Fashion folk and artists despise each other, right? Wrong. One gallery is trying to prove it. By Tamsin Blanchard
Tuesday 27 June 1995
Bond Street is the place where the worlds of high fashion and high art regard each other, usually with disdain. But it is rare for the two to meet within the confines of the same room. "Fashion Moda", which takes a critical look at fashion and its impact on contemporary culture, is showing at Entwistle, perhaps the only gallery on Bond Street where you will hear the words "fashion is not frivolous. It is so powerful - an important forum." According to Helen St Cyr, director of contemporary art at Entwistle, the notion of snobbery between fine artists and fashion designers is dated.
Entwistle is just a few doors up from the rarefied boutiques of Chanel, Valentino and Versace. And from the outside, passers-by would be forgiven for thinking this was just another pared down, avant-garde fashion shop- front. In the window are two piles of multi-coloured velvet that look as though they have slipped off their hangers. But they are not dresses. They are art: Two Part Puddle by Polly Apfelbaum.
Beverly Semmes also works with fabric to create huge, oversize dresses that comment on the fashion industry's obsession with skinny women. Her dresses can occupy a whole room, but Flowered Friend is a more manageable size 18 - three sizes above the average size 12. While women look at a size 8 that Kate Moss might wear and wish they could fit into it, they will look at this tent and fear the day that they might ever have to wear a dress that size. Just as a woman who starves herself to be thin becomes fragile, the dress is delicate, made of sheer chiffon with a fine print in palest buttermilk.
The other two artists featured in the exhibition are photographers, but their images veer away from the commercial world of most fashion photography. Zoe Leonard focuses on a brutal view of the New York catwalks. She calls her photographs looking up the skirts of models on the runway "crotch shots". For her, fashion shows are not about selling clothes, but are a celebration of sex and lust. In one shot, the light shines through the legs of a model in mid-stride down the catwalk. Another photograph is boldly cropped so as to decapitate the model, with obvious parallels to Venus de Milo. But the image is an old and cliched one; the model does have a head and uses it to her advantage. In these days of Cindy Inc (Cindy Crawford has become her own multi-million dollar business), the idea that models are brainless objects is as outdated as the idea that the worlds of art and fashion are irreconcilable.
The best known artist in the show is Cindy Sherman. Her work for Comme des Garcons has resulted in some unsettling and disturbing images. The work on show here, Untitled 117, is 12 years old and shows Sherman as a model emerging from the curtains to walk down a catwalk. With her ghostly white, theatrical make-up, it could have been taken at any deconstructivist designer's show of the past five years. Except that instead of the blank, smiling eyes we usually see on catwalk models, the eyes in this picture are sad and bleak.
"Fashion Moda" examines the dark side of fashion. It aims to encourage people to look with new insight at the windows of the Versace shop.
n At Entwistle, 37 Old Bond St, to 29 July
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