I’m smarting from an Oct. 21 article in The New York Times by Nicolai Ouroussoff called “Art and Commerce Canoodling in Central Park.” The piece reviews the most recent stop of the Chanel Pavilion designed by Zaha Hadid (of local reputation for designing the Contemporary Arts Center) in loose collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld. I won’t recount all my bruises from Ouroussoff’s varied grievances; you can read through them here.
What concerns me is how quick the critic was to step up to an argument that was bound to happen in light of all of our present economic alarm: calling into question the relevance or necessity of certain aspects of the arts. “It’s not just that New York and much of the rest of the world are preoccupied by economic turmoil, although the timing could hardly be worse,” Ouroussoff wrote. “It’s that the pavilion sets out to drape an aura of refinement over a cynical marketing gimmick. Surveying its self-important exhibits, you can’t help but hope that the era of exploiting the so-called intersection of architecture, art and fashion is finally over.”
Specifically this and other remarks in the article were directed at recent collaborative efforts within the realms of art, design, fashion and architecture (which has been a controversial issue all along). I don’t think I read a single review of Takashi Murakami’s survey exhibition that didn’t take a cheap jab at the Louis Vuitton boutique that appeared about halfway through the set of galleries. Or the succulent, more recent LV bags that Richard Prince designed and the installation art conceptions that acted as the window displays in Louis Vuitton boutiques. Or the mixed reviews of the high-heeled boots that Damien Hirst designed for Manolo Blahnik. Or Ryan McGinness’ wide range of products that have received his recognizable tangles of arabesques and silhouettes: rugs, soccer balls, skateboard decks.
But really, these detractors aren’t new creatures. They’ve been criticizing overlaps between conceptually constructed genres when Keith Haring set up shop (literally shop) or when Warhol set up The Factory. Need I go on?
In art school, I encountered purists who seemed to find the separations between fine art, design and fashion of critical import. I tend to feel that their protests expose their own ignorance, like people who continue to tout the tired opinion that television is a brain-killer for couch potatoes, rather than recognizing how much significant art is on TV these days (but that’s for a different blog). I take issue with how the article uses our present economics as ammunition to relegate art to a style, or as Ouroussoff puts it: “art and fashion has had a nearly irresistible pull, promising a veneer of cultural sophistication.” It shuts down a really brilliant continuum along which the Chanel Pavilion plays a part. I welcome experiments with how art intersects life.
The Times writer ended the piece by contrasting Hadid’s project against more “idealistic” pursuits. I’ll end by suggesting personal reflection into ways that an architectural space dedicated to exploring interpretationInsters of form and function in fashion and art.