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Cindy Sherman

Art outside the museums

Part I

You don’t necessarily have to go to museums to experience the emotion transmitted by art because it blends into our daily lives.

It is with us every day and we can find it in the clothes we wear, in the design objects that decorate our homes and in the futuristic architecture of our cities.

Different areas mutually influencing each other have lost their boundaries: art offers an extraordinary contribution in almost all spheres of activity, inspiring various personalities such as architects, designers, stylists, graphic designers and advertisers.

Drawing on past or contemporary art contributes to the birth of unique and original creations, just think of the goals achieved by design: the balance between functionality and beauty brings it closer and equates it more and more often with contemporary art.

Even before responding to functional needs, modern buildings define a very precise image by getting closer and closer to the peculiar language of art in a dialogue between the two disciplines that is increasingly complementary, in total interpenetration.

In the new generation museums, the space that separates architecture from the work of art (the container from the content) is now eliminated, and the Guggenheim of Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry is emblematic of this radical change, a work of art in all respects and a tourist attraction that has become the symbol of the city.

The soft forms of the museum are a perfect example of deconstructivism, an architectural trend inspired by the works of Russian constructivists of the 1920s, who first broke the balance of the classical composition to create new geometries.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain


Art goes beyond tradition to support new ways of learning via the internet, and it is possible to visit museums, monuments and archaeological sites around the world for free and without leaving home.

The need to get a cultural experience at 360° also translates into the creation of virtual tours in many cities of art, the most recent promoted in Milan on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

Profiles and forms typical of art have not only entered architecture and design but – as we said – also fashion, making unique and original creative paths and exchanges.

Just look at the catwalks of recent years, full of tributes and references to art not only in clothes but also in scenography, often closer to artistic performance than to the presentation of seasonal collections.

The “museum” effect often accompanied the fashion shows of Dutch stylists Viktor & Rolf, from the homage to Van Gogh in 2014 to the clothes that recalled the action painting in the following year, but the most surprising was the collection dedicated to Picasso in 2016, when they literally transformed the models into living sculptures with asymmetrical monochrome looks so typical of Cubist works.

Viktor & Rolf, Haute Couture S/S 2015


Viktor & Rolf, Haute Couture F/W 2015-2016


Viktor & Rolf, Haute Couture S/S 2016


Picasso himself made his contribution to the world of fashion by creating a button for Coco Chanel and designing performance costumes for Diaghilev’s Russian Ballets – an occasion on which he met his future wife and muse Olga KhoKhlova.

Pablo Picasso, button created for Coco Chanel, 1920

Ceramic and enamel


Pablo Picasso, Curtain for the ballet “Parade” by Massine, 1917

Tempera on canvas, 1050 x 1640 cm

Centre Pompidou, Paris, France


Pablo Picasso, costume for the Chinese Conjurer for the ballet “Parade” by Massine, 1917

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Theatre and Performance, London, UK


Moschino instead chose to give life to the most famous works of the Spanish painter –  from the pink to the blue period up to the Cubist abstractions –  in a S/S 2020 fashion show, to say the least, amazing.

Jeremy Scott’s models – between giant straps, gilded frames and decomposed woman profiles –  were perfect living works of art, personifications of the great master’s paintings.

Moschino, S/S 2020


The choice to pay homage and to be inspired by art does not only concern current events: in the past, great stylists have taken over famous artists and works, as in the case of Yves Saint Laurent with the “Mondrian Look” of ’66, a collection that incorporates the geometric designs by the Dutch painter who made history.

Yves Saint Laurent, “Mondrian Look”, 1966


About thirty years later, Gianni Versace paid homage to Andy Warhol with a great tribute on the occasion of the S/S collection of 1991, proposing the famous serigraphs of Marylin Monroe and other pop icons printed on polychrome silk dresses.

Gianni Versace, S/S 1991


Always Warhol – from ’62 to ’66 – in turn created a series of clothes inspired by his own works: “Fragile, handle with care” and “Campbell’s Soup Can” communicate the strong criticism towards the society, so typical of the production of the artist, who also manages to transform women’s clothes into a consumer icon. Perfectly in its style, art becomes merchandise and clothes become art.

