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Published by Sugar & Cream, Friday 27 January 2023

Images courtesy of Dior

Ghada Amer, Brian Calvin, Sara Cwynar, Alex Gardner, Shara Hughes, Minjung Kim, Zhenya Machneva, Bouthayna Al Muftah, Françoise Pétrovitch, and Wang Yuyang

A timeless icon perpetually reinvented, the Lady Dior has enjoyed an extraordinary destiny. With its architectural lines exalting the cannage pattern, it encapsulates the very essence of Dior style, its audacious elegance.

Season after season, this emblem’s aura shines on, at the crossroads of modernity and excellence. It has become, more than ever, an object of art and desire, revisited by artists from around the world. Through the most fascinating detour, the Lady Dior is thus transformed into a unique oeuvre, merging heritage and creative visions.

For the seventh edition of the Dior Lady Art project: Ghada Amer, Brian Calvin, Sara Cwynar, Alex Gardner, Shara Hughes, Minjung Kim, Zhenya Machneva, Bouthayna Al Muftah, Françoise Pétrovitch, and Wang Yuyang – from Egypt to the United States, from Qatar to China – have each risen to the challenge of reinterpreting and transforming the iconic bag.

A meeting between Dior and the cultures of the world, this new inspiring carte blanche showcases virtuoso techniques and craftsmanship, driven by a spirit of innovation and limitless inventiveness. Each detail, thought out with infinite meticulousness by the artists, is a tribute to singularity and savoir-faire, opening the doors of the imagination. As a final touch, each of the exceptional reinventions extends the artistic expression to the inside of the bag, revealing several poetic surprises.

A celebration of joy and freedom.

Ghada Amer
Born in Cairo, Ghada Amer is the first artist of Egyptian origin to reinterpret the iconic Lady Dior for the seventh edition of the Dior Lady art project. A committed feminist, she questions the body and the place of women in the art world and in contemporary societies through her hybrid oeuvre.

Based on the simultaneous use of painting and embroidery – a skill considered eminently feminine – her works, like a vibrant plea, invite women to reappropriate their bodies and their sensuality.

This rebellious vision is revealed through two new reinventions of the Lady Dior, inspired by Ghada Amer’s 2000 plant sculpture women’s qualities and her series of ceramics sculptures entitled thoughts, created in 2013 with her left hand, even though she is right-handed. The leather of the bag is adorned with a patchwork of embroidery, precious stones and sequins, or a hand-woven tapestry, each time allowing the words “Strong”, “Loving”, “Resilient” or “Determined” to be perceived, evoking the qualities attributed to women, according to interviews with Ghada Amer.

An essential detail, the interior of these objects of desire is dressed in bold tones – from fuchsia pink to shocking orange – while on the back of each model, the “D.I.O.R.” charms borrow the letters of the artist’s first name to become “G.H.A.D.A.”.

Brian Calvin
The sun-drenched palette of American artist Brian Calvin’s portraits expresses the youthful energy of his Californian origins with strength and naivety. The superimposition of his subjects upon his highly structured compositions gives his large-format canvases a singular temporality. Beautiful, ambiguous and almost melancholic, the close-ups of women, represented figuratively, verge on a form of abstraction. The large, caricatured eyes with color-saturated irises, along with the faces surrounded by Strands of Artfully Disheveled Hair, suspend the viewer’s gaze in a moment beyond time, between contemplation and imagination.

For Dior, Brian Calvin has translated his iconic designs onto two Lady Dior models – one mini and one medium – with the desire to add a new, tactile, sensorial dimension to his creative process. Threads, beads and sequins, delicately hand-embroidered on a raffia base, revisit the artist’s paintings in a mesmerizing interplay of textures. These fascinating sketches unfurl across the front of the bag, while on the back of the medium model, an azure sky hosts a giant eye, evoking the “Eye of truth,” an emblem of good luck, a tribute to the lucky charms that monsieur Dior cherished. A delicate secret: the insides of the bags are adorned with pink cotton, as if an appeal to gentle tenderness.

