Saturday, 4 December 2010

Identifying the art in fashion

The GSK Contemporary exhibition at the Royal Academy – Aware: Art Fashion Identity, encourages us to think differently about fashion. I left with enough ideas to fill a book – though the accompanying catalogue does rather a good job of summarizing the metaphor and meaning behind the main exhibits.

The show runs until the 30th January 2011 and is divided into four sections. Storytelling considers the role of clothing as an expression of personal and cultural history; Building is about the concept of clothing as a form of protection – a sort of shelter from the changes taking place around us; Belonging and Confronting looks at notions of nationality and displacement – political, social and religious differences and the tensions associated with the assimilation of new cultures. And Performance highlights the importance of the roles we play in our daily lives.

Most of the pieces are by artists rather than fashion designers. The exhibits reflect a multitude of influences from globalization, cultural transformation and feminism to architecture, memories, class, environmental issues and rites of passage. And the show has as much to do with the study of psychogeography as it does the concept of identity.

This Alexander McQueen dress is from his 1998 collection, which was inspired by the story of Joan of Arc. The final scene featured a model wearing a beaded dress, encircled by flames.

Looking at it I was reminded that designers are very often the faceless front of fashion. They put huge emotional energy and incredibly long hours into producing collections that are presented in catwalk shows only a few minutes long, and have selling seasons that may last only a matter of weeks before products are marked down, or considered worthy of clearance.

To Andrea Zittel, clothes are very much functional objects. She rejects consumerism in favour of simplicity and sustainability by creating a few pieces of clothing every year, each to be worn for a several months. Her garments are handmade using traditional techniques and dyed with natural colouring, often employing old established methods to work in organic felt. In fact, this 1990s felt dress by Kazaski at ShopCurious is rather similar in style to Zittel’s eco-friendly tunic designs.

Anyway, there are contributions from thirty contemporary international artists, so there’s plenty more to look at and consider. And with a patisserie and café run by sketch, there’s lots of food for thought too. Oh, and the show is likely to be a sell out, so don’t leave it too late to cast a critical eye.

Will you?

PS To identify yourself in a curiously arty way, check out today’s post over at the Dabbler.


naomuack said...

your blog is too cool !!!! i love the post .

Jan said...

Many interesting concepts - closing date duly noted.