Ian Davenport has spent some 30 years developing his “Puddle” paintings, experimenting with different colors, types of paint, and techniques to create his signature linear pours. But try as he might, the British artist had never been able to incorporate metallics.
“They’re not highly saturated with pigment,” he says. “So when you flow the paint, it becomes pallid.” Enter Dior.
When the French fashion house approached him to be part of its Dior Lady Art project—a series of artist-designed bags and accessories that launches at Art Basel Miami Beach later this month—Davenport revisited the challenge. The scintillating results far exceeded his expectations.
“They came back to me with this plumped-up, glamorous bag,” Davenport says. “It was amazing, creatively.”
Indeed, at a time when art-fashion collaborations are commonplace, with many brands satisfied to simply apply pictures to product, Dior managed to take the work of a wide-ranging crew that also includes fellow Brits Jason Martin, Mat Collishaw, Marc Quinn, as well as Americans Matthew Porter, Daniel Gordon, and Chris Martin, to a new level.
For his part, Collishaw chose to work with his “Insecticides” photographs of crushed butterflies and moths.
“I wanted something that was exquisite and had texture,” he says. In printing the images on velvet, Dior achieved just that. “The surface is not dissimilar to that of a moth or butterfly, with very fine hairs and a slightly iridescent texture to it.”
In the case of Martin, the inspiration was mutual. The artist, known for his Expressionist pieces that reference both painting and sculpture, used a couple of his silver- and gold-plated reliefs as a starting point.
After re-creating the works in leather, which in itself was an achievement (“I was like, How are they going to do that?” he recalls thinking. “But they did, and the bags have a sense of whole, uninterrupted movement”), Dior took an imaginative leap and tried them in sequins.
“It was incredible!” exclaims Martin, who is now considering using the material in his practice. “That’s the thing about positive collaborations—sometimes you discover something about the craft that can filter into the artistic work.”