Artists who Dress with Creative Flair

Artists who Dress with Creative Flair

As spectators,

we like to muse on an artwork's purpose and examine the emotions, thoughts or impulses behind each brushstroke. But it can be even more satisfying to glimpse our artistic heroes channel their painterly aesthetic into their everyday wardrobe. From Frida Kahlo's floral headdresses to Grayson Perry's flamboyant dresses, artists have used a carousel of vivid, sombre clothing, and, oftentimes, bohemian garb to represent nuances of their identity. From painting to dressing with a purpose, we've selected ten artists whose creative expression is reflected in their personal style. 



Johnny Depp

Unsurprisingly, artist and celebrated thespian Johnny Depp is first on our list. Known for his making Hollywood appearances in suave suits, his attire off the red carpet is far more eclectic, and recently, the actor has been spotted sporting a rainbow beanie and oversized garments. This bohemian regalia defined the Beatnik writers of the '60s like Jack Kerouac, a literary legend who Johnny greatly admires but who also distinguished himself from his contemporaries by adopting a blue-collar look. Inspired by artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Amedeo Modigliani, Johnny's oeuvre is rich with soulful meditations and impulsively automatic mark-making. 

The frank self-awareness pervading Johnny's artwork also bleeds through his style choices. Describing The Bunnyman character from his paintings as a "guardian" who's constantly by his side, the artist has transformed the figure into a statement piece. With his creative community Never Fear Truth, he created The Bunnyman on the Moon pendant; a sterling silver or gold necklace which is often seen about his person, and is available for fans to purchase. 

Johnny Depp in his studio painting the Five self-portrait, 2023

Mickalene Thomas

Dauntless, striking and elaborate. These are just a few of the adoring words commonly used to describe Mickalene Thomas' skilled artwork. The New York-based artist contends with contemporary visual culture using rhinestones, acrylic and enamel, and is one of the most influential artists today. Her masterful mixed-media paintings, photographs, films and installations analyse the intersecting complexities of Black and female identity within the Western art canon. 

Not only is she an artistic force, but she dedicates her time to mentoring emerging artists and lending her curatorial expertise to exhibitions. Much like her bold collages and paintings, media editorials reporting on the artist's ingenuity, capture her in vibrant colours and relaxed cuts. Similarly, her sneaker collaboration with Brother Vellies and garment creations are vividly patterned and composed of contrasting fabrics.

Mickalene Thomas in her Brooklyn studio by Dana Scruggs

Tali Lennox

Tali Lennox is the 22-year-old model daughter of singer Annie Lennox. She recently burst forth onto New York's art scene with exhibitions of her oil paintings featuring strangely beautiful spectral figures and self-portraits. Lennox's work is imbued with sanguine facial expressions and inaccurate body proportions, which serve to heighten her subjects' waxy complexions. In each portrait, the paintbrush is wielded with a surrealist flair as she fearlessly taps into themes of artifice, eternity, grief, and death. 

The artist's style is appropriately vampiric and sophisticated, and is most likely influenced by her experience walking on the runway for esteemed fashion houses like Miu Miu and Roberto Cavalli since becoming a model at 17. Her demure looks have a mysterious edge; reflecting the charcoal distortions often shrouding self-portraits. From Lennox's winged eyeliner to coquette slips, she is setting the tone for artistic noir chic. 

Tali Lennox in her studio by Rose Callahan

Yayoi Kusama

For Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, themes of infinity and repetition have been a lifelong preoccupation since the 1950s. This is manifested in her art through surreal settings where objects' conventional proportions are subverted, and patterns repeated. During the inception of her career, she travelled to New York to participate in the Avant-Garde art scene, and joined contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Donald Judd in disrupting the traditions of the art elite. Kusama would host “happenings,” performance-based works of contemporary art, during which she would paint her naked participants with dots. 

One of her most famous works, Infinity Room, is a hypnotic mirrored room in which multicoloured lights create dots that seem to go on forever. Kusama's iconic motifs include giant pumpkins and polka dots, and it's not uncommon to see her dressed in head-to-toes polka dots and vivid patterns. Her bob is also typically bold and an intense red hue has become her trademark hair colour. “It suits very well the fashion that I create and wear and is an extension of this,” she told New York Magazine in 2012. In the 60s, she also started her own fashion line, which was sold at Bloomingdale’s in New York, and has since collaborated with fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton in 2012 and Selfridge’s in London. 

Louis Vuitton X Yayoi Kusama window display

Yoko Ono

Long before the Tate Modern presented Yoko Ono as "a trailblazer of early conceptual and participatory art, film and performance," earlier this year, the artist and wife and collaborator of John Lennon impressed the world with her powerful artworks, performances and dress code. Simultaneously poetic, humorous, profound and radical, Ono's multidisciplinary art feels as groundbreaking now as it did at the start of her career in the 1950s. I am, of course, referring to works such as Cut Piece (1964), where people were invited to cut off her clothing, and her banned Film No.4 (Bottoms) (1966-67) which she created as a ‘petition for peace’. 

Clothes have been as much a part of Ono's DNA as her advocacy for world peace and disruptive performance art. In her heyday with John Lennon, she often wore knee-high boots, miniskirts, big sunglasses and floppy hats which crowned her long, black centre-parted mane – a product of her immersion with the beatniks, poets and artists of the late 1950s. Now, at 82 years old, she favours a loose androgynous look comprising simple men's tailoring, derby hats, sunglasses, oversized blazers and leather jackets with sheer shirts.  

