When art meets fashion…when fashion meets art. Dive into the invigorating rendezvous of art and fashion worlds.
Ahead of Art Basel, the premier contemporary art platform, we examine the past, present and possible future ‘encounters’ between the art and the fashion world. This bona fide cultural stage has become a force in the art industry, but given the endless amalgamation of these both realms, can we envision its potential pivotal meaning for fashion…
Throughout history the nexus between art and fashion has been complicated, sometimes unpredictable, but at the same time intriguing, stimulating and abiding. As they are both commercial masteries, their paths had, have and will continue to overlap and intermingle. Both fashion and art can be regarded as artefacts that retell visual stories and mirror cultural and social endeavors, as well as habits and tastes of past and present times. Sometimes the border between these two territories becomes more blurred leaving us questioning whether art is fashion or fashion is art. The legion of examples that portray the comparable instances in art and fashion are visible signs for an open dialogue, exchange of ideas and symbiosis between these cultural forces.
The Mondrian Collection, Yves Saint Laurent inspired by Piet Mondrian, 1965
Fashion is a novelty generator and like art, it is a barometer of cultural practices of the time we live in, despite the continuous discussions whether it is an art form or not. In his memoir, the famous French couturier Paul Poiret noted, “Am I a fool when I dream of putting art into my dresses, a fool when I say dressmaking is an art ?“ Though the argument for the artistic stance of fashion will endure, we can ask ourselves what is fashion if not wearable art. In fact, its artistic potential embodies an endless tension between functionality and aesthetics.
Fashion, similar to art, is a vestige of the reality we encounter wrapped in a dream-like creation. With the dernier cri of garments becoming more conceptual, runway shows symbolizing art performances and spectacles, window displays being reimagined as curated exhibitions, it seems that the line between art and fashion slowly fades.
The concept of understanding fashion as an art form is even more emphasized in recent years with museum exhibitions showcasing iconic designers and their significant collections. Gradually, the risky bond between art and fashion can be regarded as an aphrodisiac for museums. In recent years, museums worldwide display fashion with as much consideration as art. The versatile nature of both disciples motivates both artists and fashion designers to create objects/garments/items without expiration date, a work that transcends tendencies and inspires museum curators.
Dries Van Noten: Inspirations, exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, 2014. Van Noten created a finely compartmentalised world on the model of a Renaissance ‘cabinet of curiosities’, bringing together images, fabric and found objects in themed cabinets
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, 2011. Celebrating designer’s extraordinary contributions to fashion. The work of an artist whose medium of expression was fashion
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, 2017. A unique insight into Balenciaga’s work, featuring examples of his revolutionary shapes and the results of new, forensic investigations into the garments – including collaboration with X-ray artist Nick Veasey – revealing the hidden details and processes which make Balenciaga’s work so exceptional
Subsequently, the friction between art and fashion reveals a story of the flamboyant nature of the inspiration for both artists and designers, which can signify different interpretations of the supremacy of the dream or just a vibrant play of thoughts and ideas. Any attempt to fuse art and fashion can trigger tensions related to the artistic values and question their permanence. As contemporary art slowly accepts ephemerality and the perishability of culture as an aesthetic element, it finds mutual elements with the endless catwalk changes and the tendency towards transience, a well-established value for the fashion industry. The question whether the symbiosis between art and fashion is more confusing than invigorating, will remain open many years from now… For the time being let’s try to sense the echo of the upcoming Art Basel into the fashion world.