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Fashionable Fashion

Author(s): Elisabeth Kley


Source: PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 26-30
Published by: Performing Arts Journal, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3245946 .
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FASHIONABLEFASHION

Elisabeth Kley
Art/Fashion,GuggenheimMuseumSoHo, New York,March 12-June 8,
1997.

Art/Fashion, recently at the


Solomon R. Guggenheim
.A
Museum'sSoHo branch, gave
New Yorkaudiencesa tasteof the 1996
Biennaledi Firenze,a highly-publicized
Florentineextravaganza.
Examiningthe
between
art
and fashionin
relationship
the twentiethcentury,the Biennaleconsisted of numerousexhibitionsspread
throughoutvariousmuseums and historicalsites in Florence.The New York
show, on the upper floor of the museum, was merelyan expandedversion
of one of the Florenceexhibitionsplus
severalsmallmodelsof a groupof pavilions designed by the noted architect
Arata Isozaki (who was the original
architiectof the SoHo exhibitionspace),
each containing a new collaboration
between an artist and a fashion designer.
Divided into two sections, historical
and contemporary,the showbeganwith
a group of ties designed in 1914 by
Giacomo Balla, the Italian futurist
painter.Their brightlycoloredcurving
geometricforms were a bit faded, yet
the clothing still carriedthe electricity
26

of the moment when it was designed.


The chanceto releasetheirvisual ideas
from canvasand pedestalinto the freefor-all of everydaylife is what once
drew artistsinto fashion, and the first
half of the exhibition, even in precis
form, glowedwith the intensityof artists jumping into a new medium, designers drawing inspiration from art,
and photographersrecording the results. Sonia Delauney's1913 SimultaneousDress,made of silk, taffeta,wool,
velvet, and fur; Natalia Goncharova's
frivolous 1920 costumes for a Paris
artists'ball;VarvaraStepanova'saustere
1924 geometricworker'suniforms;Elsa
Schiaperelli's1937 evening coat with
two mischievousprofilesbeadedon the
back;Christo's1967 wedding gown (a
huge bundleof white cloth wrappedin
twine, towed by a naked mannequin);
and Colette's1981 bouffant ball dress
with multicoloredpastelwig-they were
all meant to be used. The immediate
flavorof livingeventscrackledthroughout, as if the performancesthese fashions were created for had happened
only yesterday.

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A group of vintagephotographsby
Man Ray,the Americansurrealistfadocumented
mous for his rayograms,
the intertwiningof art, fashion,and
WarII Paris.
highsocietyin pre-World
A portraitof Picasso,in matadorcostume,andhis wifeOlga,in a sweeping
formalgown,wastakenat a ballgiven
by theComtede Beaumontforthefirst
of the balletMercurein
performance
fourstarkimages
1924. CongoFashion,
from 1937, featuredelegantmodels
wearingAfricanheadressesas if they
werethelatestcouture.Raysothersubjects included the socialite Nancy
Cunard,thepoetTristanTzara,andthe
whoseSurredesignerElsaSchiaparelli,
were
on disalist-influenced
garments
in
another
room.
play

for A Banquet/AFashionShow of Body


Parts(1978) could be seen, alongwith a
stark geometric outfit designed by
EllsworthKelly in 1952, and a dress
that transferredAndy Warhol's"Fragile"stickersto the body, createdfor his
1962 opening at the StableGallery.

Filled with such fascinatinghistorical


material, the first half of Art/Fashion
seemedto teem with an energycapable
of dissolving all boundaries between
planned and impromptuperformance.
Unfortunately,vitality disappearedin
the contemporaryportion of the show.
Devoted to artistsworkingwith fashion
in the lastten years,it wasfilled,sparsely,
with self-important
artcarefullydesigned
for instant entombment in museums
and significantcollections. What else
The exhibitionwas especiallyrich in could be done with BeverlySemmes's
unfamiliar
materialfromItaly.An em- enormousdress,createdfrom yardsof
broideredand appliquedgarmentde- luxuriousclothto makea tiresomepoint?
signedby EnricoBajin 1961 wasen- Strainingfor the presenceof sculpture,
crustedwithoddlyplacedtassels,beads, Wiebke Siem's gorgeous hats looked
andmedalsin a mannerfarmorearbi- antiseptic, as if they had never been
trarythat any fashiondesignercould worn. Embalmed under plexiglasson
expectto get awaywith.Op Art made thefloorof an emptyroom,evenCharles
anappearance
in boldlypatterned
dresses LeDrays tiny hand-sewn outfits and
designedby GetulioAlvianifor the magazinesseemed pretentious.Whose
atelierof GermanaMarucelli,during dolls were they for?