Andy Warhol, “Souper Dress”, “Brillo” and “Fragile, handle with care”, 1962-66

Suits in paper, cellulose and cotton


The link between art and fashion is consolidated more and more, represented by frequent partnerships and collaborations between fashion houses and contemporary artists engaged in the creation of individual pieces or capsule collections: today the works of art can be seen on the covers of Vogue, in the videos of rappers like Jay Z, on Nike sneakers or Louis Vuitton bags.

Just the fashion house of Bernard Arnault’s LVMH group – which as we will see is strongly committed to promoting and supporting art – thanks to the creative director Marc Jacobs started a series of collaborations with various artists in the late 90s, including Cindy Sherman, Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince.

The Monogram bags have become some of the most iconic and best-selling fashion accessories of the decade, true works of art to wear, so much that the “Artistic collaborations exhibition” just ended at the Beverly Hills venue celebrated the 180 most charming models of all time of the House.

A collector Marc Jacobs, in turn, recently decided to sell part of his collection at Sotheby’s for New York auctions this November: over 150 works collected over 20 years, from the Impressionist masters to Andy Warhol via Ed Ruscha, the highlight of the collection.

Yayoi Kusama, handbag Monogram for Louis Vuitton, “Infinitely Collection”, 2012


Richard Prince, handbag “Monogram Jokes” for Louis Vuitton, Collezione S/S 2008


Alex Israel, handbag “ArtyCapucines” for Louis Vuitton, 2019


Staying in France, the Celine House has often distinguished itself for collections borrowed from the art world, such as the S/S 2017 line inspired by the famous anthropometric performances of Yves Klein.

The silhouettes of the models’ bodies are imprinted on white dresses like canvases in a shade that incorporates the International Klein Blue patented by the French artist.

In addition to this illustrious tribute, the fashion house has often collaborated with contemporary artists and the last in order of time is Christian Marclay for the S/S 2019 collection, an artist who was inspired by the world of music and comics for a collection who winks at rock.

Left: Yves Klein during a performance; right: Celine, S/S 2017


Christian Marclay for Celine, S/S 2019


Dior – in turn very active in the field of art – recently announced the collaboration with 11 female artists for the 3rd edition of Dior Lady Art, a collection that leaves carte blanche to the reinterpretation of the iconic bag.

This year also the Dior Men capsule was worked out by Kaws, redesigning the historic bee-shaped logo and transforming it into a witty cartoon in the style of the characters of his works.

Not new to experimentation even outside the strictly artistic sphere, Kaws had already collaborated with Nike, with Kenye West designing the cover of the album “808s & Heartbreak” and even in the graphics of the perfume “Love for fairer sex” by Comme Des Garçon in collaboration with the musician Pharrell Williams.

This is to show that the contaminations between different areas are always deeper and more complex.

Keith Haring, sneakers for Adidas


Album “The Velvet Underground and Nico”, 1967


For Marni too, the dialogue between art and fashion represents a continuous source of inspiration. Sally Smart, Ruth Van Beek and David Salle, Stefano Favaro and Christophe Joubert are some of the names related to the Italian house that has recently turned the spotlight on the theme of sustainability and the environment, a key to the reading clearly visible in the scenography of the last show and in the creations of the artists Shalva Nikvashvili and Kazuma Nagai for S/S 2020.

Sometimes collaborations also arise thanks to personal friendships, as in the case of Riccardo Tisci and Marina Abramovich, who on 11 September 2015 created the scenography of the parade to celebrate 10 years as creative director of Givenchy. The harsh setting between the skyscrapers of New York created with recycled materials was a metaphor for the reconstruction on the rubble, in homage to the symbolic date.

Marina Abramovic, catwalk created for Givenchy, S/S 2016, New York, 2015


When art and life intertwine, unique experiences are born, destined to make history, today as yesterday: in the 1930s Elsa Schiaparelli transposed the surrealist poetry on clothes and accessories thanks to her personal friendship with the artists of the calibre like Salvador Dalì, Man Ray and Jean Cocteau.

From these collaborations iconic pieces were born, such as the coat with drawer-shaped pockets designed by Dalì, inspired by the work “Venus de Milo with drawers” of 1936, the famous lobster print embroidered on the clothes or the hat in the shape of a shoe inverted (1933).

