The Rise of Art Collaborations in Streetwear

From Supreme to Gucci. By guest editor Adrian Cheng.

Presented by Adrian Cheng
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We live an accelerated age where trends emerge just as fast as we tire of them. As a means to cope, many young designers are adopting a collaborative spirit, looking to the world of art to draw inspiration from in which to apply to their respective crafts. The marriage of the two creative realms is something which is more natural than it is surprising, as plenty of the designers behind your favorite brands were educated alongside aspiring artists. Through abstract concept and form, we look at some of streetwear’s more recent and notable art collaborations.

Andres Serrano for Supreme

For pioneering brands of streetwear like Supreme, the inclusion of art is nothing new. Collection after collection, the brand’s managed to bring some of the most obscure references to its clothing, placing them in the closets of unsuspecting streetwear enthusiasts. It’s become so notorious, Instagram accounts like @Supreme_copies have been dedicated to uncovering it. Fans were quick to recognize a collaboration hidden in this year’s fall/winter collection however, with photographer and artist, Andres Serrano. The exact artwork featured alludes to a photograph Serrano shot for Metallica’s 1995 album, Load, which captured cow blood and semen pressed between glass. The shocking use of material is something not uncommon for the artist, as one of his other most notable works was titled “Piss Christ.” It was a photo of Christ submerged in his own urine.

Dan Witz for Dior Homme

Hyper-realist painter Dan Witz made a name for himself by taking a high art approach to non-high art subject matter; mosh pits. In gazing upon his work, you realize it shares many of the same compositional elements as some of the most respected classical pieces in history — dramatic lighting, dynamic figures frozen in time, and lots of movement. Having found this unique intersection of zen and chaos, Witz had found a fan in Dior creative director, Kris Van Assche. For some time, the designer had been admiring and collecting the artist’s work before finally approaching him for collaboration on his fall/winter 2017 collection. You can read more about the artist and the clothes in a recent interview with HYPEBEAST.

Gucci Ghost for Gucci

Since creative director Alessandro Michele took the reins at Gucci, he’s been praised for thrusting the brand back onto the edge of culture with designs tip-toeing between kitsch and street. He’s been no stranger to collaborating with outsider artists like Gucci Ghost, whose reputation rose as a graffiti artist known for his tag, “Gucci Ghost.” The resulting collection of clothing seen for fall/winter 2016 is a progressive step forward where bootleg-meets-the-real-thing, something rarely seen in fashion.

The Spirit of Marcel Duchamp in Virgil Abloh’s Off-White™

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Duchamp’s “The Fountain,” Virgil Abloh released a graphic hoodie reading, “R.Mutt, 1917” which refers to the signature left on the artist’s ready-made porcelain urinal. Known for sneaky plays on words, “R.Mutt” is thought to mean “Our Mother” in German, which actually alludes to the Virgin Mother Mary — a very sacrilegious place for the name of someone considered very sacred. The piece was dismissed at the time it was on view, and probably mistaken for garbage since it disappeared shortly after. When Abloh shared the hoodie with fans online, he had included a respectful nod to Duchamp in his caption; “Modern art presents many obstacles to the lay public. A lot of it seems absurd, or lacking skill, or designed merely to shock. Duchamp’s Fountain was all of these. Understanding how it went from the garbage heap to the top of the art pile is a good way to comprehend debates surrounding contemporary art as a whole.”

Nike’s Meet the Revolutionair Campaign

In Nike’s “Meet the Revolutionair” campaign, 12 artists from around the world were brought together to share their approach, beliefs and challenges in their art. Amongst those featured were internet artist Mini Swoosh, Brain Dead designer Kyle Ng, and Chinese artist Tian Zhuo Chen who works with my K11 Art Foundation. As featured in the clip above, Chen masterfully fuses vivid colors, expressive movement and provocative imagery — further allowing the garments to narrate a story as distinct in nature as the artist himself. Based in Beijing, Tian Zhuo Chen is known for exploring concepts of Buddhism, Shamanism, Cult, Drag, and Rave under aesthetics more commonly seen in anime and hiphop.

About Adrian Cheng

As a Cultural Entrepreneur, Adrian Cheng has been a pioneer in the concept of “museum-retail” by founding the brand K11 in 2008, and subsequently founding the K11 Art Foundation in 2010 which serves as a platform to incubate Chinese artists and curators. He’s also initiated cross-cultural collaborations between his K11 Art Foundation and international museums and art institutions such as Palais de Tokyo in Paris, MoMA PS1 in New York and Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. His LUXBA group is a leading fashion management arm which manages multiple international labels.

See Adrian on Instagram, Facebook and also through #byAC story.

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