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The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined

Barbican Art Gallery, London, UK

  E’ di alcuni giorni fa una mia riflessione nata dal quotidiano sul tema fashion, delle sue conseguenze,  derivazioni, contaminazioni, dal mondo dell’ arte. Ero a Torino sotto i portici ed una signora di mezza età passeggiava accompagnata da una giovane fra i 20 e 30 anni. Le due non erano madre e figlia e dalla distanza che osservavano mentre camminavano neanche troppo amiche; la giovane parlava animatamente come se stesse spiegando qualcosa e nei gesti che accompagnavano le sue parole sembrava stesse esprimendo qualcosa che la riguardava da vicino.

La ragazza era alta circa 1,65 aveva i capelli neri con la sfumatura bassa dietro la nuca e scalettati in alto. Sul collo aveva un tatuaggio. Era vestita apparentemente senza cura e piuttosto trasandata ma questo è proprio l’oggetto  della riflessione. Inossava dei jeans che sembravano sporchi non tagliati al ginocchio ma dozzinali nella forma. Sopra indossava una t-shirt larga, grigia e alquanto sbiadita. Le scarpe nere erano una specie di anfibie di gomme. Mentre la vedevo camminare mi chiedevo: si è vestita con quello che aveva o quello che indossa fa parte di una moda ben precisa di cui ne è una esponente di tutto rispetto e richiamo?

La mostra che si aprirà in ottobre a Londra mi sembra che colga bene le domande di oggi laddove il vestire e l’arte non vogliono più essere un gesto di ribellione ma quanto e sempre di più un gesto o espressione del popolare, del “volgare” appunto, come appropriazione bassa e popolare di linguaggi più colti.

La politica sempre attenta ai fenomeni della moda sembra aver captato bene questa tendenza facendo del populismo la sua forte arma di consenso per costringere sempre di più non verso ciò che si vuole o si vorrebbe ma verso ciò che si ha con un misto di realpolitik e populismo i cui effetti non tarderanno a manifestarsi. Forse  l’arte e questa mostra – di cui ne anticipa il corriere alcuni temi - potranno farci intuire le nuove configurazione future.

Il Corriere dedica una articolo alla mostra mettendo in evidenza l’accezione medioevale data al termine volgare da Dante a Giotto. Leggibile al link:

http://www.corriere.it/la-lettura/sguardi/16_agosto_26/the-vulgar-mostra-londra-moda-arte-ae7f9226-6b89-11e6-8bdd-2a860cc068c8.shtml

Lingua volgare, ossia lingua popolare nel senso etimologico del termine (da vulgus, "popolo" in latino), è un'espressione con la quale si indicano le lingue parlate dal popolo nel Medioevo in Europa occidentale e derivate dal latino, ma notevolmente distanti dal latino classico, il quale, con la diminuzione delle comunicazioni causata dalla caduta dell'Impero romano d'Occidente, si era evoluto in modo diverso di regione in regione, influenzato da substrati diversi dovuti ai diversi idiomi originari dei popoli conquistati, nonché da superstrati dati dai dialetti delle popolazioni barbariche (germaniche, slave, etc) confinanti. La parola "volgare" non va dunque intesa come dispregiativa, ma semplicemente come riferimento alla lingua vernacolare, quella cioè impiegata - nella sua forma prevalentemente orale - nella vita quotidiana, in distinzione rispetto a quella della tradizione letteraria latina. C'è da premettere che, già in epoca romana come in epoca medievale, è sempre esistita una lieve distanza tra lingua scritta e lingua orale, il che ha dato origine, in concomitanza anche con la differenza culturale tra i vari ceti sociali, alla formazione dei dialetti "volgari" (in latino "sermones vulgares"), come detto sopra. Dal "volgare" parlato nei diversi paesi si sono evolute le attuali lingue romanze (dal latino romanice loqui), alcune delle quali diventate di stato (italiano, francese, spagnolo etc.). Nella maggior parte dei casi con "lingua volgare" o più semplicemente "volgare" ci si riferisce alle prime forme espressive e letterarie della lingua italiana. La lingua volgare italiana non ha una data di nascita precisa, tuttavia dal secolo VIII in poi si possono trovare numerosi documenti che comprovano la necessità, per chi volesse essere compreso al di fuori della cerchia dei chierici, di adoperare, anche per iscritto, la lingua volgare. Dall'VIII secolo si hanno le prime testimonianze di una lingua che si differenzia nettamente dal latino: i primi scritti in lingue volgari italiane pervenuti fino a noi sono l'Indovinello veronese, scritto verso l'anno 800 (che una parte degli studiosi considera però ancora un esempio di latino volgare), i Placiti cassinesi del 960 circa, e la Guaita di Travale[1], scritta il 6 luglio 1158, da molti definita un vero e proprio verso poetico e per questo ritenuta fondamentale nella ricerca delle origini del Dolce stil novo. Dell'842 è invece il Giuramento di Strasburgo, in volgare francese e tedesco. Nell'XI secolo i volgari italiani, con notevoli differenziazioni nelle varie regioni, risultano in uso corrente in documenti di carattere giuridico, ecclesiastico e mercantile. Wikipedia

