tim walker’s new exhibition proves he’s still the master of magical realism

Get a sneak peek at the photographer’s era-spanning V&A show.

by Owen Myers
17 September 2019, 6:00am

When you think of Tim Walker, you think of unbridled fantasy. You think of women with too-long legs running through too-green fields, of kabuki make-up and dilated pupils. But beyond the fantasy, what’s less discussed is how Walker reimagines art and cultural history to offer a specific new perspective on right-now.

Take his 2018 Pirelli Calendar, centred on Alice in Wonderland. Walker returned to the original illustrations of Lewis Carroll’s book, and with collaborator Edward Enninful cast Sudanese-Australian model Duckie Thot as Alice — far from the image of Disney’s blonde bumpkin. RuPaul played the queen of hearts, because why wouldn’t you want RuPaul to play the queen of hearts?

Opening on September 20, The V&A’s new exhibition Tim Walker: Wonderful Things wrenches open Walker’s Pandora’s box of influences, as well as presenting over 150 new works inspired by the museum archives.

A 16th century painting of Krishna and Indra inspires a glittery, jewel-toned shoot with Indian model Radhika Nair, while “Pen & Ink” re-animates the spidery, subversive illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley. Meanwhile, Tilda Swinton embodies the uncompromising poet Edith Sitwell with the assured shape-shifting that she brought to her embodiment of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.

“These pictures are a celebration of age and a celebration of defiance,” Walker says of Swinton’s shoot in the V&A’s accompanying exhibition catalogue. “Tilda manifested Edith Sitwell’s striking weirdness and her belief in her weirdness. It’s such a positive thing to be yourself and embrace your difference. “Why not be oneself?” Amen.

Scroll down for a selection of preview images from Tim Walker: Wonderful Things ahead of the exhibition’s opening this month, as well as a selection of his most singular work from the past two decades.

Charles Jeffrey (right). The Voice of a Generation Issue, no. 356, Summer 2019. Styling Charles Jeffrey. All clothing Charles Jeffrey with upcycled pieces by Matthew Needham, jewellery by Luke V Smith and headpieces by Leo Carlton.
Duckie Thot for Pirelli calendar, 2018.
Edie Campbell. The Creativity Issue No. 348 Summer 2017. Styling Jacob K, Dress Conner Ives.
Matty Bovan. The Creativity Issue No. 348 Summer 2017. Styling Max Clark. All clothing Matty Bovan
Melanie Gaydos. The Creativity Issue No. 348 Summer 2017. Styling Jacob K. Dress and top Molly Goddard. Rollneck vintage from Carlo Manzi. Hat Jacquemus. Choker Giuseppe Zanotti. Tights and socks Emilio Cavallini. Shoes Mansur Gavriel.
Reba Maybury. The Creativity Issue No. 348 Summer 2017.
Rottingdean Bazaar. The Creativity Issue No. 348 Summer 2017.
RuPaul & Dijmon. Pirelli Calendar 2018.
Solange. The Homegrown Issue, no. 355, Spring 2019. Styling Ibrahim Kamara. Hats and gloves Ibkamarastudios. Trousers H&M. Earring Chanel.
The Creativity Issue No. 348 Summer 2017. Styling Jacob K, Coat Proenza Schouler.
The Inside/Outside Issue No. 303 Fall 2009. Linda Sterling Artwork, Photography Tim Walker, Styling Jacob K.
Tilda Swinton. The Creativity Issue No. 348 Summer 2017. Styling Jacob K. Dress Studio FBG.
Tim Walker. The Creativity Issue No. 348 Summer 2017.
Tim Walker 'Karen Elson, Sgaire Wood & James Crewe', London, 2018 (c) Tim Walker Studio.
Tim Walker 'Radhika Nair', Pershore, Worcester, 2018 (c) Tim Walker Studio.
Tim Walker, 'Tilda Swinton', Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire, 2018 (c) Tim Walker Studio.
Tim Walker, 'Zo, Kiran Kandola, Firpal, Yusuf, Ravyanshi Mehta, Jeenu Mahadevan, Chawntell Kulkami, Radhika Nair', Pershore, Worcestershire, 2018 (c) Tim Walker Studio.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

victoria and albert
Tim Walker