Why Is Marina Abramovic Breastfeeding Riccardo Tisci?: Visionaire Pushes Boundaries With Its New Religion Issue

Why Is Marina Abramovic Breastfeeding Riccardo Tisci?: Visionaire Pushes Boundaries With Its New Religion Issue

Toillustrate the relationship between fashion and art, performance artist Marina Abramovićdecided to breastfeed Givenchy artistic director Riccardo Tisci. The result isa profound image, with a Madonna-esque (the Virgin Mary, not the queen of pop) Abramovićand a serene Tisci, content from his "nourishment."

The photo embodieseverything that the seminal, limited-edition "magazine" Visionaire is all about the delicate dance between art and fashion, crossing boundaries, and givingartists new ways to express themselves. For the its 60th issue, Visionaire'sfounders Cecilia Dean, James Kaliardos, and Stephen Gan tapped Tisci toguest edit. He knew right away what his theme was going to be: religion. "Thatcame purely from him: 'I want it to be religion. I want it to be allblack-and-white photography,'" Dean said as she sat down with ARTINFO inVisionaire's SoHo office.

But why religion?"It's something that Riccardo really wanted to explore," said Dean. "I thinkit's a really timely issue. I think religion is a big part of his childhood anda big part of his inspiration, and especially now. But I think hisinterpretation is different from your preconceived notions of religion. It'sreally about for him what are you obsessed with what do you worship? Who'syour religion meaning who's your inspiration. He always says thatDonatella Versace is his religion."

Tisci, no strangerto the art world (he fêted Abramović for her MoMA exhibition and dressed her for the Oscars), arrived toone of the issue's first meetings prepared with a stack of inspirational imagesready to curate an eclectic mixture of artists for the project. "He hashis medium for clothes, he does fashion shows, he's in stores, they have shops this is expressing the whole inspiration behind all of that stuff and reallywanting to give a voice to a lot of artists that he admires. It's a reallyinteresting mix of artists that he has put together, from quite old people tovery young people, to very established artists to emerging artists. It's like areally nice mixture and it speaks a lot about who he is and where he comes fromand what his inspirations are," said Dean.

A work of art initself, taking a little over a year to make, Visionaire 60 is aleather-wrapped, 228-page, hard-bound book inspired by a church altarpiece.Printers in Italy whospecialize in black-and-white produced the pages, while Givenchy made the case,a box sourced from antique reclaimed wood in China. Upon opening the box, ascent created by Givaudan perfumer Yann Vasnier emerges, evoking memoriesof the incense burned in the Catholic Church. Only 3,000 copies exist. "Eachone was slightly different," said Dean. "It was pretty labor intensive."  

Featured in thebook are a series of black-and-white images, mostly photographs, some drawings,collages and interestingly, no fashion labels. "He really wanted to get awayfrom it being purely about showing off clothes," explained Dean.

The Visionaireteam and Tisci selected collaborators based on a number of factors. "You'rethinking aesthetics, like whose style would mesh with each other," describedDean. Another factor was time. Many of the contributors had never workedtogether, but had admired the work of their collaborators.


Sometimes it waspure happenstance, as in the case of ceramic sculptor Jared Buckheister, modelJamie Bochert, photographer Danko Steiner, and his stylist wife, Ana. "Theyactually met at the party at MoMA... and they happened to be sitting at the same table, sothey met each other, and they were like, 'Wow it would be so fun to dosomething together,' and then 'Religion' came up, and so they immediately sawthat of course this was the perfect opportunity," recalled Dean.

The works have nocommon ground other than the theme of religion, and can be described with adjectives likebeautiful, haunting, shocking, provocative, bizarre, thought-provoking, and funny —but that doesn't do justice to actually viewing them. Controversial Death Rowinmate Damien Echols drew a series of symbols. Mario Sorrenti photographed modelArizona Muse and her baby, a take on the Virgin Mary holding Jesus, styled byCamilla Nickerson. Photographer Nick Knight scanned Kate Moss, styled by KatyEngland, turning the supermodel into an angel-like figure. Giovanna Battagliapulled clothing from religious stores, even getting some antique pieces, tostyle transsexual model and Tisci muse Lea T for a photo by Pierpaolo Ferrari. And hairstylist Luigi Murenapiled flowers on Christina Ricci's head (Dean says Tisci is a big fan) for a photo by Daniele & Iango.

Inspired by the work ofperformance artist Jan Fabre (who coincidentally, is also in the issue), WillyVanderperre shot two models styled by Olivier Rizzo. Tattoo artist Mark Mahoneycompleted the image, illustrating the background with religious symbols. Bychance, Tisci fell in love with a photograph of hands on a body by V magazine designerCian Browne, while at the office, immediately placing the picture in the issue."It didn't really matter who it was making the image," Dean admitted. "As longas the image really struck him and meant something to him, it was important tohave it in the issue."

Even an appearance by the ubiquitous James Franco isincluded in the issue, via a collaboration with MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach and photographerDavid Benjamin Sherry.

Many of thefeatured artists went beyond their usual styles. Mario Testino worked withsculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere to create a spread consisting of photos of DeBruyckere's works next to photos of male models. "It's not the Mario Testinothat you know from Vanity Fair," mused Dean with a sly smile. "It's a wholeother side of his art." Artist Terence Koh became a stylist for a photo by JackPierson of musician Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. "Terence istotally multi-talented," praised Dean. "He's got his aesthetics, so he can kindof apply it to anything whether it's a performance piece, or a photo, or asculpture, or his outfit, or styling in this case."

Tisci even paidtribute to his family designating a blank page to each member. "Riccardodedicates each gold page to one of the women in his life, so he has a motherand eight sisters, and that's who raised him, and his father, who died when hewas quite young, represented by the shiny black page," said Dean.

The finale to suchan overwhelmingly emotional body of work? A light piece by Harper's Bazaar fashion editorMelanie Ward: Directions on how to make a "God Box." "That was a really niceending, it's just kind of like with a sense of humor," Dean said with a smile.

To purchase Visionaire 60: Religion, click HERE.