The amount of times we’ve heard people say art is too highbrow is probably in the hundreds. Increasingly mass fashion retailers are proving this latent sentiment wrong. There was a time when art was considered elitist– that is not now. It’s a shift that has been happening most markedly since the rise of ‘popular art (pop art)’ movement and has been pushed even further by forces like – the way we are being educated (an increasing focus on the arts), the internet and the influence of mass retailers/brands. All big democratisers in themselves.
The artist-fashion collaboration started in the luxury world with the likes of Stephen Sprouse, Richard Prince, Takashi Murami orYayoui Kusama for Louis Vuitton or Tracey Emin for Longchamp. As they take most of their cues from this world, fast fashion retailers have been quick to pick up on this.
In the last year, they’ve moved from designer collaborations (like Karl Lagerfeld for H&M, or Kate Moss for Topshop) to artist collaborations. For example, the recent Jeff Koons for H&M, and MOMA for Uniqlo (Keith Haring, Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol,Jean-Michel Basquait etc). In fact Uniqlo have taken a couple of steps further, sponsoring MOMA’s free admission Friday’s and also selling art (like a 1000 euro Basquait photo) in their stores. That’s not to say that designer collaborations don’t exist anymore, it’s just that they are less newsworthy and therefore less relevant.
When you look at the question of art being too high brow, the worrying underlying assumption is that brands don’t have the ability to shape culture or change the status quo. The fact is, great retailers and brands shape the future; everyone else follows.