Art and Fashion: Contemporary Art Backdrops for your Fashion Week Finds

05 Sep 2018

by Sandy Yu and Nina Cieminska

We’ve compiled some of the most instagrammable exhibitions from London and beyond so that your perfect Fashion Week finds will be set against the most perfect backdrops.

The cooler season sees cosmopolitan cities all over the world racking up their stylish best for their respective fashion weeks. Because London is home to one of the biggest Fashion Weeks in the world, and because it's also home to ArtRabbit, it's times like these that we reflect on the natural friendship (and sometimes grating opposition) between art and design. While design has the stigma of commercialisation and caters to functionality, and while a single glance at artist-made exhibition posters is enough to convince anyone that artists are not inherently designers, there is undeniably some crossover between the two.

As icons and influencers flock to various fashion capitals, we’re spoiled with endless interesting outfits to look at. Designers unleash their own takes on wearable art, and walking down particular streets in central London is almost like gallery hopping without the walls. And maybe fashion, to some extent, belongs on the streets. But in making aesthetic connections between current trends in fashion and current trends in art, we think that a lot of these outfits can be augmented with a backdrop of art.

If your entire social feed is already flooded with selfies of new fashion finds taken at Sketch and the Bussey Building, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve got you covered for new places to show off your style. We’ve compiled some of the most instagrammable exhibitions from London and beyond so that your Fashion Week finds will be the most aesthetic of them all.

New York Fashion Week

6 Sep - 14 Sep

James Clar The World Never Ends at Jane Lombard Gallery

What better way to balance out the material aspects of your wardrobe than with some highly informed metaphysics? The World Never Ends by James Clar is an immersive multimedia installation that pivots between the real and the techno-virtual, featuring a multi-channel video projection augmented by sculptures of light, water, and vegetation, a forested reverie in which to contemplate our relation to technological life and death, fiction and narration.
Open Tuesday-Friday: 10AM-6PM, Saturday: 11AM-6PM. Free Admission.

Aiko Hachisuka & John Williams at Van Doren Waxter

Interesting designs are often inspired by a base of interesting textiles and other materials, and few get our inspiration juices flowing like the raw material-versus-colour tensions of this collaboration between Aiko Hachisuka and John Williams. Hachisuka’s silkscreened cloth form sculptural mounds while William’s paintings play with depths of colour. Movement and abstraction become perfectly bold patterns to augment the textiles you’re showcasing.

Open Tuesday-Friday 11AM-5:30PM. Free Admission.

Tanya Aguiñiga: Craft & Care at MAD - Museum of Arts and Design

If you haven’t already, this is your last chance to see (and pose in front of) Tanya Aguiñiga’s Craft & Care at MAD-Museum of Arts and Design. Her work is a spectacular exploration of design as politics, and the connection between design-thinking and community-making. Visually arresting as it is politically significant, the exhibition features photographic documentation, radio broadcasts, ephemera, data, and several other works from her ongoing design practice. Included in this is an installation generated by AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides), a long-term initiative that activates sites along the US–Mexico border through collaborative art-making and storytelling projects.

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10AM-6PM, Thursday 10AM-9AM. General admission: $16.

Marianna Simnett and Marguerite Humeau at the New Museum

Blood in My Milk by Marianna Simnett brings together new multi-screen edits of four of the artist's most important work to date, chronicling her close look at female organs, body parts, and infection through the lens of medical treatment and procedures. Narratives bleed together to reveal the discomfort hidden by medical and industrial procedures, an environment to offset our fashionable outer layer with the awkward substantiation of our fleshy, organic existence.

Open Tuesday-Wednesday 11AM-6PM, Thursday 11AM-9PM, Friday-Sunday 11AM-6PM. General admission: $18.

Marguerite Humeau’s New Museum exhibition follows her recent solo presentations at Tate Britain and Palais de Tokyo, and will feature a new body of digitally rendered sculptures realised in cast bronze and carved stone. With allusions to animism, totemism, and spiritual travel, Humeau’s installation offers a forum for these imagined voices and premonitions and underscores the brevity of human existence relative to cosmic and geologic time.

