Fashion occupies a prime position in our culture and economy. But is it art?
Watch the video and answer the questions below.
1 What's the name of the tour?
2 How much of the object of art is what the characters are wearing?
3 What were the three 'arts' that constituted art as opposed to the 'decorative arts'?
4 What did the soldiers capture their enemies' wives in ancient Greece?
5 What does '1450' refer to?
6 What two elements does fashion combine in today's world, according to Anne Winterthur?
7 What is the name of John Singer Sargent's painting?
8 What was a suntan a symbol of in the Industrial Revolution?
There is the perennial debate about whether or not fashion can ever be art. It has, in some instances, to do with intention. But just because it's clothes doesn't mean it can't be art.
The name of this tour is Fashion and Art.
Fashion is laden with cultural, social, aesthetic ideas, everything that we subject the criteria of art to.
What we do is look at the objects of art… masterpieces and highlights of our collection from a very interesting viewpoint. What are the people wearing in the object of art? And more than that, what does it mean? This is something almost nobody talks about. But sometimes it's 60% to 70% of the object of art anyway. So I hope that you will see fashion is not trivial.
When I started off as a curator, art was considered to be painting, architecture, and sculpture. Anything outside of that was decorative arts and quite frankly, looked down on, costume and fashion being one example of that.
Our first object dates from ancient Greece. The basic garment was made by one long length of linen. The flax had to be picked, it had to be spun, it had to be woven by hand. And in war, the soldiers who were victorious would kill the man and capture the women as slaves to do the spinning and the weaving. So the fabric represents a great deal.
Fashion is still considered more in the female domain than something like painting. And I think that's a reason why some people are quick to dismiss fashion as art.
So we will move on to another culture altogether, another civilization altogether.
It's our role as a center of art and culture to give fashion and costume respect and that attention.
Fashion should be recognized for how it defines a time, how it can be controversial, how it can be revolutionary.
So right now, we are in Burgundian France. And these are courtiers in a rose garden. This is one of the earliest examples we have of cut and tailored clothing. With the growth of big, powerful courts, people began to want to outdo each other in a fashion sense. You are looking at the red carpet of 1450.
Fashion seems frivolous and trivial to the 19th-century attitudes about fine art. There's a kind of puritanical tradition, and we hate the notion that there might be commerce associated with anything, because somehow, that makes it less pure. But as the definitions of art have become more elastic, you know, post-Dada, post-Warhol… we're no longer bound by the 19th-century categories of art.
In the world that we work in, you need the mixture of art and commerce. They have to exist hand in hand.
High fashion paired with celebrity becomes something bigger than both…
All right, we're going to finish the tour with John Singer Sargent. This is Madame X. People wanted the artists of the day to advance themselves. And the artist of the day wanted the famous people in order to advance their career.
The art of what someone wears is as important and as revealing an artefact as a particular portrait painted at a particular time.
Why did she wear this white duck skirt? One day, she came in from playing tennis, and her face was all flushed, and her eyes were sparkling. But what we don't see is what it's saying about society. In the industrial world, when people were in factories all day long, it suddenly became a status symbol to have a suntan. So this dress shows a complete switch in values.
Fashion can be used to tell stories about gender, race, and identity, and challenge us to rethink what is beautiful, and challenge our prejudices, and our expectations.
Everyone aspires to go higher in life, to be better than they are. And these moments in a museum give you moments of betterment. Escapism, yes. But this could be inspiring. This could inspire someone.
This is the achievement of having no delineation between what is high and low culture, what is right and wrong history.
Cara, how you…
1 Fashion and Art
2 60% or 70%
3 painting, architecture, and sculpture
4 to have them as slaves making clothes for them
5 the year the red carpet was painted
6 art and commerce
7 Madame X