Monday, September 28, 2015

Creative Eye, Bold Images: A Fortunate Visit to Photographer Mario Testino’s Inspiring and Ultra-Personal New Photography Museum in Lima, Peru

The thrill of discovery.

That’s why I travel. I want to see things I’ve never seen before, see the world in a new way, grow more dendrites in my brain, and spark the neurons firing in my head. I want new ideas, a re-set and re-boot of creativity.

I recently traveled to Peru to conduct research on historic Andean Baroque architecture, to visit archaeological sites and museums, and to study the rich culture and arts in Peru. I started this visit on the west coast of Peru, in Lima. And in Barranco, a charming, bohemian-chic neighborhood of the city, I was incredibly lucky to have a private tour of the private MATE museum launched recently by noted Peruvian photographer, Mario Testino. Come with me for a fascinating visit and see his super-stylish large-scale works. 

It’s one of the great surprises from my recent research travels in Peru. (I’ll be publishing more exciting news from Peru, including Machu Picchu, in the coming weeks.)

Mario Testino has been photographing Kate Moss for over twenty years, so it’s not surprising that the first gallery a visitor sees at the museum is devoted to ultra-large-scale photographs of Kate. The museum is exciting because it’s devoted to one artist—and because it is the fervent and uncompromising dream of Mario Testino.

MATE – Museo Mario Testino, opened on April 12, 2014. Situated in a former seaside villa (and adjacent to the fantastic Pedro de Osma museum) it hosts the Permanent Collection, an ongoing display of seminal photographic works by its founder, Mario Testino. Many of them are Testino’s homage to the arts and traditions of Peru.

One of my favorite collections at MATE is of Testino’s superb and dramatic images of Peruvian groups in their highly colorful traditional costumes. Testino shot them in a very traditional style, very Irving Penn, in an open-air studio. He arrived as groups came to Cusco to celebrate a traditional holiday and were wearing their finest. And many people in Cusco, the high-altitude city in the Andres, still wear these elaborate costumes in their daily life.

Testino, now an international fashion photography and portrait star, grew up in Peru. He has made MATE the home of the pick of his photographic works. As the collection continues to grow, new selections will be curated in the galleries from every aspect of his practice. The Permanent Collection, which includes a room devoted to Princess Diana, the last sitting, will complement MATE’s continued cultural projects with temporary exhibitions by Peruvian and international artists. 

Established following Mario Testino’s wish to give back to his home country through culture, MATE — Museo Mario Testino — dedicates space to the permanent display of its founder’s iconic photographic works. It also houses historic rooms in the 19th-century Peruvian style, and galleries for special exhibits of Testino’s favorite photographers’ works.

The display, the Permanent Collection, complements MATE’s ongoing cultural program and temporary exhibitions and the only permanent exhibit of Testino’s works in the world.

The collection is divided into themed rooms, each exhibiting a specific aspect of Testino’s work lends itself to periodic changes. These include rooms on Testino’s muses Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen, music legend Madonna early in her career, Hollywood celebrities and his diverse group compositions taken for magazines such as US and British and French Vogue and brands such as Gucci and Versace. 

All About Mario:  MATE Founder, Mario Testino OBE

Mario Testino, who has been honored by the Queen with a medal of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of his artistry and photography of significant milestones of the Royal Family, is one of the world’s most influential photographers. Born in Lima, Peru he moved to London in 1976 to pursue a career in photography. Testino’s ability to identity, portray and understand and interpret the cultural and commercial spirit of his age has made him a much sought-after creative partner in the fashion and beauty industries. 

He is known for his portraits of international icons including Brad Pitt and supermodels, and also Diana Princess of Wales, Gisele Bündchen, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. Testino has published images in magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and V Magazine for three decades.

He recently shot charmingly happy images of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their family.

Testino has had numerous exhibitions including the landmark Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London (2002), which broke attendance records at the time. Testino is one of the few living artists to have been invited to exhibit at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, showing Todo o Nada (2010). His work first reached China – at the Today Art Museum, Beijing (2012) and the Shanghai Art Museum (2012) with Private View and USA at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (2012) with In Your Face. 

Mario Testino is a generous philanthropist, driven by what he describes as “all the formative experiences in my life.” He is the President of World Monuments Fund Peru, which is dedicated to preserving and protecting endangered ancient and historic sites. Testino has also supported causes such as the Naked Heart Foundation founded by Russian
model Natalia Vodianova to create play parks for children in underprivileged areas in her native Russia, the Elton John Aids Foundation, Aid for Aids, CLIC Sargent Cancer Care, amfAR and Women to Women among others.

Mario Testino has received many awards internationally among other recognitions for his achievements, including the Medalha Tiradentes from the state of Rio de Janeiro and his native country’s highest honor in 2010, the Grand Cross Order of Merit, presented to him by the President of Peru. In 2013 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to photography and charity. 

About MATE

MATE is the only cultural institution in the world dedicated to the permanent exhibition of the work of prominent photographer Mario Testino. After 35 years living abroad, the artist wanted to bring his work back to his hometown and to contribute to the cultural heritage of Peru.

The museum promotes cultural exchange by presenting temporary exhibitions that feature the work of Peruvian and international artists. 


All portraits here by Mario Testino.

Images of MATE and its interiors courtesy MATE, Lima, Peru.

Exhibition Information:

Permanent Collection, The Photography of Mario Testino
MATE, Museo Mario Testino 
Av. Pedro de Osma 409, Barranco, Lima, Peru
Tel: + 511 251 77 55

Opening times:
Tuesday – Saturday 11:00am to 8:00pm Sundays 11:00am to 6:00pm


  1. THIS is why I follow your blog. I would never otherwise know about this special place of beauty; yet now, I feel I have been there.

  2. Dear Rosemary-

    Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment.
    Yes! I wanted my readers to explore and experience this wonderful museum.
    I especially enjoyed the PERUVIAN folkloric costume photography.
    I also appreciated that this is a private museum--a personal selection of work, one person's creativity and point of view.
    Stay in touch--and you will be reading more about Peru. kindest thanks DIANE

  3. Another great blog!
    Thank you,
    Shelby de Quesada