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Breaking Down Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Love For Female Artists
The Queen of Dior has a big heart for the arts…
Art Girls Jungle 23 Mar 2021

The Italian super designer Maria Grazia Chiuri was appointed the creative director of Dior in July 2016 and since then, the house has made a noticeable increase in its championing of female artists. From Judy Chicago to Niki de Saint Phaille, Maria Grazia really has put art centre-stage. So, here’s a run down of her best art X fashion moments. 

Image via @sarana_mehra

The Celebration Of Niki de Saint Phalle

Image via @dior

In 2017, the Dior show paid homage to the female art movement of the 1960s, with a special emphasis on Niki de Saint Phalle. Staged inside the Musee Rodin, the show was covered with mirror fragments resembling Niki’s eccentric Tuscany home. The show even included a t-shirt inspired by Linda Nochlin’s seminal 1971 essay, which asked Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

Her Artistic Lady Dior Bags

Image via @wkorea

In January 2019 Dior released a series of Lady Dior Bags which had been given an artistic makeover. Many of the bags were updated by female artists, including Mickalene Thomas, Polly Apfelbaum, Olga De Amaral and Morgane Tschiember.

The Collaboration With Tomaso Binga

Image via @dior

For Dior’s Autumn/Winter 2019/2020 show in February 2019, Maria Grazia championed the exploration of identity in her reinterpretation of Dior’s history by commissioning a set by the Italian artist Tomaso Binga. The runway at the Musee Rodin was encased in a grid covered in nude images of Binga posed as the letters of the Roman alphabet, put together to spell out one of her poems, cementing Maria Grazia’s influence of both art and literature. 

Her Collaboration With Mickalene Thomas

Image via @mickalenethomas

For Dior’s 2020 cruise show in Morocco in May 2019, Maria Grazia collaborated with artists and artisans from across Africa. The most notable collaboration for the project though, was with Mickalene Thomas, who reinterpreted Dior’s classic Bar jacket and incorporated embroidery, beading and organza.

The Penny Slinger Dolls House

Image via @pennyslinger

In July 2019 Maria Grazia enlisted British artist Penny Slinger to create a garment constructed from a 24-carat gold leaf dolls house for the Autumn/Winter 2019 Couture show. The runway presentation took place in an abandoned country mansion and was inspired by Slinger’s 1970s series An Exorcism. 

The Judy Chicago Collaboration

Image via @judy.chicago

Feminist art icon Judy Chicago took over Dior’s couture show at Paris’s Rodin Museum in January 2020. Chicago, who is known for hosting dinner parties for ladies and blowing things up, created an immersive installation for Dior, featuring an oversized goddess that extended into a woven runway covered in flowers. The collab was socially minded too. In tandem with Dior’s support for women in a male-dominated sector, and with Chicago’s on-going love of embroidery, Chicago also designed 21 banners embroidered in English and French made by female students at an embroidery school in India. The text included questions like “What if women ruled the world?” 

Following on from Chicago’s iconic Dinner Party of the 1970s, a dinner table that invited women throughout history – from Boadicea to Emily Dickinson – to dinner, accompanied by plates of heavily decorated ceramic vulvas, the set also featured tableware especially designed for Dior Maison, incorporating shells and symbols associated with the goddess.

Her Collaboration With The Great Women Artists

Image via @thegreatwomenartists

To coincide with Dior’s show with Judy Chicago, the house flew out Katy Hessel of The Great Women Artists to takeover Dior’s Instagram stories, who let us know that the Queen (Judy Chicago) topped off the show by hosting a dinner party, in reference to probably her most famous artwork, where she invited women throughout history – from Boadicea to Emily Dickinson – to dinner, accompanied by plates of heavily decorated ceramic vulvas. 

The Podcasts

Image via @dior

We are all obsessed with podcasts these days, and so is Dior! The house has its own podcast – Dior Talks – with many episodes concentrating on art. In fact, the first episode was between Maria Grazia and Katy Hessel to talk all things, you guessed it, art! Other episodes have been produced with Paola Ugolini and Tracey Emin. And, in December 2020, the podcast even had a whole series devoted to women in art called Lady Art!

The Scenography By Claire Fontaine

Image via @mariagraziachiuri

For the Dior Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 show in February 2020, Maria Grazia enlisted Claire Fontaine, a male and female art collective who created feminist light installations for the show, which was held one day after Harvey Weinstein was convicted of various rape and sexual assault charges in the aftermath of the Me Too movement. The neon signs read Consent, Patriarchy = Climate Emergency and Feminine Beauty Is A Ready-Made. Claire Fontaine also reworked an installation called Newsfloor for the runway, where they covered the floor with pixelated copies of Le Monde newspaper so that the writing was illegible.

The Influence Of The Female Surrealists

Image via @mariagraziachiuri

For Dior’s Autumn/Winter 2020 couture show – which took place in July 2020 – Maria Grazia Chiuri found inspiration from pioneering women surrealists, with the designer spotlighting the work of artists Leonora Carrington and Jacqueline Lamba and photographers Lee Miller and Dora Maar. “They were very modern, very unconventional for the time they were living in and the way they express themselves through clothing really interests me”, says Maria Grazia in an article for Vogue, “During the pandemic, we have been thinking more, reflecting more, dreaming more. Surrealism makes you dream and so should couture.” In an Instagram post before the show, Maria Grazia paid homage to Peggy Guggenheim’s “Exhibition by 31 Women” in her NYC gallery, one of the first occasions in which works of art by surrealist female artists were exhibited.

The Ad Campaign Inspired By Marcella Campagnano

Image via @imgmodels

An ad campaign shot by Paola Mattioli that was released in August 2020 was inspired by artist Marcella Campagnano. The mosaic portraits show models representing different feminie roles, referencing Campagnano’s 1970’s photographic series The Invention of Femininity, showing women as the mother, student, pregnant woman and prostitute among others. 

Working With Elina Kechicheva 

Work by Elina Kechicheva for Dior SS2021,Courtesy of Dior

Just this January Dior released images of a stunning campaign captured by Bulgarian photographer Elina Kechicheva. The photographs were inspired by the Old Masters and the Baroque era, with models posing in lush interiors reminding us of the Renaissance.

Her Collaboration With Female Illustrators In Advance Of The AW 2021 Show

Image via @mariagraziachiuri

In the run-up to the most recent Dior AW fashion show – which debuted on International Women’s Day, of course – Maria Grazia Chiuri championed female illustrators over on her IG feed. Dior asked five young female illustrators to reflect on female creativity and how it is used to portray a better world featuring Noriko Okaku, Fayolle Marion, Bárbara Cerro, Teresa Cherubini and Aisha Madu. We loved it!

Her Work With Silvia Giambrone

Image via @dior

In light of Covid-19 restrictions, Dior’s latest show instead took place in the form of a film called Disturbing Beauty, which was set at the Chateau of Versailles. The historic Galerie des Glaces was lined with an installation by artist Silvia Giambrone, featuring opaque mirrors sprouting fearsome thorns as a backdrop to a collection focusing on the interplay of concealing and revealing. 

Text Lizzy Vartanian

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