Pin It
Tommy Cash Rick Owens The Pure and The Damned exhibition

‘Tasty, elegant, fecal’: inside Tommy Cash and Rick Owens’ new exhibition

Now open at Tallinn’s Kumu Art Museum, The Pure and The Damned is a wild journey into two brilliantly fucked-up minds

As a little kid growing up in Estonia, Tommy Cash had a big dream. “I’ve wanted to stretch my hands into the art world since I was really young – back when I was just doing street stuff, way before I started rapping,” he explains. “I’ve wanted to have an art show for a long time, but galleries I approached kept telling me ‘no, you’re not a name in the art world, you’re just a rapper’.”

Now, finally, it seems Kanye East got his wish. Having joined forces with fashion iconoclast Rick Owens numerous times over the course of the last couple of years – with Cash taking a turn as a model at the designer’s SS19 runway show, and Owens delivering a brilliantly weird soliloquy on the oddball rapper’s 2018 track “MONA LISA” – the two have collaborated on new exhibition The Pure and The Damned, which opens at Tallinn’s Kumu Art Museum this week. Meaning not only has he scored himself his first ever art show, he’s doing it in some seriously good company.

Clashing Cash’s depraved humour, pop cultural references, and unrestrained use of colour with Owens’ own subversive, esoteric approach, the exhibition features a series of individual pieces as well as new, collaborative works. Sitting alongside paintings, photographs, and garments is an animated video installation for “MONA LISA”, a vial of bodily fluids, a unique bread-based work designed with the blessing of Maison Margiela, and a sculpture that sees the two get as up-close-and-personal as it’s possible to be. As Owens puts it, it’s a ‘tasty, elegant, fecal’ journey into two brilliantly fucked-up minds – or, in other words, a must-see.

Here. we catch up with Cash (a lot) and Owens (a little) to hear how The Pure and The Damned came about, what you can expect to see there, and the way the exhibition could potentially have a dangerous outcome. Strap in.

Why did you decide to call the exhibition ‘The Pure and The Damned’?

Tommy Cash: Well, you know, there’s always a battle between the good and the bad. The light and the dark. Me and Rick always joke around about the fact I’m the colourful Rick Owens. Because Rick is purely black and uses a lot of black, whereas I love pastels, I love bright colours. I think we kind of balance each other in this push-pull situation.

Who’s the pure, and who’s the damned?

Rick Owens: By merit of youth, Tommy is pure. I’m probably the definition of dissipation.

Can you tell me a little about what to expect from the exhibition?  

Tommy Cash: Well, the room is divided into two. The house of Rick, the house of me. And between them there’s loads of separate works, as well as collaborative works. We made a video for “MONA LISA”, the track we did together on my album. It’s made as an animation, but like a Renaissance painting. Basically, it’s us travelling through all these different paintings, It’s just us doing fun stuff like that.

“You remember the Rick Owens show where the models wore each other like backpacks? There’s going to a sculpture like that, but it will be me and Rick strapped together” – Tommy Cash

What were you trying to create with your collaborative works?

Rick Owens: A modern Dada energy vortex.

Rick is quite well known for his hyperreal sculptures – like the one that depicted him urinating on the floor, or his homage to Allen Jones’ Hatstand, Table & Chair. Can we expect to see anything like that featuring the two of you?

Tommy Cash: I don’t want to give everything away, but yeah – you remember the show where the models wore each other like backpacks? (SS16) There’s going to be one like that, but it will be me and Rick strapped together. We literally had people working night and day, adding the last strokes on the sculptures, right up until the last minute.

Tell me a bit about the collaboration with Margiela…

Tommy Cash: I’ve got some good contacts at Margiela, and I have this thing with bread. So I called them up and I was like “Yo, these bread loafers I’m making need to be a Tommy Cash x Margiela collab!”, and they gave me their permission to use their logo on them. So yeah come see the bread shoes.

What’s your favourite piece from the exhibition, or which piece do you think sums it up the best?

Tommy Cash: I think probably the craziest thing is that I will have my own live sperm on show.

Wow – what’s the context? 

Tommy Cash: So it’s called “One Million in Cash” because they say there are one million sperm cells in one load. It’s going to be in this case, which will keep it alive, and then that will be inside a bulletproof glass box. I had to go to a sperm bank to talk about doing it and everything. I did a test run, had some meetings with them, and they even tested my sperm. It was so funny.

Did you tell them it was going to be made into an artwork? How did they react? 

Tommy Cash: Yes! I don’t think they really got it because they’re so used to people going in wanting to have children. No one’s ever approached them for something like this. We’re still working out if we can sell it legally, like after the show, if someone wants to buy it. Like, what would they do with it?

What if some huge Tommy Cash stan buys it and inseminates themselves with it?  

Tommy Cash: Exactly! But maybe that’s the fun part. It’s kind of exciting because it’s so dangerous and crazy and I love dangerous and crazy.

The Pure and The Damned will run from May 3 – September 15 at the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn, Estonia.