Open Tuesday-Wednesday 11AM-6PM, Thursday 11AM-9PM, Friday-Sunday 11AM-6PM. General admission: $18.

London Fashion Week

14 Sep - 18 Sep

Design Biennale at Somerset House

While this one’s all about design, the artistic resonance reverberates in this exhibition’s self-reflective approach to design and emotion. In response to the theme Emotional States, participants from six continents will exhibit engaging and interactive design installations across Somerset House. In an exhibition of outstanding ideas and creativity, international design teams will illustrate how design can challenge, delight, educate and surprise (while looking amazing on a social feed even with #nofilters).

Open Saturday-Tuesday 11AM-6PM, Wednesday-Friday 11AM-8PM. General admission: £19.50.

Videogrames: Design/Play/Disrupt at Victoria & Albert Museum 

Anyone who’s ever played video games will appreciate the fantastical landscapes that a manufactured world can feature. As the name suggests, this exhibition explores video games as a medium under constant evolution since the mid-2000s. Boundary-breaking by taking new technologies and running with it, the show delves into every aspect from the initial designs of each individual character to critical discussions on the wider sociopolitical scope that game design exists within. Even if you don’t need the sure to be interesting works to offset your designer wares, you’ll gain some insight into the multilayered world of gaming.

Open Saturday-Thursday 10AM-5:45PM, Friday 10AM-10PM. General Admission: £18.00.

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at the Design Museum

This exhibition celebrates technical brilliance and craftsmanship of Azzedine Alaïa, who was recognised during his life as a master couturier who expressed the beauty of a woman’s form in the most refined degree of haute couture. The exhibition presents his work as the couturier himself intended - grouping his designs to provide a narrative into the ethos of this maverick designer. While you won’t be able to slip into one of his masterpieces at this exhibition, the meticulously designed will sprinkle some couture into every frame.

Open everyday 10AM-6PM. General Admission: £16.

True Colours – Helen Beard / Sadie Laska / Boo Saville at Newport Street Gallery

Helen Beard, Sadie Laska and Boo Saville are all emerging artists with a notable sense of colour usage. Disparate in methodology but unified in their unabashed exploration of pigments, the exhibition features over 50 paintings that will make for a bold addition to your Fashion Week backdrops.

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10AM-6PM. Free admission.

Fashioned from Nature at Victoria & Albert Museum 

While nature indisputably has been a source of inspiration for art throughout the centuries, the current show at the V&A brings attention to a less obvious relationship: the relation between nature and fashion design. The exhibits range from historical dresses from the 1600s to innovative fabrics and dyeing processes that are yet to conquer the fashion industry. Expect works from top fashion designers such as Stella McCartney but also Victorian dresses decorated with beetle wing cases.

Open Saturday-Thursday 10AM-5:45PM, Friday 10AM-10PM. General Admission: £12.

The Squash at Tate Britain

Against the backdrop of a white-tiled hall filled with bronze sculptures and the makings of an acid-induced reverie, have a fashion-off with a performer donned in Shakespearean frills and a squash head. That sentence might sound like it’s being metaphorical, but we mean it as we say it. Anthea Hamilton’s Tate Britain Commission consists in the entirety of the Duveen Galleries transformed into a dreamscape with a minimal gridlike makeover and a performer who wears a squash costume based on a photograph she saw several years ago of a scene from a dance by American choreographer Erick Hawkins. The work is about memory and humour, and the reimagining of existence as something completely other.

Open Monday-Sunday 10.00-18.00. Free Admission.

Christian Marclay. The Clock at Tate Modern

As if you haven’t been constantly checking your watch worried that you’ll be late to all the glamorous events, Marclay’s iconic piece made its way to London from Tel Aviv just in time for the Fashion Week. Unlike most of the video art, you don’t need to worry about making it on time for the screening hours. The Clock is a lapsed 24h long installation that consists of thousands of shots of clocks sourced out from various films. Assembled together by the artist using his championed fragment technique, the artwork becomes a documentation of the history of fashion as seen on film throughout the past 70 years of cinematography. What’s more is that it’s actually synced with the real time of the day. Don’t know what hour it is? Well, Big Ben is still under construction so just pop into Tate Modern and let Marclay tell you the time.

