Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Ashes of Art

More musings on art and the art of selling out. Yesterday we looked at the commercialization of Wong Kar-wai under the gaze of Shu Uemura; today, it's the marriage of Diane von Furstenberg and Zhang Huan. I mean the marriage of their brands, of course, and not their actual selves. There used to be such a stigma surrounding the idea of artists collaborating with brands, something about that intertwining of art and commerce that was long ago dubbed a no-no. I don't know if that stigma has faded, or if the phenomenon has just become so ubiquitous that people have ceased to moan about it.

Contemporary Chinese shock artist Zhang Huan is known for his deviant performance art, in which he uses his own body as a canvas for commentary on subjects like his assimilation into the American Dream. He wore meat against his skin long before Gaga even had her first hit, and lay naked as white people pelted him with bread, and then did the weirdest thing of all -- he got all Zen, and started doing giant Buddha sculptures (his Three Heads, Six Arms was at Heritage 1881 earlier this year, in case you caught it) and paintings using ash.

Diane von Furstenberg, of course, is the woman who made the wrap dress what it is today. I'm not sure if there are many designers who can say that they made it on a single garment, (I suppose Herve Leger and the bandage dress is another example) which makes her all the more interesting, because not much of DVF is about wrap dresses anymore -- in other words, she's no one-trick pony.

The first collaboration was for DVF's Journey of a Dress exhibition in Shanghai, in which the designer commissioned a portrait of herself by the artist. The two became friends, and jointly hosted the Red Ball at his studio in Songjiang, one of those party-of-the-year affairs that saw the cream of art and fashion don their black-tie best. Now, it's the DVF Fall-Winter 2012 campaign video, which features model Tayane Leao alongside Zhang, directed by von Furstenberg's daughter Tatiana and Francesca Gregorini. The video is also shot at Zhang's studio, a sparsely beautiful backdrop that is minimal enough to showcase the clothing but stunning enough in its own right that it's simultaneously quite mesmerizing. The plot itself is nothing to write home about, and ends up feeling a little silly, but I've never been afraid of a little creative pretension. Neither do I judge Zhang Huan for "selling out" or appearing in this video. I have bigger problems with the idea that this is all just so random. How do you reconcile the idea of the artist with the actor? Is this art or an ad? Or can it be both?

Images: Flavorwire.com, Curatorsintl.org

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