in Mariuccia
whatis described
Casadio's
catalogueessay,"Op Dots, Wild Cats,

and BrightBeansin SixtiesArt Couture," as a fascinatingera of crossfertilization


betweenalltheartsin Milan
the
eraly sixtie. Then, Lucio
during
whose
three1961dresseswith
Fontana,
placedslitswereshownnext
strategically
to threeof his foil cutsfromthe same
year,wasalsodesigningclothesfor the
Milanesedressmaker
Bini-Talese.
Further along,landmarks
of performance
artlike Nam JunePaikand Charlotte
TVBrafor LivingSculpture
Moorman's
costume
(1969),andLouiseBourgeois's

The seven Isozaki pavilions, built in


Florenceon the groundsof the Fortede
Belvedereand seen in small models in
the final room, were repletewith overblown banalities.Severalswollenpaintings by JulianSchnabelwere displayed
with a ballgownby AssedineAlaia, in
an apotheosisof late twentieth-century
corporatepomp. (Interestinglyenough,
Schnabeldesigned,and his ex-wiferan,
the Alaiaboutiquethat was on Mercer
Streetopposite the GuggenheimSoHo
until it faileda few seasonsago, just as
the museum was opening.) In another
KLEY/ FashionableFashion *

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27

tIJM
im^^B~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'?

-'

,
_,'

Sonia Delauney,Untitleda1922. Penciland watercoloron paper,27 x 21 cm. Photo:


CourtesyCollectionMissoni,Sumirago,Italy.

28

PAJ 60

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Giacomo Balla,Studyfor a FuturistSuit,


1930. Tempera,pencil, and ink on paper.
Photo: CourtesyCollectionBiagiottiCigna,
Guidonia,Italy.

Wiebke Siem, Hat, 1987. Foamrubber,wood, and jerseyribbon, 50 x 35 x 31 cm.


Photo: CourtesyGalerieChantalCrousel,Paris.

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spective.Insteadof showingcontemporaryworkthat has often been better


displayedelsewherein New York,the
couldhavepresented
Guggenheim
portionsof thoseexhibitions,
whichby all
The question
reportswerefascinating.
is, why do fashionand art come toThefirsthalfof Art/Fashion
tells
gether?
for
action
and
us, parties,fantasy,
performance.
thesecondhalf
Unfortunately,
of the exhibitiongavethe impression
InFlorence,
thelargerevent(bigenough thatcontemporary
artistspreferto ento need three artistic directors
shrinefashionin the chillyvaultsof
and concreteWallStreetmausoleums,
Germano
Celant,LuigiSettembrini,
to be
also
included
a
rockat
and
but
never
on,
IngridSischy)
pontificated
gazed
and-rollfashionshow,EltonJohnMeta- touchedor used.
and an EmilioPucciretromorphosis,

pavillion,fashionablyprofoundJenny
Holzerwordscircledendlessly
in gloomy
A
darkness. colorfulLichtenstein
sculpture,idealfor an officelobby,echoed
theformsof anoutfitbyGianniVersace.
OliverHerringandReiKawakubo
were
best.Lyingon the pristinefloorof the
shroudedsilemptypavilion,Herring's
ver clothingmusthavebeen a perfect
metaphorforthe deathof fashion.

ELISABETHKLEYis a New Yorkartistwho is currentlya contributorto


WalterRobinson'sInternetartjournal,Artnet.

PAJ,NO. 60 (1998) PP.26-30: ? 1998


The Johns Hopkins UniversityPress
30

PAJ 60

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