 

The Vulgar:

Fashion Redefined

Barbican Art Gallery, London, UK

13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017

Media View: Wednesday 12 October,

10am –1pm

#thevulgar

Vulgarity exposes the scandal of good taste – Adam Phillips

 

Potent, provocative and sometimes shocking, the word vulgar conjures up strong images, ideas and feelings in us all. The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined is the first exhibition to consider this inherently challenging but utterly compelling territory of taste. It both questions notions of vulgarity in fashion while revelling in its excesses, inviting the visitor to think again about exactly what makes something vulgar and why it is such a sensitive and contested term. Drawn from major public and private collections worldwide, with contributions from leading modern and contemporary designers such as Walter van Beirendonck, Manolo Blahnik, Chloé Christian Dior, Pam Hogg, Christian Lacroix, Jeanne Lanvin, Moschino, Miuccia Prada, Elsa Schiaparelli, Philip Treacy, UNDERCOVER, Victor & Rolf, Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood. The Vulgar opens at Barbican Art Gallery on 13 October 2016.

Conceived by exhibition-maker Judith Clark and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, the exhibition takes fascinating literary definitions of ‘the vulgar’ as a starting point and includes a wealth of over 120 stunning exhibits from the Renaissance through to the 21st century. Weaving together historic dress, couture and ready-to-wear fashion, textile ornamentation, manuscripts, photography and film, this carefully crafted installation illustrates how taste is a mobile concept: what was once associated with vulgarity is reconjured by designers to become the height of fashion. Encompassing a 500 year timeframe, The Vulgar showcases historic works alongside a roll call of contemporary fashion. The exhibition demonstrates how fashion through the ages actively breaks with and revises taste to create new expressions of style, often celebrating, courting or exploiting so-called vulgarity and its possible pleasures.

 Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, said “I am so thrilled that we are staging The Vulgar at the Barbican. With such a bold and brilliant concept, Judith Clark and Adam Phillips have created a highly original, redefining and hugely enjoyable exhibition about fashion past and present. Playing with juxtapositions, different themes and vistas, they’ve set the stage for visitors to wonder, ponder, question, reflect or just revel in why some costumes are considered vulgar, how that changes through time, context and experience. The exhibition builds on previous Barbican exhibitions such as Jam: Style+Music+Media in 1996, The House of Viktor & Rolf in 2008, Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion in 2010 and more recently The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk in 2014.”

