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Connections Between Art and Fashion

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Fashion
Wordcount: 2116 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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The significant connections between art and fashion

Defined within the same creative spectrum, the relationship between art and fashion can be seen as far back as the renaissance period 1300 in the form of embroidered textiles (Fig.1). As time goes by, both art and fashion continue to evolve thus the connection within both subjects becomes even more apparent. The on-going topic of “Can fashion be considered as Art?” generates many mixed opinions and debates within the industry. While fashion designer Norman Norell (1967) stated “The best of fashion is worthy of the name art” to the question “Is fashion an art?” within a journal article interview article for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, when asked the same question Alwin Nikolais (1967) argues

Fashion is not an art because women rely so much on other people to design them …Creativity is a statement of self, so for clothes, fashion, to be an art, a woman would have to design herself” (Nikolais 1967)

This study will begin to explore different views towards the relationship between art and fashion. Taking a closer look at the impact art leaves on the fashion industry. Exploring how designer’s work such as Rei Kawakubo’s is sharing the same museum space as Art by which shifted the public’s perception of her from ‘fashion designer’ to ‘artist’, her designs has been “forced into the debate of art and fashion” (Bolton, 2017).

Chapter one – Fashion as exhibitions, and different perspectives of fashion.

Fashion as art exhibition

As time goes by, fashion vastly progress and become more prevalent in today’s culture. Other than catwalks and runway shows, fashion often can be perceived within the same space as art museums. Home to many famous art masters works, now share the same confined space with fashion designer’s works, fashion exhibition within art museums has shifted the way people perceived fashion. “Some fashion designers should be considered real artists” (Loriot, 2011). In 2011 Thierry-Maxime Loriot curated “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” exhibition at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Consisting of holograms projected on mannequins giving them live faces and the ability to blink, speak, and burst into songs (Fig.2), Jean Paul Gaultier (2010) Explained he wanted his work to be shown in an interesting and unexpected way as it is not a fashion show but an exhibition. Demonstrating Gaultier’s reputation for his performance and passion to break taboos and defy conventions. ‘From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’, exhibition is considered ground-breaking as it is the first museum retrospective of Jean Paul Gaultier’s work (Guinness, 2011). When it comes to the topic of art and fashion, the current Head Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Andrew Bolton has a very strong opinion of fashion as an art form. Bolton insist that fashion is an art form as he believes that fashion is more than its wearability but rather about the ideas and concepts.

“Designers like Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen, for example, use fashion to talk about ideas of gender, identity, politics, religion; fashion is a vehicle to express ideas about the subject” (Bolton, 2012).

Over the years, Bolton has tried to influence and shift people’s views of fashion through his exhibitions at the Costume Institute. Curated by Andrew Bolton in 2011, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibition celebrates McQueen’s astonishing creativity and impact on fashion. Attracting 650,000 visitors, the exhibition consists of a large selection of McQueen’s archive in London, displaying his fashions as work of art.

“There are any number of fashion designers with the creative distinction to warrant a presentation of their work in an art museum. But I can think of a few whose careers fit as easily within the language and methodologies of art history as that of Alexander McQueen” (Campbell 2011).

McQueen designs portray themes that pushes boundaries, expectation, and the imaginative possibility of fashion. Revolving his visions for fashion around the romanticism, ‘love and beauty’. Bolton (2018) stated that McQueen never cared whether people liked or hated his shows, he just wanted to inflict reactions from his audience. Many people would view McQueen’s catwalk shows as performance art, his show evoke emotions, they were “beautiful” “but also unnerving and haunting”, “His shows were not runways as we’d seen them before” (Guinness, 2013).

“in the costume institute, our challenge is to come up with an idea, and a way of displaying fashion in a way that’s new and innovative that will make people think of fashion differently” (Bolton, 2018).

