As art comes to town, the new W magazine follows in its fashionable wake.
Last year, W’s annual Art Meets Fashion issue made a splash through a revolutionary collaboration with Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who worked on the project via Skype while under arrest in his native country. This year, the popular issue — which features four covers with actress Jessica Chastain as interpreted by different artists — will be aimed and distributed at Art Basel and Design Miami.
For Editor-in-Chief Stefano Tonchi, a longtime Art Basel aficionado, the timing is perfect. The issue used to come out in October to coincide with London’s Frieze art fair. But today Art Basel’s influence has trumped Frieze.
“Contemporary art is something our readers care about,” says Tonchi, an art lover who confesses he did not care at all for Tom Wolfe’s unflattering depiction of Miami’s premiere event in his novel Back to Blood. “And Art Basel Miami, that is the most important contemporary art fair in the United States.”
W chose four artists to interpret Chastain, who has starred in such movies as Tree of Life and The Help and Kathryn Bigelow’s upcoming Zero Dark Thirty: American expressionist George Condo; Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra; British painter Chantal Joffe, and multimedia artist Mickalene Thomas.
Finding a muse in Chastain, who worked with W before on a cover and a story on couture, was the key, Tonchi said.
“She’s an incredible chameleon,” he says. “She’s never afraid of anything. When we did the couture story, she worked day and night. We discovered many beautiful actresses, but they are not into taking risks. ... They’ve got publicists running around, and it’s all about the clothes, and they’re afraid of how they’ll be represented. Jessica is like: ‘No problem.’ ”
The resulting photos range from Condo’s Picasso-esque wildness to Dijkstra’s minimalist realism, a leap Chastain sustains easily as a model.
“[Dijkstra] is a fantastic photographer; we’ve done a lot of work with her,” Tonchi says. “We loved the idea of how she takes pictures of people suspended in time. She takes away the makeup and clothes and goes to the soul of the people in the portraits. She created a very naked Jessica. But if you remember Jessica in The Help, she was very Mickalene Thomas. She changes completely.”
The issue also includes close-to-a-Miamian’s-heart features on collector/restaurateur/artist Michael Chow (of Mr. Chow fame) and his wife Eva and Laure Heriard Dubreuil, who has partnered with chef Michelle Bernstein to open the cafe and supper club Crumb at the Webster. There’s even a page on actress Dree Hemingway, whose new film Starlet opens in South Florida this weekend.
Tonchi says the link between fashion and art will always be something W examines as it explores the shifting American culture.
“The relationship between art and fashion has been going on forever in terms of exchange of influences,” he says. “Both of the disciplines have become so popular. Fashion has become a strong component of contemporary culture, and art has never been so popular. One is helping the other. ... Every day I see influences. So many designers use performance art; fashion photography uses performance art. The art world used to have boundaries. There was high art and everything else, and fashion was part of everything else. Now, after Warhol there is no high art and low art. There’s a very open, porous barrier between the two.”