Salvador Dalì, “Skeleton” dress, 1938

Other creations by Salvador Dalì for Elsa Schiaparelli


Another current example of today is the link between the Venetian artist Nico Vascellari – Delfina Fendi’s partner – and the collaboration with the Italian fashion house, for which this year he played with the dualism of good-evil / light-dark, creating a walkway transformed into a sort of cave.

In 2018 Fendi sponsored the installation “Revenge” by Vascellari at Maxxi in Rome, thus strengthening the link with the capital and the world of art, increased in 2015 by the restoration of the Trevi Fountain and the opening in 2018 of Rhinoceros, the final seat of the Alda Fendi Foundation in a historic building renovated by Jean Nouvel.

The grand palace of art combines conservation and innovation by offering an avant-garde cultural laboratory in a neighbourhood that until today had not fully exploited its potential.

As we will see later, one of the many benefits brought by the foundations is starting the urban redevelopment processes: while in Milan Prada has rehabilitated an entire neighbourhood – in its wake, the ICA and numerous commercial activities have opened – in Rome the Alda Foundation Fendi turned the spotlight on one of the many places forgotten by the institutions.


“The Shades Of The Art Rainbow Are Endless: Choose Your Favorite!”

Women in Art

The Women’s Day is not just a celebration to give mimosas, but it is also an opportunity to reflect on the status of women, on the rights they have won and on the goals yet to be achieved.

Recently the #MeToo movement, started in America in October 2017, has helped to stir up consciences and then spread to reach worldwide importance, leading to a wave of reports of violence and harassment suffered by women.

The movement was recognized as being so important that it was included in the third place in the ArtReview 2018 Power List, ranking on the most influential personalities of the art world drawn up each year by the authoritative British magazine, famous for indicating and anticipating new trends.

Also Frieze London, on the occasion of the 2018 edition, came forward to the recognition of the female world by introducing “Social Works”, a section dedicated to eight female artists active between the 80s and 90s who tried to challenge the art market and that stood out in the feminist movement for a strong political and social commitment. The aim was to reduce the male dominance in the art world and shed light on the marginal role that women play in terms of visibility and market.

A leading figure in the feminist movement of the 1970s is Judy Chicago (Chicago 1939), an American artist who has always fought for a recognition of the role of women in art and is considered among the most influential personalities of the debate.

She was echoed by Nancy Spero (1926-2009), a great supporter of the emancipation of women, a pioneer of feminist art and very active also against wars, injustices and abuses of all kinds.

Chiara Fumai (1978-2017), an Italian artist who prematurely passed away and who has always placed a reflection on the role of women at the centre of her intense performances, also denounced male chauvinism. Milovan Farronato chose her to represent Italy at the next Venice Biennale with Liliana Moro (1961) and Enrico David (1966).

About 79 invited artists will be presented at the festival in the lagoon, also Ludovica Carbotta, an Italian who lives and works in Barcelona, ​​and Lara Favaretto.

The Rabat Biennial (Morocco), which will take place in April, will present an all-female edition, exhibiting 60 female artists from different parts of the world. Even more interesting choice since the Biennale takes place in a Muslim country, traditionally not very open to the emancipation of women. The event curated by Abdelkader Damani will be held at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Mohammed VI, but will also see the involvement of other exhibition spaces in the city.

Body Art and Performance have been the favourite expressive means of many artists especially for the immediacy and the emotional impact that they have the power to arouse in the public. In addition to the aforementioned Chiara Fumai, also Gina Pane, Vanessa Beecroft, Marina Abramović, Ana Mendieta are united by having put the body at the centre of their research.

Also Cindy Sherman (1954), an artist currently among the most quoted, uses her body as an expressive medium, but prefers photography. Sherman creates conceptual self-portraits in which she reflects on today’s society’s obsessions and denounces the female stereotypes that are imposed by cinema, television and glossy magazines.

In addition to the serious problem of the commodification of the female body, it seems that women do not receive due recognition not only in the intellectual but also in the economic sphere. According to a recent study, it seems that even in the art world women earn less than men, with a difference in auction prices for paintings created by men or women.

A disparity of treatment we hope will go away also thanks to initiatives such as the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, a biennial prize created in 2007 by Iwona Blazwick (director of the Whitechapel Gallery) and composed of an all-female jury that supports women artists in the UK.

