Friday, September 26, 2008

Object of Lust: Ormond Gigli's "Girls in the Windows"

When I was at the San Francisco 20th Century Art and Design Show a couple of weeks ago, I was drawn to a framed photographic print that one of the dealers there had on display. I don't recall the exact price, but do remember that it was somewhere in the low five figures -- enough to make me let out a long, low whistle.

Still, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the image, of several dozen glamorously attired women precariously posed in the glassless windows of a row of decrepit buildings, and wrote down the title and the photographer's name so that I could look it up when I got home.

Turns out that the photograph, called "Girls in the Windows," is the signature piece of photographer Ormond Gigli, who shot for such publications as Life, Paris Match, and the Saturday Evening Post. (Does everyone know about him but me? Damn, I wish I'd taken some art appreciation classes in college ... )

Gigli took the photo in 1960, before a bank of brownstones across the street from his own Manhattan apartment was torn down. "I was inspired to somehow immortalize those buildings. I had the vision of 43 women in formal dress adorning the windows of the skeletal facade," Gigli writes. "The day before the buildings were razed, the 43 women ... climbed the old stairs and took their places in the windows. I was set up on my fire escape across the street, directing the scene, with bullhorn in hand. Of course I was concerned for the models' safety, as some were daring enough to pose out on the crumbling sills."

I had hoped that I might be able to find an open-edition print of the photo a little closer to my price range. But, alas, the only copies I could track down are sold through exclusive galleries -- the kind that make you call to find out the price. Judging from the fact that other "Girls" prints have sold at auction for upwards of $35,000, I'm not holding out much hope that the answer will be anything I can stomach -- or that I'll find a repro of this piece for $20 at Prints R Us.

What's the term for this sort of "love it; will never, ever be able to afford it" ennui? Oh yeah: Le sigh ...

15 comments:

Melissa H said...

This is fabulous. Keep us posted if you find a repro!

beachbungalow8 said...

god, no kidding. this is fantastic. I want a repro too.

Anonymous said...

Ok, well, I'm embarrassed to admit this. But: I saw about 10 minutes of the VMA's this year, and some of those minutes included the Jonas Brothers. They had glammed-up girls dancing in the windows of the old buildings on the NYC set, that looked very similar to this photo.

It's the first thing I thought of when I saw the image. !

Tracey said...

What fun! Yes, a repo would still be great- thats a steep price tag on the original!

Sarah said...

I took tons of art and I've never seen this glorious thing! My head is dizzy from how amazingly awesome this is! It kind of reminds me of that scene in Bye Bye Birdie where are the girls are on the phone spreading the town gossip about Hugo and Kim -- know what I mean? Amazing fun. Even if it does cost a pretty penny.

AT said...

Guess we now know what inspired those old Egoiste cologne commercials: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ5a2JH_BVE

thebubbreport said...

Anon, it's so funny, during the VMAs I thought the Jonas brothers were on the set of Sesame Street!

I wonder if this was Miles Redd's inspiration when he had all of his friends in the windows of his townhouse in Domino. I think it was the feature a few months ago that showed his backyard transformation.

eileen said...

There is officially something I did in the eighties that I'm not embarassed to admit to - I had a cheap, framed print of this in my bedroom when I was in high school. It came from Gemco, a discount retailer, and I asked for it for my birthday or Christmas or something. If only I had it now - it would work in my house better than ever!

Leah said...

AT -- totally!

And TBR -- I do remember that Miles Redd photo. You're right, it's very evocative of this one.

Anon. -- I missed the Jonas Bros. on the VMAs, but it's funny how these iconic images have a ripple effect on pop culture even decades later, isn't it?

Eileen -- the fact that you had a cheap print of this at one time gives me hope that someone out there is still selling them. I'll let you all know if I find one.

Or feel free to chime in here if you already have!

;-)

Leah

Pigtown-Design said...

Leah... this is such fun! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Stephanie said...

Great blog!

These are fantastic shots...so clever.

Lynette said...

These are awesome! It reminds me of something but Im not sure what yet. They are great!

Anonymous said...

You can buy a poster from ormondgigli.com for $430 which is a lot better than a gallery print starting at $5,000. I had one I bought year's ago at Filene's Basement for $20, but it got ruined in my basement!

goodlookin said...

I have an exhibition print of this from 1983. You can see it here:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/63752066/girls-in-windows-1983-ormond-gigli

Anonymous said...

I bought a poster of this in college and have been looking for a cleaner print that I can frame. Luckily, although it's scummed up on the edges where I puttied it to the wall, I still have it - had no idea it would be impossible to get another copy. Thanks for this blog post :)

 

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