From Cindy Sherman for Comme des Garçons to Sterling Ruby’s Raf Simons collabs – these are the art rebels fashion can’t get enough of
“Right now, the highest art form is actually fashion.” So said Kanye West last week in his mammoth two hour live interview with SHOWstudio, and while Yeezy certainly has a point, sometimes the worlds of fashion and art are best when they come together. Frieze officially kicked off yesterday, which means the gallery-going crowd are out prowling the streets of London – to mark the event, we take a closer look at five of fashion’s favourite visual artists, and their era-defining collaborations.
Although it was The Artist is Present that catapulted Marina Abramović into the minds of a whole new generation, the prolific performer has been making her name since the 70s with pieces that push the boundaries of the body (think stabbing a knife on a table between her fingers or holding a kiss with partner Ulay until they both collapsed). Her most notable fashion collaborations have come via Givenchy artistic director Riccardo Tisci, including starring in a campaign and working on last month’s SS16 show, where Abramović directed a cast of performers alongside the runway. Their partnership goes both ways – Tisci has designed the costumes for a performance of Ravel’s Boléro directed by Abramović. “Marina is, for me, the world. She is black and white; romantic and tough; beautiful and ugly,” the designer once told us.
Growing up in her family’s textile workshop meant that Louise Bourgeois’ art often had a connection to clothing and fabric – which may be why her popularity amongst fashion designers has been assured. One of the defining artists of the 20th century, her sculptures dealt with themes of domesticity, femininity and psychoanalysis. Bourgeois counted Helmut Lang as a friend, has been cited by Simone Rocha as a longstanding influence, and her bulbous fabric body sculptures evoke Rei Kawakubo’s iconic Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body collection for Comme des Garçons. Currently, you can find some of her work on display in the Fondazione Prada in Milan. As her assistant Jerry Gorovoy told Rocha in a Dazed head to head, “The most profound thing she ever said was, ‘Clothes are about what you want to hide.’”
Cindy Sherman, the feminist photographer known for subverting the male gaze with her twisted self portraits, is one contemporary figure who has managed to blend fashion and art in a way that resists the collaborative cliché of iPhone cases or limited edition t-shirts. In fact, some of Sherman’s most beloved works are her fashion projects – like her Post Card series for Comme des Garçons AW94, in which she appeared as a twisted punk with tattoos and piercings, a clown-like figure and a straight-backed geisha girl. Besides Comme, she’s also been the star of a Marc Jacobs campaign, lensed by (and starring) Juergen Teller, which was promptly turned into a book, as well as a series of self-portraits for Balenciaga.
Marked by its graffiti-like squiggles, dancing figures and deeply political subtext, Keith Haring’s work has become synonymous not only with the 80s but with an entire underground wave of New York fashion, culture and music. Known for customising everything with his doodles, he made his mark in breaking down the walls of the gallery and bringing his vision to the masses – something achieved through customising clothes for Madonna or opening a New York store, the Pop Shop in 1986, selling everything from art to clothes. His first major fashion collaboration came in 1983, when the artist teamed up with Vivienne Westwood for her AW84 collection after a meeting in New York – lending his signature smiling faces to hip-hop inspired jersey silhouettes. He later teamed up with Stephen Sprouse, and even after his death, his estate has licensed prints to designers including Jeremy Scott and Comme des Garçons.
“It’s so rare to be completely sucked into something,” Belgian designer Raf Simons said of the moment he discovered West German born American artist Sterling Ruby’s work. He was speaking backstage at their collaborative show for AW14, where the two paired up to create a graphic collection that boldly brought together their aesthetics. It wasn’t the first Ruby’s designs had found their way onto Simons’ clothes – in a scene in Dior and I, Simons is seen arranging for a painting of Ruby’s to be transformed into fabric for a dress in his first ever haute couture collection for the house. At the SS16 show just last week, the Dior designer even took his bow in one of their collaborative pieces, a bleach-splattered denim shirt.