In Nocturnal Animals, a new film by Tom Ford (who also directed A Lonely Man back to 2009) art plays an important role. It’s crucial not only for reflecting inner world of the main character, but also expands the storytelling.


Enrich the visuals

There are more than 15 works of contemporary art in the film, each of them is used to expand visual part of storytelling – these are not only paintings and installations by well-known artists, but works of Ford’s team, too. While watching Nocturnal Animals, you can spot, for example, Nude in Convex Mirror by John Currin, installation Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain by Damien Hirst and Shadow by Andy Warhol.

Shane Valentino, film’s production designer (who received an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute) says that the director was specific about three pieces in the film – Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog, Alexander Calder’s 23 Snowflakes, and the REVENGE painting, while the rest  was selected by Shane Valentino and Tom Ford together, during the conversations. “I was fortunate to have a longer prep period, allowing Tom and I the time to really work through how the artwork could help articulate certain themes and tones. Some of the artwork was available through Tom’s personal collection. Others were available from various private collections. The Holt Residence in the film included Tony Smith, Julian Schnabel, Joan Mitchell, Robert Polidori, and Jack Pierson, while the Morrow Residence had Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Robert Longo, and others that were received by contacting the artists directly or through a clearance/product placement representative,” production designer tells the Creators Project.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals


Ways of gaining the art

Outside private collections, the ways of receiving artworks were different. Richard Misrach, Stephen Shore, Larry Fink, Cindy Sherman and Asger Carlson sent their works by themselves, and version of Nude in Convex Mirror that was used in the film is just a copy, high-res digital file printed on canvas that was destroyed after the filming.

“Tom’s personal connections with some of the artists was key. I remember on at least two occasions he reached out to artists to get permission of use—Damien Hirst for St. Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, and Jeff Koons for Balloon Dog. They were both very reluctant when we were using our usual route to get to the artists—gallery reps or licensing collective(s). I think Tom’s personal phonecall to explain their works’ significances to the film helped secure permission of use. He can be quite persuasive and charming.” Shane Valentino also says that in most cases just mention of Tom Ford’s name was enough to gain the permission.

Nocturnal Animals Nocturnal Animals

Role of the artworks

Amount of contemporary art used in the movie is caused by main character’s (Susan) personal background, as she is an art histiorian and it’s natural to reflect her world with the works of art surrounding her. “It was not an accident that the house Tony walks up to from the highway after his family was taken from him looks like a John Divola photo, or the standoff between Ray and Tony at the end looks like a Richrd Misrach photo. As we oscillate between the “real” and “imagined” worlds of West Texas, the artwork in Susan’s world takes on greater meaning. When Susan pauses in front of Damien Hirst’s sculpture, St. Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, the piece reveals how one’s vulnerability allows one to behold beauty. It feels like it is exposing her previous avoidance of love and its grim consequence,” production designer explains.

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