Bolton (2017) claims “Rei Kawakubo/ Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-between” in 2017 marks the first to be display in a monographic exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s since Saint Laurent 1983. The exhibition envisages Kawakubo’s perspective and thoughts process on the conceptual role that fashion has in modern culture. According to Bolton (2017) within the exhibition, Kawakubo claim’s that she does not want ‘one grand narrative’ to be establish on her work thus “the actual display itself is presented as an artistic intervention” (Bolton, 2017). Divided in multiple sections Kawakubo’s works are displayed in a maze-like manner, inviting the viewers to take their own paths and experience the works at their own pace. The exhibition consists of 140 examples for Kawakubo’s work from 1980s to her most recent collection from 2017, each section has its own theme. Kawakubo’s final section of the exhibition “Clothes/ Not Clothes” reflects Kawakubo’s radical changes within the development of her designs, (Bolton, 2017)

“It was spring 2014 where she began to see fashion as objects on the body. It’s more akin to conceptual art or performance art; it wasn’t really about wearability. Prior to that, her clothing always was viable as clothing”. (Bolton, 2017)

Bolton admits he always try to inspire people to have a different outlook on the boundaries of fashion within the exhibitions curated by him at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

One of the most outstanding examples of art and fashion fusion is “Prada Marfa” (Smith and Kubler 2013). Created by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset in 2005 Prada Marfa is located Marfa, Texas. The installation location being in the middle of nowhere is significant to the concept as it shows a radical contrast between the environments and demands visitors to take on a long journey to view installation (Smith and Kubler 2013). Modelled to replicate a real Prada boutique and filled with real Prada merchandise from their fall 2005 collection yet cannot be accessed to ensure that it does not function as store. Prada Marfa sculpture is a vitrine paradox that created to be left unchanged and decay over time. As Smith and Kubler stated, “As a sculpture it functions as a contemporary memento mori, a meditation on mortality and the futility of existence” (2013).  Prada Marfa not only portray a strong fusion between fashion and art but also attracts many viewers whether its fashion or art enthusiasts, Prada Marfa brought a lot of attention to the topic of art and fashion.

“Like any popular work of public art, Prada Marfa has become something of a cultural landmark in recent years….and in that way that art and fashion like to mingle, Prada Marfa evolved into a destination for more than just the art curious.” (Force, 2014)

When asked during an interview “How has the perception of fashion within an art museum changed in recent year” (Smith, 2009) head of National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne fashion department Katie Somerville (2009) admitted that the most ‘noticeable’ change within the recent year is visitors now expecting to see fashion within their gallery visit. Somerville (2009) revealed within her 17 years of working at the gallery, the fashion collection has gone from being pushed aside in a corridor and categorised as “Costume and Textiles” in the “Decorative Art” department to having “major seasonal exhibitions within dedicated fashion gallery spaces and beyond” (Summerville, 2009).  Somerville (2009) mentioned although ‘cynical’, there is a truth in the thought of fashion drawn audience that would not normally visit galleries. “Fashion plays a powerful role in popularizing the traditional art space” (Somerville 2009). Similar to what Bolton mentioned about fashion as an art form, Somerville (2009) believes that a dress also has the ability to drawn viewers in and ‘connect’ on the same level as a painting.

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Organized like an art exhibition, Karl’s Lagerfeld Spring Summer 2014 fashion show venue is decorated with abstract paintings and sculpture (Fig.3). The Chanel fashion show at the Grand Palais called “Art” “Ironically and intelligently questioned the status of contemporary art in today’s world” (Leturcq and Perrin, 2015). Within an interview regarding his “Art” fashion show Lagerfeld admitted he decided to organise his show like an exhibition because “Everyone is talking about art” (Lagerfeld, 2015), his idea for the show stems from his intertest in pop art and minimalism and stated that “paintings are a bit dead” (Lagerfeld, 2015). Throughout the years, Lagerfeld has pushed the creative limits of his fashion shows with extravagant catwalk stage that can be viewed as artistic environments (Leturcq and Perrin, 2015). While Lagerfeld hinted that considers his Spring Summer 2014 show as an artistic platform that categorized as “meta-art” he stated, “I’m not an artist or anything” (Lagerfeld 2015).

Chapter two – Collaborations 



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