People Lost Their Minds During Bjarne Melgaard’s ‘Purge’

Is Bjarne Melgaard retiring from art? His latest exhibition in New York certainly suggests that these days he’s prioritizing fashion.

As part of his ongoing project “The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment,” at Red Bull Arts 18th Street gallery, he fabricated a dystopian department store. Featuring a dropped ceiling with moldy panels, discarded cans of Red Bull, and dying plants, the space was transformed to resemble an abandoned shopping mall.

Mannequins wearing hastily sewn together pieces of mismatching fabric and items from the artist’s new clothing line were set up all around the space in a Isa Genzken-esque manner.

Bjarne Melgaard The Purge. Photo: Photo: Andrew Blumenthal. Courtesy of @MADE.

Bjarne Melgaard The Purge. Photo: Photo: Andrew Blumenthal. Courtesy of @MADE.

The show culminated a day before the opening with “The Purge,” a performative clothing giveaway where Melgaard invited members of the public to help themselves to his $500,000 wardrobe, as well as selected items from his eponymous clothing line, free of charge.

Bjarne Melgaard The Purge. Photo: Photo: Andrew Blumenthal. Courtesy of @MADE.

Bjarne Melgaard The Purge. Photo: Photo: Andrew Blumenthal. Courtesy of @MADE.

Advertised across a variety of art, lifestyle and fashion platforms, “The Purge” generated enormous interest from art and fashion fans as well as opportunistic freeloaders.

Visitors braved the cold in a line stretching around the block for the chance to grab free designer clothes from pricey brands such as Comme des Garçon, Eckhaus Latta, HUF, Issey Miyake, Jeremy Scott, Lanvin, Margiela, Raf Simons, Stussy, Supreme, Telfar, and Yohji Yamamoto.

Bjarne Melgaard The Purge. Photo: Photo: Andrew Blumenthal. Courtesy of @MADE.

Bjarne Melgaard The Purge. Photo: Photo: Andrew Blumenthal. Courtesy of @MADE.

Journalists (and their friends) were ushered into the chaos via a side door.

Total mayhem ensued as 100 people at a time were let inside the space to indiscriminately stuff red trash bags with piles of clothing from the floor. Speakers pumped out electronic music, and paused to alert people when their five-minute fashion frenzy was soon ending.

Bjarne Melgaard The Purge. Photo: Photo: Andrew Blumenthal. Courtesy of @MADE.

Bjarne Melgaard The Purge. Photo: Photo: Andrew Blumenthal. Courtesy of @MADE.

Security guards paced around the room, and reminded participants not to touch the mannequins. Once the free-for-all was finished, the place would have to resemble an exhibition.

When our time was up, burly suited men escorted the participants outside, where they were left to the mercy of the crowd.

One woman reported being pushed while exiting the premises, as people outside tried to grab items from her distinctive red trash bag. Another woman inexplicably brought a child along to the festivities, and there was concerned chatter among participants fearing for the toddler’s safety.

As the title suggested, the actual bounty was incredibly underwhelming, consisting primarily of dirty white t-shirts and obscure Japanese streetwear brands. This writer, however, managed to pick up two (brand new) Brioni neckties, albeit in an unsightly red-and-white candy-cane pattern, and a shiny dark brown paisley number.

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