This summer the Estorick Collection presents The Years of La Dolce Vita, an exhibition which explores one of the most fertile periods in contemporary Italian cinema and the simultaneous explosion of celebrity culture. The eighty photographs, on view from April 30th to June 29th 2014, capture the dolce vita (literally ‘sweet life’) enjoyed by Italian movie stars and Hollywood ‘royalty’ working in Rome during the 1960s.
The 1950s and ’60s were a golden era in Italian film when directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini produced some of their most famous movies, including the latter’s iconic La Dolce Vita (1960). Hollywood stars John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Lauren Bacall and Liz Taylor, to name but a few, frequented the capital as American filmmakers were lured to Rome by the comparative inexpensiveness of its Cinecittà studios, and it was here that such epic productions as Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) were shot. In the evenings, however, the focus of Rome’s movie culture – as well as the lenses of its paparazzi – shifted to the bars and restaurants lining the city’s exclusive Via Veneto and the popular haunts of glamorous celebrities such as Alain Delon, Kirk Douglas and Audrey Hepburn, transforming Rome’s streets into ‘an open-air film set’.