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Where The Art Is — 15 Stunning Handbags Emboldened With Art World-Inspired Prints

John Updike once wrote, “What art offers is space — a certain breathing room for the spirit.” In these modern times, the mediums through which to explore art, to unleash one’s creativity through the creation of this meditational space, are seemingly limitless, with options ranging from canvas, posters, stickers, murals, ceramics,  vinyl toys, comic books, computer and mobile phone screens, stained glass windows, billboards — and, of course, fashion apparel and accessories. There’s something magnificent about the moment when fashion, itself a venerable art form, converges with fine art, when a garment, shoe, or handbag takes on the role of mobile gallery. And, this season, that magic is all around us thanks to the plethora of handbag designers who turned to art history when envisioning their Spring 2015 offerings.

From Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol to Henri Mattise, Raphael, Jackson Pollock and Victor Vasarely, this season’s handbags reference the leaders of various artistic movements, nodding to works from the Renaissance period, the Pop Art and Op Art movements, Cubism and Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and more. Here are 15 bags that double as museum-worthy masterpieces:

christian-louboutin-passage-color-blocked-toteChristian Louboutin Passage Color-Blocked Textured-Leather Tote, $2995. Available at Net-a-Porter.com

Inspired designers are generally keen observers, admiring every element of their surroundings, seeking the sublime in the most mundane of objects, and eagerly studying music and art in all of its iterations. Since architecture plays such a pivotal role in establishing the personality and of any populated locale, it’s only logical that it would inform the works of detail-oriented, beauty-seeking designers. When creating this handbag, then, Christian Louboutin referenced the covered arcade design of the Galerie Véro-Dodat in Paris, how the succession of arched passageways creates an awe-inspiring effect, and how the black-and-white diamond pattern of the marble paving adds to the predominant geometric motifs. By incorporating electric blue calf leather and lustrous red faille, Louboutin’s architectural design also nods to modern-day comic book illustrations and hi-definition graphics, all the while exuding sophistication thanks to the luxe nature of the textured white leather and the superb craftsmanship.  The dynamic handbag features two top handles, along with a detachable shoulder strap.


Marni Tulip Print PVC Shopping Bag, $390. Available at NeimanMarcus.com

Pink tulips are generally considered to be emblematic of strong affection and appreciation, so perhaps this handbag was Marni’s way of showing esteem for its clientele. Measuring 12.6″ in height, 15.8″ in width, and 6.3″ in depth, this PVC shopping bag features a painterly, slightly abstract tulip print that recalls the work of  up-and-coming artist Ruth Palmer, along with a backdrop of squiggly, delightfully imprecise, vertical aqua blue, vermilion, black, aubergine, and saffron stripes that give the piece an impromptu feel.


Skinnydip London Crunch Clutch, $38.50. Available at NastyGal.com

Inspired by the works of Pop Art forefather Roy Lichtenstein, who often toyed with comic book-inspired speech bubbles boasting angular edges and filled with action words like “Varoom!,” “Whaam!,” and Pop,” this Skinnydip London box clutch features the word “Crunch” along its front façade in a red text, the block letters emblazoned over a yellow bubble meant to resemble an explosive blast, the background white with gradient blue dots.



Milly Splatter Paint Tote, $395. available at Milly.com

This vegan leather tote — measuring 15″ in length, 7 1/4″ in with and 10 1/2″ in height — harnesses the energy of a Jackson Pollock masterpiece with its splatter paint print. A fashionable nod to the American abstract expressionism movement, the tote features ink blot-like blotches of paint in saturated red, green, blue, and black hues,




Kotur Espey Manicure Swarovski Crystals Clutch, $650. Available at KoturLTD.com

The sunburst-like arrangement of the diagonal black-and-white stripes adorning this satin minaudiere work to create a mind-bending, geometry-heavy, figure-warping, seemingly pulsating illusion reminiscent of those attained by the Op Art works of Victor Vasarely and Getluio Alviani. Topped with a ruby-colored, faceted, translucent, cut glass clasp, this satin box clutch nods to the modern fashionista with an illustration of a manicured hand, each fingernail topped with red Swarovski crystals, and lean fingers covered in rings for a gypsy chic look.


Alice + Olivia Veronica Butterfly Paradise Tote, $595. Available at AliceAndOlivia.com

Like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, the gorgeous print adorning this coated cotton denim tote blends the demarcation between realism and surrealism.  Measuring 14″ in height and 12.5″ in width, this beach-ready tote features fluttering butterflies juxtaposed over a photograph of a colorful  and inviting seaside landscape (perhaps Manarola, Italy?), with a cluster of perky orange, yellow, and blue buildings overlooking the water.


Ted Baker Matya Cascading Floral Bowler Bag, $250. Available at TedBaker.com

This moody yet stunning Ted Baker bowler bag features a cascading floral print that nods to photo surrealism, with the multiple exposure of blossoms creating an overlapping layers and the juxtaposition of saturated and translucent colors creating an X-ray-worthy effect. Measuring 23.9cm in height,  28cm in width, and 17.3cm in depth, this patent leather bowling bag is rife with mystery and moxie.