Sara Cwynar
Canada-born and a new yorker at heart, artist Sara Cwynar’s work questions the mediatization of daily life through the ever-accelerating circulation of images. Using myriad forms of expression – ranging from photography to collage, from performance to book creation – she shines a spotlight on this “Idealized world of images” that hovers above the real world. Combining vintage spirit and daring modernity, she develops a series of visual anachronisms made from innovative creative techniques. Still lifes, more alive than ever, that question banality, beauty, consumerism, flow, and life itself.

Wishing to capture the sensation of time passing, she conceived her two reinterpretations of Lady Dior as complicit witnesses of their era. House of Dior icon cannage thus becomes the precious backdrop for an exhibition of photos gathered from the internet. Drawing from multiple effects from prints to realistic embroidery, these emblematic images – which span the eras from the 19th to the 21st century – punctuate a theatrically flamboyant red leather, in the manner of a miniature cabinet of curiosities. A second version sees them encapsulated in transparent PVC on a bright yellow base. The shoulder strap extending the bag is itself adorned with these novel “Paintings.” The ultimate surprise is inside the bag: A poetic reproduction of a cloudy sky, a subtle invitation to escape, between dream and reality.

Alex Gardner
Fascinated by the simplest details of everyday life, Alex Gardner highlights the beauty of reality. He captures with grace and authenticity the emotion of the instant, sublimating moments of exchange and tension between individuals. The American painter breathes a singular, universal, and timeless dimension into his practice by representing faceless characters brought to life by the way they move and thus move us. Anonymous figures, imbued with gentleness and sensuality, with whom everyone can identify.

For Dior, he transposed one of his iconic pieces onto the Lady Dior, transforming it into an entrancing painting with multiple effects, playing with colors and materials. The drawing represents the contact between the palm of a hand and a fabric of infinite suppleness that seems to be completely at one with the holographic leather of the bag. The emblematic cannage gives way to a delicate pattern of figurative stitching, giving rise to the artist’s work in three dimensions. The ultimate surprise, the interior of this unique object of desire is dressed in a flamboyant red, “The color of life,” as monsieur Dior used to say. A piece striking a perfect balance of elegance and audacity, in a poetry of contrasts.

Shara Hughes
While Shara Hughes’ work reflects a wealth of erudition and a deep knowledge of art history, it is her imagination and intuition that guide her vibrant strokes. Her invented landscapes, combined with elaborately detailed interior scenes, reconcile dream and reality, and depict the multiple facets of the human psyche. In her compositions, which appear to thwart the laws of space, light and perspective, the artist uses a number of techniques, such as oil, enamel, acrylic or spray paint, giving her canvases relief effects that convey the spontaneity of her gesture.

Shara Hughes reaffirms this experimental approach with her reinterpretation of the Lady Dior, through two models on which enchanting optical, material and perceptual games are played out. Alternately dressed in red velvet or embroidered with a thousand colored muslin flowers, each of the two bags is adorned with hand-cut “Windows”, offering a glimpse of a dreamlike garden – an ode to nature, which was so dear to Christian Dior. A poetic invitation to interact with the iconic bag, to discover the inner world of infinite possibilities it could contain.

Presented by Interni Cipta Selaras

Minjung Kim
Kim’s practice is a quest for beauty in serenity. Sharing, transmitting, discovering, contemplating; the Korean artist’s work is an invitation to explore oneself and the world, in a constant search for tranquillity. Out of the experimentation of her art is born a collective meditative action nourished by the effects of materials, transparency, and color gradations. Her repetitive, “Minimal” aesthetic is illustrated by a superposition of collages that give life to abstract compositions. A poetic harmony that sings an ode to delicateness.

Combining the grace of her art with the virtuosity of the Dior ateliers, she reinterpreted the iconic Lady Dior through four dreamlike journeys. Printed directly on the bag, her painting the street is punctuated with flowers in organza tulle, reflecting exceptional savoir-faire. In turn, her creation the story is revisited in mink, while an embroidered version that combines couture and sportswear elements adorns a micro-bag. Finally, this Dior icon is preciously crafted and reinvented using excellent craftsmanship inspired by the Ancestral Art Of Hanji Paper – displaying, in relief, a mountain range illuminated by bewitching red hues in the colors of dawn.

