Art and Fashion in the 21st Century


The intersection between art and fashion, although not all that new, looks to be a growing trend that isn’t subsiding anytime soon. Earlier this month, Damien Hirst and Miuccia Prada unveiled their Doha desert pop-up juice bar, decked out as a chemist in a reinterpretation of the artist’s late 1990s ‘Pharmacy Restaurant’ (it was accompanied by a Prada shop, bien sûr). Of course, the brand was also responsible for the famous Elmgreen & Dragset’s 2005 ‘Prada Marfa’ store installation in Marfa, Texas, and has developed a strong relationship with the world of art that feeds into its brand identity.

A few weeks ago, for the Spring/Summer 2014 Paris Fashion Week, Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld turned the runway into a gallery, replete with tongue-in-cheek art works, in the perfect example of fashion as art. And if you’re not familiar with Louis Vuitton’s collaborations with artists Takashi Murakami, Stephen Sprouse and Yayoi Kusama then you clearly haven’t picked up a magazine or newspaper, walked into a shopping mall, or driven down a billboard-lined road. Then there are the fashion sponsored art spaces and art foundations: Louis Vuitton with its rotating exhibitions at Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton across three different cities; Hermès with its artist-designed window displays and Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, a program supporting young emerging artists; and Prada’s own Fondazione Prada with exhibition spaces in Venice and Milan. The list of art-meets-fashion goes on and on.

However, there is no better example of the collision between the art and fashion world than the 2011 retrospective exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It attracted an unprecedented number of visitors, with queues around the block in the last days, and demonstrated that fashion can be shown in an art context, and succeed. Fashion is now taking up space in culturally important venues.

Why has this phenomenon developed? One reason is that fashion seeks the legitimacy that the high-brow rarefied art world can offer, and in turn the art world looks for the edge that the fashion world can lend; fashion has an accessibility and mass appeal that the often intimidating art world does not. But really, art and fashion are not such strange bedfellows. The two worlds have influenced one another from the get-go, and ultimately the consumer for both luxury fashion and art is the same in this ever globalised world. Cross pollination is inevitable.

Turn up to any major art fair from Frieze in London to Art Basel Miami, and you’ll find that art is increasingly in fashion; designers, bankable models, fashionista front-rowers and couture VIPs dot the landscape, increasing the eye-candy quotient exponentially, and hanging out with the artist du jour, who has also most likely embraced Margiela or Balenciaga. Gone are the days of holey jumpers and paint splattered sneakers. It’s not for nothing that more and more I’m hearing of major art fairs referred to as ‘the art world’s Fashion Week’.

In Art/Fashion in the 21st Century two Australian writers, Alison Kubler and Mitchell Oakley Smith, look at this brilliant creative collision between the worlds of fashion and art. A contextual introduction explores the 20th-century history that inspired the ‘art as fashion’ and ‘fashion as art’ revolution, discussing ideas of spectacle, commercial opportunity, authenticity and stylistic innovation. Five chapters feature concise essays with profiles of the key designers, break-out stories about the most avant garde projects, and interviews with the leading lights of the art-fashion crossover phenomenon, including collaborative efforts by: Acne, Balenciaga, Walter van Beirendonck, Hussein Chayalan, Zaha Hadid, Hermès, Calvin Klein, Jeff Koons, Romance was Born, Longchamp, Baz Luhrmann, Marni, Issey Miyake, Prada, Henrik Vibskov and Viktor & Rolf. There’s also a foreword by legendary fashion muse Daphne Guinness; who better to introduce the subject?

One for fashion and art lovers alike!

Published through Thames and Hudson, the book is out now and also available in China, Singapore and Taiwan, so keep your eyes peeled for a copy.

Art Fashion in the 21st Century

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