The debate has been going on for decades, inspiring a lively argument among style-setters, painters, designers and sculptors. Is fashion art? Well, ever since Vogue editor and fashion icon Anna Wintour helped make costume and clothes part of the permanent art collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is hard to separate high fashion design from art—the line is blurred. Wintour, in effect, helped us perceive fashion as fine art. And fashion certainly melds with art in photography in the works of Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Cecil Beaton, David LaChappelle and others who have made their name shooting fashion. High fashion says something beyond a sales pitch—it’s designed to convey an ideal.
Websites like fashionspeaks.se present coutre as a tool for spreading consciousness of social and political issues—accepting fashion as a woman-centric artistic expression.
In a 2017 Observer article, Georges Berges, owner of Georges Berges Gallery in SoHo, NYC and of Berges Creative Group, an art advising firm, said a “ fashion designer creates artwork that needs another person for its completion. Fashion only exists as long as there is an actor to incarnate it. In that way, it is performance art.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art put the fashion/art question to a number of well-known artists and designers. Whereas iconic sculptress Louise Nevelsons said definitely fashion is not art, Irene Sharaff, one of America’s most successful designers of theatrical and movie costumes, says definitely yes. “Fashion is an art…the creative part of fashion has always worked alongside the creative forces that have defined and colored a decade, an era. As much as art, fashion is a manifestation of the times—of its psychological, social, political, visual existence.”
Fashion and its photography, is driven by aesthetic—they’re not just about depiction, they’re about meaning. These photos, inspired by Versailles and the opulence of a bygone extravagant elegance, are beautiful in themselves, the dresses are glamorous and the jewels magnificent, but they also draw a parallel between bygone opulence, sheer love of beauty and today’s less-is-more aesthetic.
Norman Norell, one of America’s most renowned fashion designers, gave a qualified yes. “The best of fashion is worthy of the name art.”
Art speaks. Fashion speaks. Photography links the two.
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