Favourite artist looks? I’ve had a few. Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexico minimalism; Warhol’s beatnik Bretons; Lucian Freud’s sweaters and Huntsman suits; not to mention Basquiat’s baggy 80s overcoats.
The New York Times has a great story about the rise of the artist as avatar. Namely, the merch-ification of artists, selling elements of their personal style – an Edward Hopper hat anyone? – alongside postcards in the gallery gift shop.
It seems having enjoyed an artist’s work, we now fancy embodying them, as if inhabiting their clothes might somehow imbue us with some of their creative magic. Although there could be some truth in that. Scientists found that ‘enclothed cognition’ shows that if you ascribe a meaning or a superpower to a piece of clothing and then wear it, you actually perform better in that capacity. It’s akin to putting on your best power suit and telling yourself you’ll kick ass in the presentation. In other words, big fake it ‘til you make it energy.
It’s a possible clue to why Andy Warhol cosplayed as Pablo Picasso in his stripy Breton (‘tonight Matthew, I’m going to be an iconic artist!’) and why I imagine if I could just acquire one of those Louis Vuitton 2017 Basquiat-esque overcoats I too could be a prolific painter.
The latest example of iconising an artist as avatar is of course, Yayoi Kusama. If you weren’t aware of her before, you surely can’t have missed the major spectacle of the Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton collaboration.
Not only did they feature her signature polka dots on an extensive collection of clothing, accessories and perfume, but the masterstroke was the astonishing visual merchandising featuring gigantic Yayoi Kusama sculptures and hyperreal animatronic robots daubing the windows of stores worldwide. Proof that an artist’s visual identity can market their work just as effectively as the work itself.
Here’s my article on the Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton store takeover for Harrods magazine and my photo of the 15-metre sculpture seen from Harrods‘ third floor escalator!
Last year saw an auction of Joan Didion’s personal possessions – books, desk accessories, Limoges porcelain, Celine sunglasses. Many were incredulous that people would really spend thousands on an object simply because it was owned by a notable personality. But it didn’t surprise me at all. After all, Didion was cool, chic, a brilliant thinker and writer. Wearing her sunnies could (in your dreams) transfer some of that uber-smart DNA to your own cells – and if not, hey at least you’d look good trying.
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Georgia O’Keeffe by Bruce Weber; Louis Vuitton AW17; Harrods window; Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton store front
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here
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