Thursday 30th November

| BY Finn Blythe

Meet The Ten Artists Re-Imagining Dior’s “Lady Dior” Bag

D12Imagine taking Dior’s Lady Bag as your canvas and re-imagining it in your own artistic image. Quite the task, non? It’s only, like, one of the most iconic bags of the last twenty years, loved by Princess Di and an enduring vestige of Dior’s Haute Couture heritage, albeit with one eye firmly rested on the future. The fashion equivalent of being handed a brush and instructed to ‘neaten up’ the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Maybe a slight exaggeration – but fortunately the task has fallen to a group of supremely talented artists who were given carte blanche by Dior to explore the heritage and aesthetic of the bag in clever and unique ways, gesturing to the House’s history but interpreting it in their own special way.

Having last year invited a group of artists from the UK and US to offer their interpretations of the bag – the project entitled “Lady Art” – the House has expanded and further diversified the project after last year’s success. This year’s group of ten, whose works were unveiled yesterday by Dior at Selfridges to celebrate the opening of the new accessories hall, offer an incredible blend of artistic diversity. From sculptors, collage artists and painters, hailing from the likes of the U.S, China, Guinea and Kenya, the line-up is as geographically varied as it is artistically. Here, we introduce the artists involved (and their bags)…


Spencer Sweeney
Fingers and pies is what comes to mind with Mr. Sweeney. Forgiving the irony of his razor-wielding namesake for one second – these pies are the less literal variety, namely; music, DJ-ing, club ownership, and general debauchery, all of which Spencer Sweeney dabbles in. A former drummer in the art-rock band ‘Actress’ and now part of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise gallery, his work, sometimes drawn, sometimes painted, as with this bag here, is always playful and reflective. For gallery-goers who always wished they could reach out and touch the brushstrokes, this is the bag for you.

Namsa Leuba
Namsa Leuba is a Swiss-Guinean photographer exploring the depiction of African identity through Western imagination. But that short introduction doesn’t come close to doing Namsa’s work justice. We’ve been glued to her portfolio for the past hour – a beautiful synthesis of formal, editorial-esque portraiture infused with a kind of ethnographic narrative. No better demonstrated that her Ya Kala Ben project in Guinea, where Leuba re-contextualises ritual artefacts through a Western perspective. Her creation for Dior also explored her African heritage via the use of mink. “Mink was important to me,” she said, “in Africa, animal skins and fur are used during traditional rituals and ceremonies.” A name to look out for.

Jack Pierson
Working across a number of mediums, Pierson is probably best known for his collage work and letter sculptures. The latter, mostly composed of salvaged scraps – lettering taken from old roadside signs and advertising hoardings, are poignant and melancholic. Think ransom note aesthetic, only minus the threatening undertones and with references to an inherently American nostalgia and sense of disillusionment. Here, he deploys that same style in miniature via the Dior letter tags, which look as though they may have been taken from an old Broadway theatre.

Betty Mariani
If Jackson Pollock had been heavily influenced by street art as a youth, we feel it may have bred a similar aesthetic to that of Berry Mariani. Her works often take that drip technique as their basis, onto which Mariani imposes her own street art style, no better exemplified by this here bag.

Hong Hao
We assume Hong was into his Tetris as a boy. He still is now, albeit, his own form of the game – Hong Hao is interested in how things fit together, you see, the transformative effects of grouping a single object into something greater than itself, without losing an unmistakable sense of individuality. His My Things series embody this idea; buttons, bobbins and books are grouped to form incredible domestic mosaics, where the functional properties of everyday objects are blurred in favour of an overarching aesthetic. That very series is now available in miniature, and will not only fit snugly over your shoulder, but also hold all your belongings, as evidenced below.

Jamilla Okubo
Kenyan born, New York-based artist Jamilla Okubo only discovered her love of fabric after studying fine art at Parsons. Not that you’d realise, though, being as she is somewhat of a print genius. Painting is also a strong suite, one that dovetails with her printing, and a medium with which she both explores and celebrates her African heritage – no better illustrated than this beaded beauty below, which combines European crystals with traditional African beadwork. It’s incredible.

David Wiseman
No stranger to a collaboration with Dior, David Wiseman, who was commissioned to sculpt 500 porcelain lily-of-the-valley blossoms for Dior’s Shanghai store, is a purveyor of pure fantasy. His renderings of natural phenomena, be it a branch laden with blossom, a tangle of tendrils or a the canopy of a tree silhouetted in a metallic finish, as seen below, are nothing short of stunning. Better than the originals, we’d say.

Friedrich Kunath
It’s tempting to suggest that Friedrich Kunath is primarily concerned with the sublime. But that wouldn’t explain his 2010 print series First Life Takes Time Then Time Takes Life, depicting a slice of bread that becomes incrementally more toasted while leant against a porcelain pineapple. He does however, love a sunset. I mean, who doesn’t? But for Kunath, it’s not just about something pretty to look at, it’s hugely symbolic and evokes a sense of pathos in many of his works. It also means, with the below bag, you will bring sunshine wherever you go. Aw.

John Giorno
“Poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen” – Leonardo da Vinci said that, so good luck disagreeing. The quote is particularly relevant in the case of John Giorno, the American poet, performance artist, former Warhol muse and daddy of contemporary performance poetry. He works across a number of mediums, but most relevant to his creation for Dior are his short and pithy written works that featured in his UGO RONDINONE : I ♥ GIORNO retrospective. “Prefer crying in a limo than laughing on a bus” and “I want to cum in your heart” are among our personal favourites, or the less crude: “you got to burn to shine”, seen below.

Lee Bul
In 2017, we need as many people to interrogate archaic patriarchal ideologies and systems of control that marginalise and devalue women. Interrogate being the polite term here for demolish/dismantle/banish-for-eternity/all of the above. Lee Bul has been doing exactly this for the best part of thirty years. A globally esteemed artist, her works explore a common urge for social utopia, one that is ultimately juxtaposed with its inherent destiny of failure and decay. This was taken to a very literal level for her 1997 MoMA show, with her Majestic Splendour works – composed of rotting fish adorned with sequins and beads that spoke of an imposed femininity and the corruption of a sanctified modernist purity. Thankfully no dead fish for her collaboration with Dior, just a really lovely bag.