The winner of the last edition is Helen Cammock, an English-Jamaican multidisciplinary artist who uses different mediums like photography, performance, poetry and music and has always been committed against prejudices such as being black and being a woman.

Another prestigious award given to contemporary British artists, the Turner Prize, was awarded in 2018 to Charlotte Prodger (1974), a video artist who proposed a reflection on the landscape and gender identity.

Like them, many other artists have had the skill and tenacity to fight and stand out to be able to emerge in a male world.

One example is Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), who holds the world record for the work of an absolute dearest female artist with the painting “Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1” sold for over $ 44 million. during a Sotheby’s auction in 2014.

Follows Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), who with the monumental sculpture “Spider” has reached 28 million dollars in 2015 also from Sotheby’s in New York.

In the field of sculpture, Camille Claudel (1864-1943) and Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) distinguished themselves, two great artists who had to face many difficulties linked to that historical period in order to express their creativity and innovation.

Hepworth, friend of Henry Moore and wife of Ben Nicholson (also an artist), avant-garde pioneer, has embraced the use of direct carving, a sculptural technique introduced by Brancusi that does not include the use of the terracotta model. Mother of three twins in a historical period that certainly did not facilitate the rise of a woman, Barbara Hepworth was nevertheless able to establish herself in the world of art.

But which are the most popular artists? In addition to those already mentioned, the abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell, Agnes Martin, Sonia Delaunay, Tamara de Lempicka, Carla Accardi, Niki de Saint Phalle and Frida Kahlo, among others, are experiencing great media attention, and recently, in the first months of 2018, also the Mudec of Milan dedicated a large retrospective to them.

Recently Maria Lai (1919-2013), a Sardinian artist known especially for her “embroideries”, who during her artistic career has used various media such as weaving, embroidery, drawing and sculpture, is experiencing strong and renewed interest. Her work “Bed Sheet” of 1989 was a new record for the artist during the Christie’s auction “Thinking Italian” on 4 October 2018, reaching £ 150,000 (including interest) from a starting estimate of £ 20,000-30,000.

Turning to the living artists, it is Jenny Saville (Cambridge 1970), the brightest star, who is proclaimed as the most expensive woman artist in the world thanks to the work “Propped” sold for more than 9 million pounds at the Sotheby’s auction in London on 5 October 2018. The painting is particularly significant because, besides being a self-portrait of the artist herself, she overturns and challenges the aesthetic canons that impose a vision of the idealized and flawless woman’s body.

Yayoi Kusama, known for the Polka Dots that characterize her works, also had to fight against sexism. She is a highly rated artist, and a documentary film is now on screens about her unconventional life – since 1977 she has been living and working in a psychiatric hospital in Japan for her choice. The artist herself is speaking about the difficulties to succeed in establishing herself in a male-dominated world such as that of the American art in the 1950s when she moved from Japan to New York.

Many women artists are also socially committed to fighting important battles to improve the living conditions of the less fortunate.

Kara Walker (1969), an African American artist who has always been linked to the fight against racism, explores issues related to violence, sexuality and slavery suffered by the coloured people over the centuries. She uses different media, ranging from the collage technique to installations or drawings, all united by the representation of black silhouettes on a white background. Starting in October, the Tate Modern in London will host the works of Walker that will take the baton of Tania Bruguera for the fifth edition of the Hyundai Commission.

Cady Noland (1956) is instead engaged in a critical analysis of the most immoral aspects of American society, such as the morbid curiosity towards brutal crimes or the exaggerated exaltation of male virility.

Other contemporary “stars” are Jenny Holzer, Tracey Emin, Bridget Riley (one of the greatest exponents of Op Art) and Julie Mehretu, whose large canvases are inspired by the densely populated cities typical of our time.

The London artist Cecily Brown (1969), always poised between abstraction and figuration, obtained yesterday (7 March) a great result at Phillips’s Evening Sale London with “Armed and Fearless”, the work of 2014, reaching the quote of £ 1,755,000 including the premium from the estimate of 600,000-800,000, also reaping applause in the sales room.

The list of deserving female artists is – fortunately – very long and it would be impossible to name them all, we can only hope that the day arrives when it will no longer be necessary to make any kind of clarification because we will be – really – all the same.


“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”