Jenny Holzer, the feminist artist behind Lorde’s Grammys gown message, isn’t a stranger to the fashion world

Lorde, left, and Angelo Yelich-O'Connor attend the 60th Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday.
(Christopher Polk / Getty Images for NARAS)

With male artists sweeping the 60th Grammy Awards in New York on Sunday night and the trending hashtag #GrammysSoMale that ensued, Recording Academy President and Chief Executive Neil Portnow came under fire this week after suggesting that female artists “step up” their efforts to compete in the music industry.

But women didn’t need a cue from Portnow or a hashtag to make a statement at the event, as evidenced on the red carpet and on stage, where artists including Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Kesha and Cyndi Lauper wore a white rose or all-white ensembles in an overwhelming show of solidarity with the Hollywood-driven Time’s Up movement targeting discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Lorde, the lone female nominee for the album of the year award — which was snapped up by Bruno Mars for “24K Magic” — was reportedly the only musician in the category not invited to perform solo for the event. But the “Melodrama” singer didn’t have to use her voice to get her message across.

Instead, Lorde turned to the words of neo-conceptual feminist artist Jenny Holzer, stitching a card printed with an excerpt from her work onto the back of her fiery-red Valentino gown.

Holzer’s words read: “Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take courage, for the worst is a harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstance can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors. The old & corrupt must be laid to waste before the just can triumph. Contradiction will be heightened. The reckoning will be hastened by the staging of seed disturbances. The apocalypse will blossom.”

In an Instagram post this week showing a photo of her Grammys look featuring Holzer’s words, Lorde wrote: “My version of a white rose — THE APOCALYPSE WILL BLOSSOM — an excerpt from the greatest of all time, jenny holzer.”


Since the late 1970s, Holzer has used public spaces to convey her text-based messages, plastered on spots including billboards and park benches. The work chosen by Lorde is an excerpt taken from Holzer’s “Inflammatory Essays,” which she produced from 1979 to 1982 and plastered as posters throughout New York.

But Holzer is no stranger to the fashion world, having teamed up with Off-White’s Virgil Abloh last December to create T-shirts in support of Planned Parenthood, emblazoned with Holzer’s one-liner “truisms” (which first appeared in 1977) such as “Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise” and “Abuse of Flower Comes As No Surprise.”

Prior to that, Abloh and Holzer collaborated on Abloh’s first Off-White presentation for Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy, in June 2017, centered around the politically charged theme of immigration. Helmut Lang also tapped the artist to work on the installation “I Smell You on My Clothes” at the 1996 Florence Biennale, then turned to Holzer again in 2000, using the artist’s potent words in an advertising campaign to launch the brand's first fragrance.

And now it’s Lorde’s moment to remind people about Holzer’s words.


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