A new exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design delves into the phenomenon of ‘clothing’ – check out the dazzling images here

‘Clothing’ is a term used to describe artists’ engagement with clothing and fabric as a primary means of creative expression, transforming clothing into sculpture, installation and performance art. As an artistic phenomenon, clothing first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s alongside various forms of performance art, gaining even more traction in the 1990s. Yet, as a cross-cultural artistic strategy , the garment remained largely unexplored. Today, however, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) hosts “Garmenting: The costume as contemporary art“ (on view until August 14), the first international exhibition dedicated to clothing in the visual arts, curated by New York-based art historian and professor Alexandra Schwartz.

This expansive and visually marvelous show brings together works by 35 international contemporary artists, including Yinka Shonibare, Mary Sibande, Zoe Buckman and Jeffrey Gibson, as well as several emerging artists exhibiting for the first time in the United States. The exhibition is divided into five themes: functionality, gender, performance, activism and cultural difference. While all performing artists create or reuse clothing in some way for creative purposes, their expressions vary widely, from personal to politically outward, from celebration to apprehension. For many exhibited artists, clothing is an apt embodiment of our contemporary blurring of traditional distinctions, both cultural and social. While some works defend this hybridization of cultures, others seek to preserve endangered local traditions and communities.

“The artists brought together share the goals of overturning tired distinctions between fine and applied art, creating work that explores the essential relationship between the body and the garments that adorn it,” said Elissa Auther, Associate Business Director storage at MAD.

See images from “Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art” below.

Marie Sibande, The dance domba (2019). Courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Installation view of works by Zoe Buckman in

Installation view of works by Zoe Buckman in Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art. Photo: Jenna Bascom. Courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Installation view of

Installation view of “Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art”. Photo: Jenna Bascom. Courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Three works by Nick Cave, (left) Soundsuit (2018), (center) Hustle Coat (2017) and (right) Soundsuit (2006).  Photo by Jenna Bascom.  Courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design.

Three works by Nick Cave, from left to right: sound combination (2018), Bustle Coat (2017), and sound combination (2006). Photo: Jenna Bascom. Courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Yinka Shonibare, CBE, The Ghost of Eliza Jumel (2015).  Courtesy of James Cohan, New York.  Photo by Stephen White.© Yinka Shonibare CBE.  All rights reserved, DACS/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2021.

Yinka Shonibare, The Ghost of Eliza Jumel (2015). Courtesy of James Cohan, New York. Photo: Stephen White. © Yinka Shonibare CBE. All rights reserved, DACS/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2021.

Jeffrey Gibson The Cannibal Effect, garment no.  4 (2019).  Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins Co., New York.

Jeffrey Gibson, The cannibal effect, Garment no. 4 (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

“Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art” is on view through August 14, 2022 at the Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019.

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