Silvia Prada blends 1970s erotica with red-hot lip colours

New York-based artist Silvia Prada combines luxury lipsticks with 1970s nudes for Wallpaper’s September 2023 issue

Silvia Prada’s Wallpaper* magazine shoot with male nude and Gucci Lipsticks
Rouge á Lèvres Mat lipstick in Valeria Rose, Joanna Burgundy and Three Wise Girls, by Gucci
(Image credit: Silvia Prada)

Silva Prada has a lot of obsessions. Princess Diana, Boy George, photography books, 1970s queer erotica, androgyny, pop culture in the 1990s, are just a few of the ones she mentions over the course of our phone call, as we talk about her shoot for Wallpaper* September 2023

Male nude and red lipsticks, part of Silvia Prada Wallpaper* shoot

Rouge Coco lipstick in Dimitri, Gabrielle and Marthe, by Chanel

(Image credit: Silvia Prada)

They are also the recurring features of her work (which has appeared in Miu Miu campaigns, and galleries around the world). Prada is best known for her hyper-realistic pencil sketches and collages of pop-culture images, from Calvin Klein ads to Madonna album covers, all of which coalesce to form her ‘lexicon as a queer female artist’.

She started building that lexicon in 1980s León, Spain, where she grew up hanging around the men’s hair salon that her family owned, poring over the magazines left for customers. Those images are what inspired her interest in art and, as Prada explains, ‘it really formed my interest in the aesthetics of androgyny. People like Boy George, Madonna, all of these gender blender personas were really interesting to me. I really found my place in that kind of pop culture, which at the time wasn’t called gay but really is. For me, all pop culture is gay culture.’ 

Nude couple and lipstick, in Silvia Prada artworks

Colour Infusion lipstick in Cardinal Red Satin, by Isamaya

(Image credit: Silvia Prada)

That notion is at the heart of Prada’s work, which seeks to show, through its reconfiguring of iconic images, how queer culture has always fed into what we think of as pop culture, but without it necessarily being identified as such.

‘For me it's almost political,’ Prada says of her work. ‘It makes people think about where the images they are consuming right now are coming from. For instance, a Calvin Klein ad from the 1990s, like that for One [perfume], was already queer without calling it queer. So I feel like the message was way more strong in the 1990s and it feels much more powerful to me than a brand trying to put together a Pride campaign now. Looking back, you get all the power, energy, and soul much more strongly and I think new generations need to look at this and see that these images have a lot of layers.’ 

Male nudes and lipsticks, in Silvia Prada artworks

Matte Trance lipstick in Elson, Full Blooded and Deep Orchid, by Pat McGrath Labs

(Image credit: Silvia Prada)

For her collaboration with Wallpaper*, Prada combined images from the 1976 Ultimate Book of Nudes by David Vance with some of our favourite red lipsticks from brands including Byredo, Pat McGrath, Chanel and more. She discovered the book in an advertisement in Playgirl magazine, which she collects and archives, especially issues from the 1970s. 

Print media is another obsession of Prada’s. She started collecting photography books and magazines when she was 18 and has since built a vast media archive that now forms the backbone of her work. For her, these objects are the difference between slow ‘culture’ that nourishes us creatively and fast ‘content’ that can leave us feeling empty.

Male nudes and red lipsticks

Rouge Hermès matte lipstick in Rouge H and Rouge Hermès satin lipstick in Rouge Vigne, by Hermès

(Image credit: Silvia Prada)

‘[These archive objects] allow me to see what is happening in society, or in fashion particularly, and I capture it on paper. It’s not about rejecting the present culture, but about doing something that is more silent and calm, more beautiful and a bit more tangible.’ 

Silvia Prada’s favourite artists

Here, Prada shares her favourite artists, past and present, whose work continues to influence and inspire her.

Bob Mizer, photographer, founder of Physique Pictorial

Luke Edward Hall, artist, designer, author

Mel Odom, artist, known for book cover illustrations

Drake Carr, multimedia artist, known for paintings and drawings of art and fashion luminaries

Nadia Lee Cohen, artist, photographer, filmmaker

Deborah Kass, artist at the intersection of pop culture and art history

Larry Stanton, portrait artist

Jean Cocteau, poet, playwright, surrealist

Anne Collier, visual artist known for her use of appropriated images

Stanley Stellar, photographer

Tom of Finland, illustrator

Sunil Gupta, photographer ‘responding to the injustices suffered by gay men’

George Quaintance, known for homoerotic paintings, drawings, and prints 

Cindy Sherman, celebrated in the Wallpaper* USA 300

Rosemarie Trockel, conceptual artist

A version of this article features in the September 2023 Style Issue of Wallpaper*, on sale now available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today

Writer and Wallpaper* Contributing Editor

Mary Cleary is a writer based in London and New York. Previously beauty & grooming editor at Wallpaper*, she is now a contributing editor, alongside writing for various publications on all aspects of culture.