We’ve always believed that fashion and art go hand in hand—but there has never been a merging of the two disciplines quite like this. Last night, after months of work with the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens, we transformed the windows at the Barneys New York Madison Avenue flagship into a groundbreaking public art exhibition featuring work by some of today’s most exciting artists.
Conceived by DESTE’s founder, the internationally admired collector and patron Dakis Joannou, and Barneys Creative Director Dennis Freedman, the exhibition marks the first U.S. presentation of destefashioncollection, an initiative devoted to investigating, interpreting and celebrating the complex relationships between art, fashion and the culture at large.
Each of the five participating artists—M/M (Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak) Paris; photographer Juergen Teller; artist Helmut Lang; poet Patrizia Cavalli; and filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari—is a leader in his or her field.
On Friday, Bridget Foley recorded her reaction to the windows in WWD: “A stroll past the vast majority of designer shops indicates that while the view may be creative, artistry seldom muscles in on the merch. The approach behind the upcoming Barneys windows stems from a place purer and more genuinely daring than obvious cross-marketing. They are, as pitched, a public art event in New York City, the subject of which happens to be fashion.”
Added Barneys CEO Mark Lee: “We’re more than just an emporium selling clothes and bags. We’re part of the fiber of the city. We have incredible customers who come from the art world, from the theater world, from all of those worlds, architects, designers — that’s a big part of our customer base. To have that communication with our customer base and with and for the city is part of our uniqueness.”
The destefashioncollection was conceived by DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art as a novel approach to evaluating the deeper cultural significance of fashion. Since 2007, the foundation has commissioned an artist each year to select five articles of clothing or accessories that he or she considers representative of that year. DESTE then acquires these pieces for its permanent collection. Items have ranged from an Azzedine Alaïa belt worn by First Lady Michelle Obama to a silk dress from the personal wardrobe of renowned late artist Louise Bourgeois. The artists subsequently create a new original work for destefashioncollection, drawing parallels between the five objects they have curated and the ideas those objects ignite.
— The Windows —
— About The Artists —
Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak M/M (Paris)
M/M (Paris) is an art design partnership consisting of Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak established in Paris in 1992. Best known for their creative direction and collaborations with musicians, fashion designers, contemporary artists and magazines, M/M has extended their practice through art exhibitions and a number of group shows in Paris and New York.
Artist and fashion photographer Juergen Teller studied at the Bayerische Staatslehranstalt fur Photographie in Munich before moving to London in 1986. His work in influential publications like W Magazine, I-D and Purple nurtured his own photographic sensibility, which is marked by his refusal to separate the commercial fashion pictures and his most autobiographical un-commissioned work. (He also shot our men’s spring campaign.)
Helmut Lang is an Austrian artist who lives and works in New York and is known to be one of the most influential fashion designers of our time. Retiring from fashion in 2005, Lang’s work left an undeniable imprint on contemporary culture and on the fashion community. Lang continues to work as an artist exploring abstract sculptural forms and physical arrangements/space that take one beyond the limitations of the human body.
Poet Patrizia Cavalli was born in Todi, Umbria, and published her first collection of poems, My Poems Won’t Change the World, in 1974. Cavalli, who has lived in Rome since 1968, was made Chevalière de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2003 and has won many of Italy’s most prestigious literary prizes, including the Viareggio and the Pasolini. MY POEMS WON’T CHANGE THE WORLD, a bilingual edition of her poems, will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux next year.
Athina Rachel Tsangari
Athina Rachel Tsangari is a filmmaker and projection designer in her native Greece and in the U.S. Her graduation thesis from the University of Texas at Austin, “The Slow Business of Going,” was acquired by MoMA for its permanent film collection. She also designed the projections for the 2004 Olympics Opening Ceremony. Her second feature, “Attenberg,” premiered in competition at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Coppa Volpi Award for its lead, Ariane Labed, and went on to win 13 more awards. It was Greece’s Best Foreign Language Film submission to the 2011 Academy Awards.
All photographs by Tom Sibley.