Miles Aldridge: ‘Why I am me and not you’

British artist and photographer Miles Aldridge combines sickly-sweet luxury, Maurizio Cattelan encounters, and portraits of Marina Abramović and Zaha Hadid in Fotografiska New York retrospective

The ninth hour after Cattelan
The Ninth Hour (after Cattelan), 2016
(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

Miles Aldridge has a knack for making the surreal hyperreal. At Fotografiska New York, his first US museum retrospective is less of a show and more of a parallel universe. Coinciding with Frieze New York 2021 and titled ‘Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1999 to 2020’, it suggests a wide range of subjects, and doesn’t disappoint. 

Aldridge first found acclaim in the mid-1990s with opulent mise-en-scènes doused in acidic hues and eroticism. Inspired by film noir, art history and pop culture, these arresting images probe the undercurrents of society’s idealised domesticity, beauty and sexuality.

women with photo frame on table

Untitled (after Cattelan) #4, 2016

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

Among the 64, career-spanning works in the Fotografiska retrospective is the 2015 series (After Cattelan), created when artist Maurizio Cattelan invited Aldridge to respond to his sculptures during one night together in a Paris museum.

Elsewhere, in portraits of familar faces, Marina Abramović lies over spilt milk; Viola Davis beams widely at an unidentified audience; and Donatella Versace oozes opulence. ‘It brings together images created over the last 20 years highlighting the themes that have driven my work; the false promise of luxury, the impossibility of communication, the mystery of life, and why I am me and not you,’ says the artist, who designed Wallpaper’s 15th anniversary limited-edition cover in 2011 (W*150).

Featuring limited-edition cover by miles aldridge

The 15th anniversary issue of Wallpaper* (W*150)

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

Aldridge’s universes are constructed through hyper-stylised staging and props and costumes, saturated colour schemes and dynamic lighting. Drawing on references from the analogue years of cinema, the artist favours film over digital – indeed, each print in this colourful cosmos is captured exclusively on Kodak Colour Negative.

Psychedelic interiors are decked out with the trappings of the midcentury suburban ideal. Candy-coloured telephones and immaculately groomed pets, retail ‘therapy’, and the perpetual quest for self-improvement and perceived success. Suddenly, it’s all too contemporary for comfort.

Portrait of actress viola davis

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

A woman wearing 3d glasses and holding a cardboard cut out of popcorn and coca-cola

Top: Viola Davis, 2017. Above: 3-D, 2010.

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

But it’s the collision between old, new and futuristic worlds that makes Aldridge’s work so utterly disarming. The poised sacrality of Caravaggio, the faux sanctity of the Virgin Mary and the Pope’s fall from grace of Cattelan’s La Nona Ora coexist with sexualised imagery and references to the 20th-century consumer boom. We can almost hear Richard Hamilton whisper Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? to a room filled with Hitchcock, Lynch, Fellini and Kubrick. Even Zaha Hadid looks like a star in her very own Space Odyssey

Under these gleaming images of domestic and consumer bliss lurks something more poignant, and personal, including Aldridge’s childhood memories of his mother following a shattering divorce. 

Ironic, yes. Easy on the eye, certainly, unless you look too long. We’re seduced, naturally, but Aldridge's work leaves a sickly-sweet taste in the mouth. Under the glossy, paper-thin veneer is a rotten promise of luxury that can never materialise.

Zaha hadid with white floor

Zaha Hadid, 2009.

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

The kiss with leg

The Kiss, 2011.

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

Marina abramovic with wallpaper on wall

Marina Abramovic, 2010.

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

Women with golden book

Mystique #1, 2018.

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)

Donatella versace with frames on wall

Donatella Versace, 2007.

(Image credit: Miles Aldridge)


Miles Aldridge: ’Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1999 to 2020’, 7 May-October 2021, Fotografiska New York


281 Park Ave S

New York, NY 10010


Harriet Lloyd-Smith was the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.

With contributions from