Open Sunday-Thursday 10AM-6PM, Friday-Saturday 10AM-10PM. Free Admission.

24 hour screenings:
6–7 October 2018 at 10.00–10.00
3–4 November 2018 at 10.00–10.00
1–2 December 2018 at 10.00–10.00

Milan Fashion Week

19 Sep - 25 Sep

Slight Agitation 4/4: Laura Lima at Prada Foundation

Since 1995, The Prada Foundation has been co-chaired by Miuccia Prada and for over 20 years has brought world-class artists into Milan’s art scene. ‘Slight Agitation 4/4’ is the last instalment of the project constituted of site-specific works located in the Foundation’s Cisterna spaces. Laura Lima’s installations transform the venue into a social experiment where the viewers are invited to explore concepts of the imaginary and the real. The works stimulate human perception and confuse in the most aesthetically pleasing way (just as you’d expect from an art institution supervised by Prada.)

Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 10AM-7PM, Friday-Sunday 10AM-8PM. General Admission: €15

Leonor Antunes. the last days in Galliate at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

Taking her inspiration from art history, design, and architecture, Leonor Antunes transforms meticulously researched details into large sculptures designed specifically for the 1,400 square meter space of Pirelli Hangar Bicocca. The experience of looking at Antunes’ works resembles walking around a magical haberdashery or jewellery store with every artisanal work being handcrafted to perfection. For her sculptures, the artist uses natural organic materials such as rope, wood, leather, brass, rubber, and cork, among others that reflect the imprint of time. If we could file requests for the designs we’d like to see at the Met Gala, we’d be voting for Antunes.

Open Thursday- Sunday 10AM-10PM. Free Admission.

Simone Forti. On an iron post at Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Simone Forti has been the leading contributor to the emergence of performance art since the 1960s. The retrospective show at Galleria Raffaella Cortese juxtaposes the artist’s newest works with some of her iconic historical pieces. A turning point in Forti’s career is visible through her works from the Roman period when the artist lived by the local zoo. She became fascinated by the animals and began to incorporate their behaviours into her performances. With a strong focus on the beauty of the human body and movement, Forti summarises the show as “an invitation to let your body have its own ideas and thoughts.”

Open Tuesday-Saturday 10AM-1PM, 1PM-7:30PM. Free Admission.

Paris Fashion Week

24 Sep - 2 Oct

L’envol at La Maison Rouge

A truly last chance to get lost in the mazy galleries of La Maison Rouge, ‘L’envol’ marks the last exhibition at the gallery before their closing down after fourteen years. Containing works of over 50 artists, the show responds to various interpretations of the concept of flying. The artworks shown exhaust every possible artistic medium and constitute a complete archive of the history of flight in the artistic practice. These include Rebecca Horn’s feather prosthetics (aka the grandmothers of Victoria’s Secret’s Angel’s wings) and Fabio Mauri’s interactive styrofoam installation which attempts to recreate the impression of walking on the moon’s surface.

Open Wednesday-Sunday 11AM-7PM. General Admission €10.

Franz West. Retrospective at Centre Pompidou

When you’re running between the independent designer boutiques in Le Marais, pop in Centre Pompidou to see a large retrospective of works by this unique Austrian artist. Franz West’s sculptures redefine the medium’s relation to the human body and often invite the viewers to engage with their structure. To complement the show, some of West’s outdoor designs and furniture pieces will be scattered around the streets and venues of Le Marais, playing with the public’s perception of the beautiful and the ugly, the repulsive and the seductive. A friendly note: while in Paris, pay close attention before you sit down to rest your tortured feet donned in designer heels because you might be accidentally sitting on the most Instagrammable piece of art in town.

Open Wednesday-Monday 11AM-9PM. General Admission €14.