Yoko Ono with Half-A-Room 1967, from HALF-A-WIND SHOW, Lisson Gallery, London. Photo: Clay Perry

Cindy Sherman 

For four decades, Cindy Sherman established a name for herself in abstract photography which probed the construction of identity, playing with the visual and cultural codes of art, celebrity, gender, and photography. She is among the most significant artists of the Pictures Generation—a group that also includes Richard Prince, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, and Robert Longo—who emerged in the 1970s and responded to the mass media landscape surrounding them with both humour and criticism, appropriating images from advertising, film, television, and magazines for their art. 

She frequently extends her experimentation with different identities to her personal style, and has been known to wear the practical fashions of Proenza Schouler and Narciso Rodriguez, as well as more extreme pieces borrowed from the likes of Stella McCartney, Marni and Marc Jacobs. One of the first artists to start working with high-end fashion in the 1980s, Sherman has morphed into clowns, men and society women through fashion, make-up and wigs. 

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #582, 2016. Dye sublimation metal print, 137.2 x 178.4 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures, New York. © 2020 Cindy Sherman

Tamara de Lempicka

The Polish Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka took to the fashion of the early 1920s with her own glamorous twist. In accordance with the modernist elements of her cubist paintings, she appeared bold, clean and elegant. Portraits from the time depict her with bobbed hair, gold jewellery, and wearing pleated tulle dresses extravagantly designed by Marcel Rochas. 

Some consider the clothing worn by women in her paintings to have been inspired by designs from prominent designers at the time, such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Madeleine Vionnet and Madame Grès. With a sizable collection of designer hats, the Parisian artist is largely thought to be the first woman artist who was also a glamorous icon. Auto-Portrait, for instance, is a self-portrait depicting Lempicka in a stylish green Bugatti automobile and decked out with elegant gloves, red lipstick and a helmet. 

Mon Portrait, 1929 by Tamara de Lempicka. Tamara de Lempicka Estate LLC

Michèle Lamy 

While often thought of as the counterpart to designer Rick Owens, Michèle Lamy is a designer and artist in her own right. Among her many creative endeavours is LAMYLAND: an umbrella term for all the essential elements integral to her practice – experimentation, collaboration, storytelling, and creation. It was here that she launched her BARGE concept – a project which gathered influencers from all walks of creative life. The first barge, Bargel, was launched at Frieze London in October 2014, followed by Bargenale at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and 2017.

Lamy has since shown at the Barbican Centre London and collaborated with several artists. Her conceptual band LAVASCAR has performed at the Pompidou and Foundation Lafayette in Paris, the Triennale in Milan and Art Basel Switzerland. Lamy's curatorial achievements include  the group exhibition Sweet Lust at White Cube Paris with Mathieu Paris, and the Turning Tricks exhibition at Carpenters Workshop Gallery in LA. 

Lamy's style is unapologetically in-your-face. She paints lines on her forehead, fingers and eyelids with thick kohl crayons, wears huge chunky bracelets and gargantuan Comme des Garçons' sculptural showpieces. in 2023, the artist told Vogue: "I buy Comme des Garçons couture as art, but I’m a monogamist: I’m a Rick Owens girl." The latter brand is known in the fashion world for its conceptual and often surreal statement pieces. Designed to accentuate or mystify the body, its apparel has garnered a fierce cult following. 

Michèle Lamy for interview magazine Photographed by Mario Sorrenti, 2015

Marina Abramović 

The salient and groundbreaking Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović has left her audiences speechless with daredevil pieces that often forced them to question their own humanity. 1974's Rhythm 0, in particular, comes to mind. It was a six-hour long endurance art performance where Abramović stood still while the audience was invited to do to her whatever they wished, using one of 72 objects she had placed on a table. These included a rose, feather, perfume, honey, bread, grapes, wine, scissors, a scalpel, nails, a metal bar, a gun, and a bullet. When the six hours were up, she was assaulted, her skin slashed and a loaded gun thrust to her head. 

During that decade, Abramović once stated that any female artists who wore red lipstick, nail polish or had a relationship with fashion disgusted her. As such, she dressed in a simple uniform of all-black or all-white trousers and shirts, or nothing at all. But after Abramović finished her piece titled The Lovers: the Great Wall with her former partner Ulay, she decided to embrace fashion. Her following performances and public appearances have featured patent leather Givenchy looks with extreme silhouettes. 

She's since become somewhat of an artistic muse to Ricardo Tisci, frequently wearing his custom creations to events, and collaborated with the designer in 2016 to create the costumes for her opera, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas. Highlights included a scarlet, matador-inspired ensemble with bejewelled cuffs, a bridal white gown and floor-length lace-trimmed veil (a longtime signature of Tisci’s) – and another gown adorned with hundreds of mirrored silver paillettes. 

Marina Abramović in Ricardo Tisci. Marco Anelli/ Burberry

Grayson Perry

The Turner prize-winning potter and tapestry-maker, curator, writer and presenter has made the exploration of his identity into his life's work. Known for his provocatively delightful art, Perry is also famed for his alter-persona Claire; whose eccentric wardrobe includes clown suits and Little Bo Peep dresses. Much like his painterly language of garish characters, hues and emboldened words, Perry likes to adorn himself with bold makeup looks and fabrics that stand out beneath his blonde mop-like hair. 

Cross-dressing since he was a child, Perry has expressed how fashion allows him to escape into a fantasy world where he feels safe. His garb has become so iconic that there have been exhibitions and auctions dedicated to showcasing their colourful frills and outlandish palettes. As a contributor and patron of the arts, Perry is the Chancellor for the University of the Arts London (which includes Central Saint Martins or CSM). Under his gaze, CSM design students annually create dresses for Claire as part of a competition, which are then sold at silent auctions to provide funds for the Fashion Department.

Grayson Perry speaking at the University of the Arts London