As part of Art Basel Hong Kong, Christian Louboutin recently debuted an exhibition with hyper-realistic artist CJ Hendry at the Anita Chan Lai-ling Gallery, Fringe Club. The exhibit focuses on the color red as homage to the Louboutin soles’ signature hue. Hendry is best known for her black pen drawings of consumer products, rendering everything from Chanel bags to Nike’s and dildos. Her fans include Kanye West and Pharrell, who have both purchased pieces. “While I do not have the ability to make each piece with messy oil paint due to my OCD,” Hendry said in a statement, “I have chosen to poke fun at my incapacity by using my photorealistic skillset to render wildly colorful swatches of oil paint with colored pencils. This is the first time I’ve ever used color in my practice. It’s both invigorating and challenging.”
Color isn’t the only addition to this exhibition: Hendry also added an interactive element for the first time in her career. Viewers can pick up a wax crayon, which is made to look like the classic Louboutin heel, and actually draw on the white walls. This touch of playfulness is exactly why Hendry was chosen for the Louboutin collaboration. “There is something I love in her work that is very playful, and you feel the artisanship,” Christian Louboutin said in a press release.
Here, CJ Hendry speaks with DuJour about her love of luxury products and working with Louboutin.
What originally drew you to consumer products as a subject?
When I was first starting out, I was obsessed with luxury products. I spent every cent on shoes and bags I could not afford. As a result, I think my subject matter fell into a similar line; I would draw my current obsession or something I felt a certain pull toward. In recent times I have felt less of a need to want to reference product. Maybe this is progression and growth, but who the hell knows. The fact that this particular series was far more conceptual really excites me.
How did this collaboration with Louboutin come about?
Louboutin has been supporting artists around Art Basel Hong Kong since 2013, so when I was asked to show a body of work this year it was an opportunity I could not refuse. I have been a big admirer of the brand for many years so it has been a real privilege to work alongside such a spectacular brand.
About how long did it take to create each piece for the show?
It was a body of 40 small works. Generally speaking, my pieces can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on the scale and size. These small colored works took around 2-3 days per piece to complete.
Were there any new challenges in making these color pieces vs. your usual black & white?
Yes, for sure! Honestly, I had already committed to working in color as a part of this Louboutin collaboration before I knew I could actually draw in color. It was great to force myself into trying something new. Otherwise, I probably would have been happy continuing in my traditional black and white. It’s also weird doing something so drastically different, when your admirers and collectors know you for one thing. Sometimes change can be good.
What are you most excited for people to see?
I can’t answer that. Sometimes what I am excited about, other people don’t care for. Viewers know what they like, and it’s impossible to know what that is. For me, I was very excited to incorporate a more interactive element. This is the first time I have really done this. What we have done is make a mold of the famous Louboutin high heel and made hundreds of wax crayons from the molds. It’s literally a heel that can be used to draw. We piled all the various color shoe molds in the middle of the room and guests were encouraged to draw on the blank white walls. It takes you back to years gone by when you could create freely with colored crayons. It’s a youthful interactive experience.