include significant time spent talking with students, presenting a public lecture and inaugurating his exhibit of selected works at the SUF Art Gallery.
Toscani began his career as a fashion photographer in the 1960s with Elle and Vogue, and he was subsequently employed by fashion houses such as Valentino, Chanel, Prenatal and Esprit. He gained an international reputation through his controversial advertisement campaigns with United Colors of Benetton. From 1982 to 2000, Toscani built the Italian clothing company into one of the world’s most recognized brands, creating its corporate image, identity and communication strategy.
His recent campaigns related to the death penalty and anorexia have sparked an intense discussion on the larger role of the arts in raising ethical issues and social awareness.
“As an academic institution it is our obligation to promote critical thinking in our students and to confront them with at times uneasy questions,” says Barbara Deimling, director of SUF. “Toscani’s lecture and exhibit force us to examine our own ideas about artistic freedom, ethical limitations and social awareness. It is my hope that it will lead our community to a lively discussion which engenders respect for the other.”
Toscani will begin his day at SUF with a national press conference held at the SUF Art Gallery. The conference will be followed by lunch, in which a select number of students will have the chance to engage in discussions with Toscani about the issues raised by his exhibition — issues that have been treated from a number of angles in a variety of classes including management, entrepreneurship, communication and the arts.
At 6 p.m., Toscani will hold a public lecture, open to the Florence community, titled “Art in the Service of Power: Ethics and Social Responsibility in Advertising.” The lecture will be webcast live from SUF’s home page (http://www.syr.fi.it) at noon EST. Introductory remarks will be made by Claudio Martini, president of the Region of Tuscany, highlighting the important status Toscani has within his home community.
The day ends with the opening reception of the exhibition, “Selected Work from Oliviero Toscani,” showing at the SUF Art Gallery through May 31. For this exhibition, Toscani has selected representative works from his career, providing an overview of the various issues addressed through his photography. A portion of the exhibition features Toscani’s 2000 Benetton series “We, On Death Row,” which presented photographs of 26 convicted killers who awaited execution in the United States. The death penalty was abolished in Toscani’s home region of Tuscany in 1786. According to Benetton’s official press release, the campaign aimed to “show the public the reality of capital punishment, leaving aside any social, political, judicial or moral consideration.” It sparked widespread controversy in the United States when it first came out and continues to generate debate today.