No designer draws on religious themes to quite such glorious effect as Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. Thus, it made perfect sense that Tisci came on board to guest-edit Visionaire’s 60th issue, RELIGION. Housed inside a distressed wood case lined in black Plexiglas, a book of images revealed Tisci’s world and the inspiration behind his work. Naturally, the works were loaded with symbolism, like a photo of Tisci suckling at the teat of Marina Abramovic — an image the performance artist says echoed the relationship between art and fashion. “When Riccardo was asked who I wanted to collaborate with,” Abramovic recalls, “I said the only thing I want is to collaborate with you. That was my ultimatum. I said to him, This is the situation: do you admit that fashion is inspired by art? Well I am the art, you are the fashion, now suck my tits! He’s very shy, so it took him a while to come around. But he did. During the shoot, I wanted to be in a state of mind as if I were delivering the emotions of the artist whose work is being used as inspiration—luminous yet strong. Art is giving. Art is nourishing. Art is oxygen to society. I was thinking what the title would be, and I thought of The Contract.” For Tisci, it was an opportunity to meditate on his past and present. “Visionaire was a truly important moment of reflection for me,” he says. “This collection of work celebrates inner truths, inner dialogues, and moments which words cannot quantify.”
Riccardo Tisci explores “religion as liberating force, complete with its share of saints, sinners, and supermodels.” However vaguely Tisci sees his own faith, his Visionaire is Catholic with a capital C, featuring eye-popping imagery that turns a millennium of European art on its head. Housed in an unfolding wooden case that nods to the great tradition of the altarpiece, the issue doesn’t scrimp on saints, including Carine Roitfeld, appropriately venerated in a series of haunting portraits by Karl Lagerfeld. (“Religion is anything you believe in,” the Chanel designer offers.)
The rest of the issue is an exuberant visual tribute to religious tropes. The Madonna and Child are revisited by Mario Sorrenti, and while she’s not exactly Rubenesque, there’s a certain minimalist serenity about her that beguiles. Paolo Canevari and Francesco Carrozzini canonize Franca Sozzani, complete with a Giotto-like halo, while Tisci’s house model, Lea T, is reimagined by Giovanna Battaglia and Pierpaolo Ferrari as a beautiful veiled martyr in Renaissance-style couture. The Son then comes into his own as Danko and Ana Steiner and Jared Buckheister rework the crucifixion, mounting Jesus on—or is it at—a lectern. Some of the pictures are slightly less tranquil. The shoot by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott of Lara Stone bound in ropes beside a burning cross conjures both Saint Joan and Mississippi Burning. But perhaps the most indelible image is that of Tisci suckling at the breast of Marina Abramovic, a woman who knows a thing or two about suffering for belief.