Barbara Hulanicki: Dresser of Rock Stars Turned Art Basel Star

​​Even though artist and designer Barbara Hulanicki calls exhibiting her work in galleries "a new career for me," she's been bringing beauty into the world for years and years. Hulanicki began working as an illustrator for fashion magazines like Vogue and Women's Wear Daily in the swinging 1960s. She then opened one of London's most popular clothing shops of that era, Biba, which was frequented by David Bowie and Marianne Faithfull.  

Although Hulanicki originally came to Miami for a nine-month stay, she's been beaching it now for around two decades. Here, she's been designing some of Miami Beach's most historic hotels. Inspired by Gustav Klimt, the Pre-Raphaelites, and even computer graphics, the designer is going back to her roots as an illustrator for her newest venture. Her sometimes morbid, tongue-in-cheek, feminine illustrations are up at the Calix Gustav Gallery's show "Flash." We spoke with the genial artist about her rich career and, of course, about Mick Jagger.

New Times: You were born in Poland and raised in England. How'd you find yourself designing art deco interiors on Miami Beach? 

Barbara Hulanicki: Well, not so much now, but in the first 15 years we were here, I was working for Chris Blackwell of Island Records fame, who discovered Bob Marley and U2. I found that in the 70s we used to come here a lot because of the sort of dinky deco buildings on the seafront, because it was so nice. We had a big department store just hundreds of art deco very fine sort of elaborate piece of architecture, which nobody appreciates in England, and they were going to absolutely ruin it and dismantle it almost and we got a hold of it, and it was so beautiful and s solid, and I kind of fell in love with deco which was in the 70s. All of the interiors were very fake 70s, retro 70s and then when we came here people were doing the 90s 70s. It just keeps coming back. 

Do you often show your illustrations in a gallery setting?

No, I've only done a show once before. Because I was actually working on illustrations. I was working commercially for magazines, editorials, and I started when I left art school. I went into a studio, it was an amazing experience, because I was sent out to all the fashion shows in Paris to sketch. You learned an awful lot. It was a very interesting time, actually. I hated it, but it was great. Now it was great. 

In retrospect, right? Would you like to show in more galleries?

I would love to. Funny enough, My husband died about ten years ago. He kept on saying to me, you must get back to illustration because most people nowadays don't draw. They're technically amazing at computer work, but nobody's learning how to draw, very few people are, and he kept saying, 'you must, you, must draw,' and I was, 'ooh, alright.'

Now, and most importantly, how foxy was Mick Jagger when he was young?

Well, we had a little shop, and the girls that worked for us in the shop were very pretty, so all these guys used to come in, all the rock bands who weren't very famous then, they were: so who the hell's Mick Jagger? He was very quiet, very nice, he was after one of the girls, and when my husband was behind the till, the money counter, Mick was always hanging around to see how much money he was taking. He was a very nice guy, very handsome.


Barbara Hulanicki's work will be shown as part of Flash at the Calix Gustav Gallery's (98 NW 29 St., Miami) through Saturday, December 4. For more Art Basel events click here.

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy