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From Salvador Dalì to Dior: tarot cards in pop culture

The famous deck of cards interpreted by the world of art, cinema, fashion and music

From Salvador Dalì to Dior: tarot cards in pop culture The famous deck of cards interpreted by the world of art, cinema, fashion and music

Have you ever heard of Intuiti? These are the cards that are inspired by the world of tarot, numerology, and more generally by a mix of psychology and esotericism, to ignite creativity. Created by a former student of the Politecnico di Milano, the deck is now depopulated all over the world and who knows how many Don Draper will have already thrown a card on the table to start an endless brainstorming. The rules are very different from those for interpreting a classic tarot deck, but the goal that interests us is the same: to get inspired by symbols, intuitions and subconscious. Just as many artists have done from the Middle Ages to our times, under commission from great dukes or to express their natural inspiration.


Tarot and art

We don't have to dig too far in time to find one of the most fascinating and reissued decks in history. At the beginning of the 1900s, the English illustrator Pamela Colman Smith created, together with Arthur Edward Waite, a series of cards that were among the most used in the 1970s. They have shades of Art Deco flavor, perfectly representing the spirit of the time: years of uncertainty, restlessness but also of great beauty and artistic prolificacy.


This will be the basis from which, in the 1970s, the Italian-American illustrator David Palladini imagines his Aquarian Tarot, which rides the new age wave of the period by outlining and tracing that aesthetic.

Approaching the Tarot for an artist or creative seems to mean, over the centuries, plunging into the substrates of the personal and social unconscious, exploring the said and unspoken of cultures and communities in the interminable succession of generations. And therefore the cards could not fail to be the object of study also for the surrealists of the 1940s, such as Victor Brauner. At the Guggenheim Museum in Venice, a self-portrait of him as a young man is a colorful reinterpretation of card 1, the Magician-o Magician.


And speaking of surrealism it is impossible not to mention Salvador Dalì, who transposed his soul and his dreams into 78 cards, immersing himself in each one just as each card requires. Like Brauner, he too draws himself as a Magician, while his lover and muse Gala becomes the Empress, a woman with a magnetic and irresistible charm. A deck that cannot be found since 1984, today it is reissued and available on

Back to Italy, in 2011 Francesco Clemente, an exponent of the Italian Transavantgarde, enjoys portraying some of his closest friends as tarot characters, while a few years earlier Giardino dei Tarocchi was finally completed in the Maremma, giving life to a colorful pop park art - esoteric, signed by Niki de Sainte Phalle.


Tarot and cinema

There are sources spanning the centuries of the art world's obsession with this medium, and recent evidence is also found in a 1966 film by Andy Warhol. This film is a unique opportunity to see the Velvet Underground at one of their parties, having their cards read in a New York apartment.

At the beginning of the 1970s, jazz musician Sun Ra wrote and performed the film Space is the Place, a psychedelic sci-fi in which tarot cards are reinterpreted in an Afro key. Shortly after, the tarologist and director Alejandro Jodorowsky used them for one of his most popular films, The Sacred Mountain, in which the design of the cards becomes an evocative scenography with perfect symmetry.


David Lynch often lets the sets speak more than the actors, and it is precisely from this suggestion that illustrator Benjamin Mackey creates a deck using the characters from the very successful series Twin Peaks. Who could Agent Dale Cooper be, if not the Wizard? And of course the devil is left to Bob, just as Lynch had already painted him.


Tarot, fashion, music

Then there is the Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director of Dior, who, since 2017, has been focusing on Christian Dior's passion for the divinatory arts. In January 2021 the new SS21 Couture collection designed by Chiuri is presented through a short film by Matteo Garrone to tell his vision of tarot cards in an Haute Couture twist.

But she is not the only creative who still loves reusing tarot cards today. The British singer Florence Welch - a perfect pope in manner and aesthetics - has entrusted the illustrator Brian Roettinger to combine a new deck with the limited edition of her latest album High as Hope, while Patti Smith has always loved playing cards , and lucky those to whom he reads them!