THE ART ADVISER HAS PLAYED MANY ROLES IN BRINGING THE TWO SECTORS TOGETHER
© 2015 The New York Times
London-Now a new generation of advisers is appearing, often focusing on younger clients and emerging artists.Nicholas Campbell, 27, founder of Narcissus Arts in London, recently took on his first art-fashion collaboration, helping Alice Ashby of the avant-garde knitwear label Blake London. And inspiration can appear anywhere.“While I was visiting an art gallerist in her home, I went to the loo,” he said, and noticed that the wallpaper was peeling. The effect turned out to be the work of the Italian artist Ludovica Gioscia."
“It would be perfect for knitwear, which is all about layers,” observed Campbell, and he is now working on bringing artist and fashion designer together. Vomitorium installation by Ludovica Gioscia
Campbell is specializing in artwork selling at less that 10,000 pounds, or $15,770, and has spoken several times on the current art scene at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. (The British magazine Spear’s selected him from among five finalists for its Young Turk Award in art advising.) His clients are turning to him, he said, because “maybe they’ve just gotten their first bonus, or bought their first apartment” and they want to buy some “real” art. He recently took one of his clients, the model of the moment Edie Campbell, who happens to be his cousin, to the Frieze London Art Fair. And for another client, a former model, he matches a new work of art to her tastes every month.
Chaz Sargent of New York, who recently became an art adviser with partners in London and Paris, had the good fortune of attending the American University of Paris at the same time as members of the Saudi royal family and classmates who are now working for Saint Laurent and Helmut Lang. He is advising them on acquisitions and staging exhibitions to expose them to the work of emerging artists.
He sees his job as similar to one notable fashion trend. “Fashion and art can make people nervous by their exclusivity,” he said. “Collaborations, like those with Uniqlo and H&M, provide access to that exclusive world.”
An adviser well known for bringing art and fashion together over the last 20 years is Yvonne Force Villareal.
In 1996, before she married the light artist Leo Villareal, the Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft captured her attention. Then 28 and unknown, Beecroft had what seemed to be an impossible vision: Taking over the Guggenheim Museum in New York for an installation of 20 women, some naked, some clothed, to explore female power and the role of fashion.
The problem was, there was virtually no money to buy any fashion. So the adviser persuaded Tom Ford, then at Gucci, to donate some bikinis and sandals. The project took nearly two years to pull together, but in 1998 some 1,500 people attended the one-night performance. It was, in Villareal’s opinion, “one of the first great art works where fashion and art meet and heighten the entire experience.”
It certainly started something. In 2000, Villareal and Doreen Remen founded the nonprofit Art Production Fund that has worked on such projects as getting Miuccia Prada to donate handbags and shoes for Prada Marfa, the sealed store created in 2005 in Texas by the artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset.
“Now it’s common” to have such collaborations, Villareal aid, “but back then it was very special; it was radical.”
Similarly, Sharon Coplan Hurowitz, who worked at Sotheby’s and Christie’s before starting her own art advisory agency, was doing research for the 2012 Ellsworth Kelly retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art when she came across a 1952 photograph of a color-blocked shift dress designed by the artist. After persuading Kelly to work with her, she persuaded Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein to make the dress. He was the right choice “because of his skill at craftsmanship and attention to detail,” she explained.
Bringing such art and fashion giants together isn’t always smooth sailing
Bringing such art and fashion giants together isn’t always smooth sailing, Hurowitz acknowledged. “I know Ellsworth and his studio and how he operates,” she said. “How things are done for an artist is different from how they’re done at a fashion house. They were two different cultures.” Notably, manufacturing deadlines were a concern at Calvin Klein, “but not for a 90-year-old world-renowned artist.”
But the finished products now are in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A look at the racks in Lisa Perry’s Madison Avenue boutique (site of the former Gagosian Gallery retail shop) also shows just how directly art can influence fashion. Perry and her husband Richard, a financier, are major art collectors, and her designs include a dress of Barnett Newman-like bold color blocks, and a top and skirt that look as if Jackson Pollock personally paint-splattered them.
Even Perry, with her art connections, has turned to art advisers using “different advisers for different things.” She asked Dominique Lévy, for instance, to make an introductory call to Robert Indiana so Perry could ask about adapting his numerical artwork to a dress.
“I know all the art advisers - Yvonne, Sharon, Dominique,” Perry said. “They’re my girls.”
Lévy, who has offices in New York and Geneva, is very well-known to the fashion world. François-Henri Pinault, chief executive of the Kering luxury group, appointed her to set up the private sales division at Christie’s.
“It’s about opening some doors,” Lévy said of the adviser’s job. “Or sourcing works of art if they are looking for something. Advising on the market value to see if the pricing is justified. Consulting on condition, and if it’s authentic.”
But there is one area she does not advise on: taste. “Anyone linked to fashion has a very clear taste of their own.”