 As a product of popularisation and commerce – seemingly always a poor imitation of a superior object – fashion itself is shown to be inherently vulgar; but more especially when it is perceived to be too popular, excessive, sexualised, kitsch or camp. Visitors are taken on a journey through these thought provoking categories. The exhibition looks at fashion’s enduring fascination with vulgarity’s excesses, featuring moments in dress history of extravagance, ostentation and exhibitionism; such as a pair of 18th century mantuas, with overskirts of nearly 2.5 metres in width, a selection of exquisite 18th century stomachers and a collection of intricately decorated fans from The Fan Museum in Greenwich. One of the exhibition’s themes directly explores the relationship of fashion to the body; both through over exposure using lace and body stockings to simultaneously reveal and conceal the body in looks from Louis Vuitton and Pam Hogg; and the exaggerated body, where the body is explored and its erogenous zones are amplified in looks such as Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s tits top and Belgian avant-garde designer Walter van Beirendonck’s elephant skirt outfit with Stephen Jones’ oversized hat. Some installations are devoted to certain materials, accessories, fashion labels and embellishments that have come to embody, at different times, the supposedly vulgar; such as gold, velvet, pearls and spangles.

 The history of exhibiting fashion, as opposed to fine art, is tainted with accusations of vulgarity – for example, the relationship between the gallery and the department store – something which the exhibition explores by revisiting historically significant displays that were received as outrageously vulgar when first shown. Based on new research into the origins and loaded interpretations of ‘the vulgar’, the exhibition runs together Clark’s installations of dress and Phillips’ commentary. Drawing on voices as disparate as Jonathan Swift and Coco Chanel, Samuel Johnson and Diana Vreeland, the exhibition exposes ‘the vulgar’, like its counterpoint ‘good taste’, to be ultimately all about perspective – something to fear and something to enjoy.

 Designers in the exhibition include (more to be announced soon):

 Walter van Beirendonck, Chloé, André Courrèges, Christian Dior, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rudi Gernreich, Nicolas Ghesquiére, Madame Grès, Pam Hogg, Marc Jacobs, Charles James, Stephen Jones, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, Jeanne Lanvin, Malcolm McLaren, Maison Margiela, Miu Miu, Moschino, Paul Poiret, Miuccia Prada, Zandra Rhodes, Jeremy Scott, Elsa Schiaparelli, Raf Simons, Jun Takahashi, Philip Treacy, UNDERCOVER, Viktor & Rolf, Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood and Bertrand Guyon.

 ENDS

 Notes to Editors

 Press Information

For further information, images or to arrange interviews, please contact:

 Ann Berni, Media Relations Manager

+44 207 382 7169, ann.berni@barbican.org.uk

 Ariane Oiticica, Media Relations Officer

+44 207 382 6162, ariane.oiticica@barbican.org.uk

 Full press pack available online from the Barbican Newsroom: Links to all documents can be found in the ‘Downloads’ box on the top right-hand side of the page from www.barbican.org.uk/TheVulgarNews

 

Public Information

Barbican Art Gallery, London, 0845 120 7550, www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery

Opening hours: Saturday to Wednesday, 10am – 6pm

Thursday & Fridays, 10am – 9pm

Bank Holiday Mondays: 12noon – 6pm, Bank Holiday Fridays: 12noon – 9pm

 

Ticket info:

Standard: £14.50/ Concessions (OAP and unemployed): £12/ Students/14-17: £10 Young Barbican: £5 (no booking fee) Art Fund Members: £12 /Membership Plus: Unlimited free entry + guest / Membership: Unlimited free entry

 

Exhibition

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined, 13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017 is curated by Judith Clark and Adam Phillips and organised by Barbican Art Gallery. The exhibition travels to the Winterpalais in Vienna from the end of February to the end of June 2017. For more information please contact press@belvedere.at or visit www.belvedere.at (Himmelpfortgasse 8, 1010, Vienna)

 

Book

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated book published by Koenig, designed by Charlie Smith Studio, featuring essays by Judith Clark and Adam Phillips, transcripts from interviews with designers in the show including Walter van Beirendonck, Christian Lacroix and Zandra Rhodes.

 

Guest Curators

Judith Clark is a curator and exhibition-maker based in London. She is currently Professor of Fashion and Museology at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London. Clark has curated numerous acclaimed exhibitions including Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back, V&A, 2005; Anna Piaggi: Fashion-ology, V&A 2006; Chloé. Attitudes, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2012; and recently the inaugural exhibition at La Galerie, Louis Vuitton, Asnieres. She lectures widely on issues of dress display and fashion and her latest book, Exhibiting Fashion: Before and After 1971 was published in 2014.

