Sasha Pivovarova: On Paris, Pushkin, & Photography with Paolo Roversi
Few figures are quite as influential as Sasha Pivovarova. The Moscow-born supermodel and artist holds a record-breaking number of campaigns with Prada, has seen her portrait on the cover of nearly every international cover of Vogue, and was regarded so highly by Karl Lagerfeld, that he invited her to illustrate the set for his F/W 09 Chanel show. “Art and fashion coexist in harmony in my life. My art is the reflection of my life” stated Sasha, who is certainly not wrong. The two industries exist almost simultaneously for Pivovarova, who has seen her artistic designs printed everywhere from lingerie at Gap, to the cover of Vogue Russia, whose June 2020 issue saw Sasha’s self-portrait grace the newsstands of her home country. Then recently, Sasha Pivovarova announced her collaboration with the London-based Runway Gallery, in the latest chapter of her fashion-focused artistic career.
In an interview with IRK, Pivovarova discussed everything from her life as an art student, to her love for Parisian cuisine and her life with photographer and husband, Igor Vishnyakov, in the city that never sleeps:
As a child and later, an Art History student in Moscow, Pivovarova was never without her sketchbook, which, the artist shared, transported her to a world beyond the reality in which she was existing. “My sketchbook was always my sanctuary which allowed me to get out of reality and sink into the wonderful world of my imagination” began Sasha, on her memories of practising art as a young girl in the State capital. She continued: “A piece of paper and a pencil was the highest form of freedom for me. I could do anything with it. I always liked to work with anything that leaves a mark, and in the absence of the materials, I could draw in the sand with the stick, as long as I could express my feelings. I always carried a sketchbook and a pencil box everywhere I went, just in case I got bored. It was a very special time when I realised the joy of creating”.
“I spent a lot of time in the museums and sketched from the sculptures of old masterworks. I had many books about art in my library. I could look for hours at the masterpieces, and I loved to play with art materials, discovering colours and drawing throughout all of my childhood. In my school years, I experimented with big scale works on the walls of Moscow. This love of creating and the need to express myself grew up with me”.
The idea of fleeing reality is frequently explored by Pivovarova, who interprets the theme of fairytales into her pieces. “The fairytale world has no boundaries. Anything is possible, anything goes” shared Sasha, in her discussion of the fantastical influence of these tales on her art. However, for the artist, who reads classic Russian literature as a past time, there is no particular character whose life she would want to live, as she shared: “The 19th-century Russian literature which I like the most is extremely patriarchal, with most female characters having a very tragic life. There is really no character that I would desire to be, aside from a fairytale character like Pushkin’s Swan Princess for her ability to make magic and create wonderful things out of nothing”. While on the subject, it was only inevitable to ask, what is Sasha’s favourite fairytale? The answer, for the queen of folktales, was simple: “The Russian folk fairytale Snowmaiden. It is very beautiful and poetic”.
In 2011, Sasha’s mystical illustrations appeared on a collection for GapBody, which saw the artist create sleepwear sets and lingerie for the global retailer. This was not the first time in which Pivovarova combined her position in the fashion industry with her talent for art, nor, would it be the last, as, in the years that followed, Sasha continued to blend the art and fashion worlds into her work. At New York Fashion Week in 2018, Pivovarova appeared as both an artist and a model for Dior’s advertising campaign, which saw her exhibit over 40 pieces of art and paint a floor-to-ceiling mural for the French label.
Most recently, Sasha epitomised the relationship between fashion and art when her self portrait appeared on the cover of Vogue Russia, in an issue which graced newsstands across Russia amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I have had many covers over the years, and I felt very proud to break new ground in fashion” began the artist in a discussion of her painting for the magazine. “I was the first model to ever paint herself for the cover of Vogue. I also had so much fun making the editorial, where I had to draw myself, wearing my favourite dresses in surreal settings”.
Global citizen Sasha Pivovarova draws from her Russian roots to create pieces for a London-based gallery and has blessed the runway in every fashion week across the world, however, it is New York where the artist, her husband, two daughters and her studio are currently based. While it is her husband, Igor Vishnyakov, who is best-renowned for his photography, Sasha shared that the city was once home to her own photography exhibition, sharing: “Before Instagram, I was quite big on selfies. I often shot myself on the backstage handhold or in the mirror, and I even had an exhibition in New York called I Spy. These days I prefer to be shot by a professional photographer”. While on the topic of photography, the artist reminisced on her favourite collaborations throughout the years of her modelling career: “I love working with Steven Meisel, and I absolutely love all the images we created over the years” began Sasha. “I will never forget the first editorial we shot together for Italian Vogue. It’s called Future Perfect, and it was inspired by Egon Schiele. Schiele was a big inspiration for me at that time. I also love the older generation of photographers. My favourites are Steven Meisel, Paolo Roversi, and Peter Lindbergh”.
Despite choosing a base in the city that never sleeps, the artist has a self-confessed love affair with Paris, as she shared how the fashion from French capital has made the biggest impact on her wardrobe. “I think Paris and Tokyo are the most fashionable cities” shared Pivovarova, who continued in her love letter to native French designers and cuisine from the city of light: “I love Jean Paul Gaultier. He is such a talented designer, and it was always a pleasure to work with him and to see his creative input. Dior and Chanel’s shows are always a great experience. I love French cuisine and indulge myself on it when I am there”. In a look to the future, Pivovarova continued in her admiration of Paris, and its distinguished art scene, sharing: “I also love the Louvre Museum, and I think my pieces will look awesome in the Palace”. We agree, Sasha. Now we all just need to watch this space…
By Megan Slack