These days, you’re as likely to see a catwalk in a museum as you are a sculpture, and in the next few months, visitors will be treated to a surge in exhibitions focused on the work and legacy of influential fashion designers, including Balenciaga, Dior, and Rodarte.
With the onset of New York Fashion Week 2018, we’ve looked back through history at the art-world movers and shakers whose sartorial flair would make Bill Cunningham’s bicycle come to a screeching halt.
The grand dame of art collectors, Peggy Guggenheim was known for her keen eye, and her eye-catching accessories, many of which were gifts from her artist friends. Guggenheim memorably wore two different earrings—one bearing a tiny painting by Yves Tanguy and the other a sculptural piece by Alexander Calder—meant to signify her appreciation of both Surrealism and Abstraction.
Dalí perfected the art of accessorizing. In his impeccably tailored three-piece suits, an ever-present metal-capped cane, and, of course, his gravity-defying handlebar mustache, he cut a striking figure walking the streets.
The photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was a consummate style maven, blurring the lines of gender when he began frequenting East Village haunts alongside Patti Smith in the 1970s. A memorable Vanity Fair account of Mapplethorpe described him as “pretty, but tough…in a black, belted trench coat, a purple-and-white silk scarf tied around his neck, his hair a crown of angelic Pre-Raphaelite curls.”
Niki de Saint Phalle
The late French artist Niki de Saint Phalle dabbled in modeling in her teenage years, before making a name for herself as a Nouveau Réaliste artist along with Jean Tinguely, Christo, Yves Klein, and Arman. Her colorful Nana sculptures had a renaissance on the runway, in Maria Grazia Chiuri’s collection for Dior last year.
Joseph Beuys‘s legacy is tied to the mythic tale of his near-death experience in World War II, and his rescue by local nomads after crashing his plane. Beuys claimed that his rescuers wrapped him in animal fat and felt, two materials which became central to his artwork and personal style; he is known for wearing oversized felt suits complemented by a shepherd’s crook and a bowler hat.
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo cultivated a fashion sense that has inspired legions of fans. In fact, just last year the Dallas Museum of Art welcomed throngs of lookalikes hoping to set a Guinness Record. Visitors to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum can see the artist’s clothing, cosmetics, and even her prosthetic leg, on view in “Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up.”
It is impossible to think of the Pop artist without imagining his white-blond “fright wig,” dark tinted sunglasses, and all black ensembles. As the proprietor of The Factory, Warhol’s aesthetic continues to define urban chic.
Like his friend Andy Warhol, Basquiat’s personal style is inextricably linked from his identity as an artist. While Warhol was cool and removed, Basquiat’s wild dreadlocks, bare feet, and paint-splattered designer suits resonate with his frenetic paintings.
At 89 years old, Yayoi Kusama is the top-selling female artist in the world—and a veritable fashion icon. The Japanese artist wears a kool-aid-colored wig to accent her bold frocks. The contrasting colors and eye-warping patterns are the same ones that adorn everything from her paintings to pumpkins.
Another octogenarian and art-market darling, David Hockney hasn’t changed his style much over the decades, favoring polo shirts and khakis in the same hues of his poolside California paintings. At museum openings, a bow tie completes the ensemble, and in later years, he’s adopted suspenders and cardigans.
Thelma Golden and Duro Olowu
Thelma Golden is the curatorial powerhouse behind the Studio Museum in Harlem. She’s always dressed to the nines in headline-grabbing, pattern mixing, jauntily colored garments. Her husband is the London-based designer Duro Olowu and the clothier behind her photo-friendly outfits; he was named New Designer of the Year in 2005, and the list of A-list celebrities who favor his dresses include Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles, and Iris Apfel.
Grayson Perry, aka Claire
The Turner-prize winning artist Grayson Perry is known for his outsize personality and his fashion-palette alter ego, Claire. While Perry can often be found in work pants and oxford shirts, Claire is never turned out in anything less than stacked platforms, full makeup, and some sort of tulle or sequined confection, often gifted to the artist by student designers based in London.
Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, aka Shoplifter
Shoplifter constructs installations and sculptures made of neon-colored hair, one of the hallmarks of her personal aesthetic. Her maximalist-vibe will be on display at the 2019 Venice Biennale, where she is representing Iceland.
Tony Gum is taking both the art and fashion worlds by storm. In 2017, she won the Miami Beach Pulse Prize and earned the coveted title of “coolest girl in Cape Town” according to Vogue.
Pari Ehsan has made a career out of combining fashion and art as the force behind @PariDust, where she dons everything from couture to streetwear alongside artworks by leading contemporary artists.
Raúl de Nieves
The Mexican-born artist Raúl de Nieves credits his early exposure to sewing and crochet for the current success (and market fever) of his intricately beaded sculptures and fantastical installations.
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