T he flourishing union of art and fashion is seeing the disciplines converge in a myriad of ways yet Hedi Slimane, chief at Celine, has always taken a more subtle, curatorial approach collaborating with emerging artists to commission site specific works for flagship stores as part of the Celine Art Project. The brand's commitment to the arts runs deep and wide. Now, for the first time, Celine is collaborating with Sotheby’s to present the London October Contemporary Art Evening Sale which will spotlight the artists who are shaping culture today.
Following through from the auction, this November, visitors to Celine’s freshly opened flagship store in London’s New Bond Street can expect a rather more artistic experience than they may have imagined. For, amidst the opulent, striking designs by Celine chief Hedi Slimane, will be specially commissioned site-specific art works, that fuse the ethos of Celine with cutting-edge formal experimentation, intersecting where art and fashion effortlessly converge. Celine promises an environment that will reflect their chief’s passion for nurturing emerging artistic talent across his house’s activities.
Since taking the helm as Creative Director in 2018, however, promoting cutting-edge art has become a central strand of Slimane’s vision at the venerable house, founded in Paris by Celine Vipiana in 1945. These bold artworks mark the latest chapter in the Celine Art Project, a Slimane initiative which began in 2019 for the opening of the Madison Avenue store in NYC.
The Celine Art Project has so far worked with over 40 artists including commissions from James Balmforth, Jose Davilla and Oscar Tuazon in its flagship stores around the world. This all enriches the brand’s significant art collection that reflects its values, while allowing for Slimane’s cultural dialogue to expand beyond the exacting cut of a tweed jacket, or iconic gold hardware such as that which adorns its Triomphe chain bag. This skilful convergence enriches each medium, whilst transforming the store environment into a place of perspective, shifting discovery and contemplation.
Anchoring Hedi’s creative vision is his abiding love of art. Take Slimane' first ready-to-wear collection for Celine, featuring dramatic, ripped patchwork shapes infused with the spirit of artist Christian Marclay’s jagged, torn surfaces. Or there was the collaboration with Stephanie Busuttil-Janssen, the last partner and muse of legendary sculptor César Baldaccini, who died in 1998. César’s trademark crushed-metal sculptures from the 1970s, using old jewellery from friends, inspired Hedi’s limited-edition series of 200 silver and vermeil pendants, featured in his autumn-winter 2020 collection. “I was flattered by the fact that they were interested in César’s works,” Busuttil-Janssen told The Times in June 2020. “When I saw what Slimane does with the Celine collections, it felt very connected.”
While peer group designers work with artists on specific collections such as Kim Jones’ beautiful colour and texture rich collaboration with artist, Peter Doig for Dior menswear AW21, or Sacai’s capsule with KAWS, Slimane’s vision reaches beyond the cloth. As a renowned fine art photographer, his black and white portraiture of cultural icons and music-loving youth captures the humanity at the heart of the individual and the shared rapture of concert and club going. An exhibition of his images shot at gigs and entitled Sun of Sound was held at Almine Rech in Shanghai this March. Slimane, who conceptualises and shoots the Celine campaigns, also designs the store environments including the furniture pieces. His 360 creative output is astonishing.
Slimane spent his formative years at l’Ecole du Louvre in the late 80s, and his fascination and immersion in specific cultural scenes started to shape. In Berlin, he took up residency at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art between 2000 and 2002 and he published his first photographic monograph Berlin (2003). In London, he documented the punk rock scene of the 00s: Razorlight, The Libertines, The Kills were among the bands he frequently collaborated with while documenting each group’s work in his 2006 book: Hedi Slimane Diary.
Since joining the house, Slimane has infused this historically bourgeoise luxury brand with a unique sensibility that could be dubbed post minimal. The seasonal presentations (whether live or digital) have a performative edge with stages set with architectural works and films shot with highly choregraphed scenes. The collections do not scream ‘status’ but are meticulously conceived with an absolute focus on the nobility of the item be it on beautifully faded denim jeans, a leather bomber jacket or skinny belt. And season on season, they gently evolve appealing to a customer who wishes to curate their own wardrobes, adding judicious pieces over time.
Through the Celine Art Project, Slimane is creating an ever-expanding community of like minds underpinned by a shared belief in the role art plays in enriching our sense of society and culture. The Celine partnership with Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale (there will be alive stream of the auction as well as VIP preview tours), is a timely union as the world emerges from the pandemic years to participate in and experience art and fashion once more
Celine is the presenting partner of the Contemporary Art Evening Sale on October 14th.