this issue contains
>> Crossing borders with artcouture
>> Comics at Louis Vuitton
>> Art of the runway at Issey Miyake' s
>> Fashion's muse: Claudia Skoda
>> Bootlegging brands with Olaf Nicolai

>> archive

It's the clothes, not the people: How the fashion fetish affects art

It's not only the professional public that's sitting in the front row at the fashion shows in Paris , Milan, New York, or London. Artists, pop stars, and other celebrities are increasingly using the fashion runway as a platform for setting themselves in scene. As a criterion in the economy of attention, the VIP cult is certainly one that shouldn't be underestimated. Yet it's not only about the glamour, which is still more strongly associated with fashion than anything else, at least by the mass media - it's also about a pragmatic mutual exchange: Harald Fricke on the affinities between art and fashion and the path to "art couture."

Vivienne-Westwood-Fashion-Show / Photo: Bettina Allamoda / VG Bildkunst

Presumably, Donatella Versace's upholstered jackets and rhinestone accessories will be seen in a few weeks' time in Missy Elliott's new video clip, which will elevate them to the "must have" attire of this season. In the case of the British artist Tracey Emin, her love of Vivienne Westwood dresses goes so far that she's already modeled for the London-based designer's collections. In the process, she's recruited a new clientele for Westwood: among her own collectors in the art world, particularly the women.

Karen Kilimnik: What the Hell, 1990
Deutsche Bank Collection
©Monika Sprüth und Philomene Magers

Karen Kilimnik's works testify to just how far the fashion fetish affects art. Her obsession is directed at the promises of beauty in the glossy magazines; Kate Moss is her authority for fame in fashion. Over the years, Kilimnik has portayed the supermodel's look in countless drawings, examining the way in which she constantly reinvents herself for Vogue, Cosmopolitan , or Calvin Klein campaigns. The direct manner in which the artist admires her "model" doesn't even contain a hint of irony. The naiveté of representation in the almost touchingly girlish drawings makes it all the more clear to what extent Moss has become a substitute object for Kilimnik. Despite this, her manic working process reveals the mechanisms through which the fashion world almost industrially injects beauty into its models. Thus, Kilimnik's drawings contain minute lists of components that have gone into making Moss a star:

lip gloss by Ambrosia , rouge by Elizabeth Arden. The products are revealed like so many ingredients of a luxurious dinner; fashion creates its myths out of colors, creams, quirky hats, neck bands. Kilimnik carries this material battle with cosmetics and fabrics into the painting field with great consistency.

Marc Jacobs and Claus Lahrs at Takashi Murakami's Opening at
Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York 2003 , © Photo: Patric McMullan

In an inverse sense, bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers use the visual world of art in their search for extravagant images. In their last video "Can't stop", the group staged a strange dress-up performance based on works by Erwin Wurm. The Austrian sculptor, for his part, has since begun accepting commissions from the fashion world; among other things, he staged a commercial for Marc Jacobs with shirts he wore inappropriately as pants. In the process, Wurm proves to be a slightly clownish heir to Andy Warhol, who already did an ad for the van Laack shirt company in 1981 before modeling for the Zoli agency two years later. And Helmut Lang has been advertising his cool jeans for years already using self-portraits and other images from the estate of the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. In any case, there's no end in sight to the "art couture" crossover.

Red Hot Chili Peppers:
Stills from the Video "Can't Stop", 2003

Evidently, as an interface between art and pop culture, fashion unleashes a certain amount of synergy: some people call the result "lifestyle" and shrug their shoulders; others see the connection as proof of a world in which the opposites of "high" and "low" have become played out and in which every form of cultural expression has entered everyday life. Or, as Warhol perceptively responded to the question of whether pop art were a fashion: "Yes, it's fashion, but I don't see what difference that makes." This dissolution of disciplines would mean that one of Modernism's demands would at last be met - that art and life cannot be separated. Everything is form, and this is why we can fight about the content in view of the phenomena.

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