 

Adam Phillips, formerly Principal Child Psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital in London, is a psychoanalyst and writer. He is the author of many celebrated books including Side Effects, 2006; On Kindness, 2009; Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, 2012; One Way and Another, 2013 and Unforbidden Pleasures , 2015. He is the Editor of the New Penguin Freud translations, and a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.

 

Clark’s practice interrogates the form of the exhibition and challenges conventional modes of display and interpretation of dress. Together with Phillips, she has explored the rich connections between language and objects to striking and provocative effect. Their first formal collaboration, The Concise Dictionary of Dress (commissioned by Artangel, 2010) invited visitors into Blythe House, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s vast archive. Conceived as a walk-through dictionary of dress, in which definitions re-described clothing in terms of anxiety and desire, visitors encountered a magical series of tableaux, objects and installations in unexpected spaces throughout the building.

 

Creative Learning & Events

A full programme of events, films and talks accompanies the exhibition, to be announced shortly www.barbican.org.uk. Barbican Creative Learning will continue collaborating with local schools for the fifth year running with ‘Barbican Box, Visual Arts’, an ambitious education programme that encourages and mentors art students, culminating in the publication and exhibition of their creative work inspired by The Vulgar.

 

Barbican Art Gallery is also running a School Tours programme for school groups with experienced and trained tour guides, free for exhibition ticket holders. Further details and bookings at groups@barbican.org.uk

 

Barbican Film Season

Cheap Thrills: Trash, Movies and the Art of Transgression

28 October – 6 November 2016

From famously grubby origins as a fairground attraction, film now respectfully sits alongside other art forms. The esteemed critic Pauline Kael once said that we are essentially running from “good taste” when we go to the movies. In this spirit, and to complement The Vulgar exhibition taking place Barbican Art Gallery, this major new film season invites the viewer to a veritable orgy of ‘bad taste’. Curated by the Barbican Cinema team it features some of the finest examples of ‘good trash’ from around the world.

 

Screenings include; Fat Girl (dir Catherine Breillat), Terminal Island (dir Stephanie Rothman), Stella Dallas (dir Henry King), Southland Tales (dir Richard Kelly ), Fox and his Friends (dir RW Fassbinder), The Boxer’s Omen (dir Kuei Chih-Hung), Dolemite (dir D'Urville Martin), The Night Porter (dir Liliana Cavani), Even Dwarfs Started Small (dir Werner Herzog), Erotikon (dir Gustav Machatý), X, Y, & Zee (aka Zee & Co.) (dir Brian G Hutton), Female Trouble (dir John Waters), Magnificent Obsession (dir Douglas Sirk ), Boogie Nights (dir Paul Thomas Anderson). barbican.org.uk/film

 

Barbican Art Gallery and The Curve

One of the leading art spaces in the UK, Barbican Art Gallery presents the best of international visual art with a dynamic mix of art, architecture, design, fashion and photography. From acclaimed architects to Turner prize-winning artists, the Gallery exhibits innovators of the 20th and 21st centuries: key players who have shaped developments and stimulated change. The Curve is dedicated to a vibrant programme of new commissions, created by leading international artists in direct response to this distinctive gallery space.

 

About the Barbican

A world-class arts and learning organisation, the Barbican pushes the boundaries of all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. Its creative learning programme further underpins everything it does. Over 1.5 million people pass through the Barbican’s doors annually, hundreds of artists and performers are featured, and more than 300 staff work onsite. The architecturally renowned centre opened in 1982 and comprises the Barbican Art Gallery, a second gallery The Curve, the Barbican Hall, the Barbican Theatre, the Pit, Cinemas One, Two and Three, foyers and public spaces, a library, Lakeside Terrace, a glasshouse conservatory , conference facilities and three restaurants. The City of London Corporation is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre.

Just bananas Chloe by Karl Lagerfeld from 1984. Photograph Guy Marineau

Just bananas Chloe by Karl Lagerfeld from 1984. Photograph Guy Marineau