Tilda Swinton and W Magazine's Surreal Fashion at the Menil

Inspired by the de Menils' house and collection, Swinton and photographer Tim Walker create fashion as art in Houston.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen November 25, 2014

For their first two Surrealism-themed fashion editorial shoots for W Magazine, actress Tilda Swinton and photographer Tim Walker traveled to Iceland and a Surrealist sculpture garden in the Mexican jungle.

For the third, they came to Houston.

The shoot features the actress interacting with the art of the Menil Collection and getting into character as an avant garde midcentury socialite inside the de Menils' famed Philip Johnson-designed house. (Lynn Wyatt, actual friend of the de Menils, even makes a cameo.)

In one unforgettable shot, Swinton is outfitted (barely) in a metal corset by Johanna O'Hagan, a real life re-imagination of Max Ernst's iconic painting Retour de la Belle Jardinière, part of the de Menils' vast collections. 

“This is the special magic of these collaborations,” Swinton says as she poses as the gardener. “There is not just a vague referencing of de Menil but also an immersion into her world. We’re crossing into a no-man’s-land between history and imagination, in an attempt to evoke her spirit, and the spirit of the world she inhabited.”

The entire feature is gorgeously fascinating and serves as a reminder, more than 60 years after the de Menils made Houston their adopted home, how their influence and patronage put the city on the global art map.

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