Artists must first of all distinguish themselves from members of the adjacent professional classes typically present at art world events: dealers, critics, curators, and caterers. They must second of all take care not to look like artists. This double negation founds the generative logic of artists’ fashion.
How Artists Must Dress
The relationship between an artist’s work and attire should not take the form of a direct visual analogy. A stripe painter may not wear stripes. The relationship between an artist’s work and attire should function in the manner of a dialectic, in which the discrepancy between the personal appearance of the artist and the appearance of her work is resolved into a higher conceptual unity. An artist’s attire should open her work to a wider range of interpretive possibilities.
The artist’s sartorial choices are subject to the same hermeneutic operations as are his work. When dressing, an artist should imagine a five-paragraph review of his clothes—the attitudes and intentions they reveal, their topicality, their relationship to history, the extent to which they challenge or endorse, subvert or affirm dominant forms of fashion—written by a critic he detests.
Communicating an attitude of complete indifference to one’s personal appearance is only achievable through a process of self-reflexive critique bordering on the obsessive. Artists who are in reality oblivious to how they dress never achieve this effect.
Whereas a dealer must signal, in wardrobe, a sympathy to the tastes and tendencies of the collector class, an artist is under no obligation to endorse these. Rather, the task of the artist with regard to fashion is to interrogate the relationship between cost and value as it pertains to clothing, and, by analogy, to artworks.
An artist compensates for a limited wardrobe budget by making creative and entertaining clothing choices, much in the way that a dog compensates for a lack of speech through vigorous barking.
n+1’s full piece here.
Image, Gilbert and George at Jack Freak Pictures show at White Cube Gallery.