Zhenya Machneva
At the crossroads of archaeology and modern history, Zhenya Machneva’s captivating, colorful tapestries notably retrace the grandeur, decline and breakdown of the industrial era, but also highlight the dreamy melancholy of deserted landscapes and abandoned places around the world, from the post-soviet territory to Europe and united states. Obsolete factories, and hybrid human-machine characters all become the poetic subjects of her hand-woven pieces, which question the passage of time.

For Dior, she wished to reflect on the place of women in society – through their strength, and the weight of the demands placed on them. Taking on the appearance of sculptures, her three variations of the Lady Dior are adorned with architectural forms exalting its geometric lines and reflecting the idea of an additional burden, with no true functionality. One of the models is unveiled on a spectacular, removable pedestal composed of large resin needles. All of the iconic bags’ insides, as well as their outsides, are enhanced by embroideries, on the inside or outside of the bags, made with an innovative savoir-faire echoing the designer’s passion for craft techniques requiring time and the beauty of the gesture.

Bouthayna Al Muftah
As a multidisciplinary artist, Qatari artist Bouthayna Al Muftah’s uses of media include painting, printmaking, and conceptual installations, as well as performative works. Her practice stages the cultural heritage of her country through the archiving of elements from past traditions, thus preventing the loss of a multifaceted memory. By transposing the stories of her land’s people into abstracted concepts, she resurrects moments from the past into a contemporary context.

For her reinvention of the Lady Dior, Bouthayna Al Muftah calls upon the art of typography and the creation of conceptual artist books to represent a poetic landscape related to her land and Arab authors onto delicate shapes of chiffon. Hand-embroidered, these specifically designed pieces of fabric evoke the pages of history and memory etched onto a manuscript. Though not linguistically based, Bouthayna Al Muftah’s design brings together narratives symbolizing nostalgia and identity linked together by suspended threads underlining the intimate and universal character of art and fashion.

Françoise Pétrovitch
Drawing, sculpture, painting, video. Protean, the work of Françoise Pétrovitch is first and foremost felt, bringing to light the tentative freedom of adolescence. The interim, a space of all possibilities, suspended between childhood and adulthood, fascinates the French artist. Her singular vision questions our way of being in the world. Oscillating from interiority to exteriority, from power to fragility, from anxiety to levity, her sure, captivating strokes trace the dualities of existence.

The bird, a recurring motif in her work, is featured on the artist’s three reinterpretations of the Lady Dior. Like a line on a sheet of paper, the first version is drawn on the matt white leather, playing with the pattern of the cannage. A bird escapes and is as if frozen in flight, protruding slightly from the bag. In an interplay of light and shadow, this object of desire is also dressed in black, welcoming a sleeping bird. Then the totemic creature is transformed into a lucky charm on a small tie-dye version that exalts the palette and light of her paintings. The final twist is tucked inside: a fabric with a mirror sheen completes this creative journey, a delicate invitation to self-exploration.

Wang Yuyang
Multidisciplinary Chinese artist Wang Yuyang’s work questions the contrast between tradition and technology, artificial reality and historical perception, earth and space. Experimenting with many media – such as painting, sculpture, photography and video – his pieces offer a new understanding of representations that seem familiar to us. This approach is expressed in the moon, a series of large-scale canvases exploring the depths of our natural satellite, whose surface initiates a dialogue between the scientific and the mystical by being tinged with psychedelic hues.

Wang Yuyang once again summons this fascination to reinterpret the Lady Dior, through five artworks that reflect as many facets of the heavenly body. In an interplay of textures and sensations, each bag is adorned with representations of his works, reinvented using traditional embroidery methods, and combined with new creative techniques. Thus, the craters are embodied by a profusion of gems and sequins, or through a woven jersey fabric of bewitching, 3d-like relief, while one of the models features the motif of the moon printed on iridescent leather morphing from grey to orange.

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