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Lady Dior handbag re-imagined by three Korean artists

Jan. 17, 2024 - 15:24 By Park Yuna
A Lady Dior bag made in collaboration with Ha Chong-hyun for the eighth edition of the Dior Lady Art project (Dior)

French luxury brand Dior’s iconic Lady Dior handbag has reinvented itself since its first debut on Princess Diana’s arm in 1995. It had been given as a gift by the first lady of France. The bag has since become one of the most beloved handbags around the world.

Since 2016, the fashion house has collaborated with artists, recreating its iconic bag into works of art. Marking its eighth edition, the Dior Lady Art project collaborated with 12 artists from around the world, including Korean artists Ha Chong-hyun, Lee Kun-yong and Zadie Xa. This year's edition has seen the highest number of Korean artists collaborate with Dior for the project.

Ha Chong-hyun's unique "baeapbeop" technique is seen in his work, "Conjunction 20-22," on display at the exhibition “Dior Lady Art by Ha Chong-Hyun” in Seoul. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

The exhibition “Dior Lady Art by Ha Chong-Hyun” is running at the House of Dior in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul, showcasing 11 masterpieces by Ha, together with the Lady Dior bags inspired by the artist’s renowned "Conjunction" series. The exhibition runs through Jan. 21.

“Bordering on monochrome, his artworks seem to acquire color as the light passes through them … for Dior, Ha Chong-hyun chose to transpose four of his emblematic paintings into a series of Lady Dior (handbags), playing with nuances and materials,” a description of the artist's collaboration with the brand reads at the exhibition.

Ha is a key member of the "Dansaekhwa" movement, a loose group of Korean artists who led the genre of monochrome paintings in the late 1960s and 1970s. Ha has explored his signature “Conjunction” series for more than 50 years, reimagining the concept of painting and canvas. He creates a unique texture on the front side of the canvas that he makes out of hemp cloth, pushing thick layers of paint from the backside of the burlap, allowing the paint to ooze through.

He calls this technique “baeapbeop” -- literally, a "back-pressure technique."

An installation view of “Dior Lady Art by Ha Chong-Hyun” at the House of Dior in Seoul (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

The works on display at the exhibit include "Conjunction 74-26,” which was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Other artists’ collaboration for the Dior Lady Art project can be seen on the first floor of the fashion house in Seoul, including two bags created with Korea’s leading avant-garde artist Lee Kun-yong. Lee’s “Body Scape,” which captures the natural movements of his body as they dictate where the lines fall on the canvas, has been turned into a Lady Dior handbag.

A Lady Dior bag made in collaboration with Lee Kun-yong for the eighth edition of the Dior Lady Art project (Dior)

Korean-Canadian artist Zadie Xa has extensive experience as an installation artist who explores diasporic identities based on her cross-cultural background. Her motifs include Korean mythology and folklore, which turn into paintings "framed" by Korea's traditional quilting technique, evocative of "bojagi," a traditional Korean wrapping cloth.

Lee Bul, in 2017, was the first Korean artist to participate in the Dior Lady Art project.

A Lady Dior bag made in collaboration with Zadie Xa for the eighth edition of the Dior Lady Art project (Courtesy of Dior)