Fendi Peekaboo Large Printed Tote Bag, $6800. Available at BergdorfGoodman.com

A precursor to cubism, the Bauhaus art movement was typified by a search for order amongst chaos, an insistence on logic and methodology in all creative pursuits, a high regard for experimentation that was often translated via abstract designs featuring delineated geometric shapes in deliberately segregated, color-blocked patterns. These fundamental tenets seem to guide the heavily geometric motif of this Fendi leather satchel, which features a dynamic mixed-stripe pattern.


Jimmy Choo Candy Palm Tree Asymmetrical Flap Acrylic Clutch, $850. Available at Shop.Nordstrom.com

In this acrylic envelope clutch, a haunting black-and-white image of a palm tree-lined street is made all the more realistic via a lens flare effect that recreates the blotchiness and spottiness that ensues after pointing a camera at the sun and snapping a photograph. Measuring 6 1/2″ in width, 5″ in height, and 1 1/2″ in depth, this glossy clutch features a drop-in chain strap and an asymmetrical top flap with a magnetic snap closure.


Aldo Shoes Hatchet Shoulder Bag, $40. Available at AldoShoes.com

Like the painterly “accidents” that distinguished  James Brooks’ work, this synthetic shoulder bag features stain-like, overlapping, brush-like strokes in an array of coral red, mustard yellow, pale peach, black, white, cement gray, and teal shades.


Valentino Camu Butterfly-Print Box Clutch Bag, $4075. available at BergdorfGoodman.com

For many years, tourists and locals alike visited the Butterfly People Art Gallery in Old San Juan, a small and inviting place where gorgeous butterflies were encased in clear plexiglass frames for everyone to behold their exquisite beauty. This plexi box clutch takes me back to my childhood in Puerto Rico, when I gazed upon those preserved butterflies with a mixture of fascination and sadness, wanting to admire these insects for as long as possible while also wishing I could bring them back to life and liberate them from their encasements so they could flutter off into the sun. But, unlike the dried butterflies in those museum cases, the ones showcased in this clutch are merely three-dimensional illustrations and yet they’re incredibly realistic renditions. The end result is pure fascination with none of the malaise.

Givenchy Antigona Large Madonna  Tote Bag, $1195. Available at NeimanMarcus.com
Inspired by the Reinassance era Madonna paintings expertly executed by Raphael, Giovanni Bellini, Michaelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci, this Givenchy coated canvas tote bag features an image of the Virgin Mary donned in a black cloak like the one in which she was clad in  Duccio di Buoninsegna’s “Madonna and Child” masterpiece. Measuring 13″ in height, 21″ in width, and 7.5″ in depth, this open-top bag features leather accents and pale golden hardware.
Alexander McQueen The Heroine Floral-Appliquéd Leather Tote Bag, $2595. Available at Net-a-Porter.com
In the late 1940s, Henri Matisse largely abandoned the canvases that had once functioned as his artistic  medium of choice, instead relying on sheets of paper that he would paint, cut into intricate shapes, and then assemble together to create fascinating compositions. Because of this innovative use of materials, Matisse is often celebrated as the creator of the modern cut-out. His masterful use of color and shapes to create new and unexpected visual narratives served as the inspiration for much of the Alexander McQueen Resort 2015 collection, including the floral print on this Heroine calf leather bag, which features white and royal blue shapes that resemble cut-out paper shapes meticulously reassembled to create a mosaic-like masterpiece.


Anya Hindmarch Bazooka Bubble Gum Imperial Box Clutch, £995. Available at AnyaHindmarch.com

In the tradition of Andy Warhol, who famously ought to celebrate the beauty in mundane objects like Campbell’s soup cans, Anya Hindmarch has immortalized the vintage packaging of Bazooka bubblegum via this graphic snakeskin box clutch, featuring gold-toned edging, a detachable gold chain cross-body strap, and a push-top closure.


Emilio Pucci Celeste Printed Linen Beach Bag, $945. Available at BergdorfGoodman.com

In true Pucci form, the kinetic, colorful, abstract print on the Celeste linen beach bag has a psychedelic, rooted-in-the-60s, slightly kaleidoscopic quality, but it also has a perfectly on-trend Southwestern feel at its core — perhaps due to the arrowhead shape along the center. Emilio Pucci’s prints have always possessed a psychedelic quality that made each garment feel like a wearable piece of art, and this handbag continues that tradition. Featuring woven shoulder straps that loop through grommets carefully placed along the top rim, the tote is roomy enough to fit all of your beach essentials (it measures 14″ in height, 16″ in width, and 4″ in depth), plus it will make procure a wink and a smile from art aficionados and stylish sunbathers alike.


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