Art and High Street Collaborations

Steven Porter, Untitled

We see more and more retailers announcing partnerships that aim to bring art to the masses, whilst elevating their brand in turn.
Back in 2012 James Nares took Coach's canvas bags to new heights with his signature brushstrokes. He is a British-born contemporary art painter whose work is displayed in well-known museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Designer Marc Jacobs, on the other hand, worked with artists Takashi Murakami and Stephen Sprouse.

In 2014 Frieze Art Fair and Gap Inc. collaborated, which saw the retailer host two pop-ups called Gap White Space at Frieze. The pop ups featured T-shirt designs by Alex Katz, Yoko Ono, Richard Phillips, Ugo Rondinone, Peter Lindbergh, Francois Berthoud and Roe Ethridge giving shoppers an opportunity to experience Gap in a unique environment and a chance to buy T-Shirt and painting form the same artist all in one – Why not?

Art and Fashion

Art and fashion have been partners in crime for decades. In the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli worked with Salvador Dalí, which saw a lobster drawn by the artist appliquéd onto one of the designer's gowns. In the 1960s, Yves Saint Laurent created a shift dress in block of primary colors with black bordering, inspired by Piet Mondrian's line drawings. There are literally hundreds of collaborations like these, some memorable, some forgettable.

Alberto Repetti,  Departing

Alberto Repetti, Departing

Avant-garde fashions served a purpose away from the rest of the fashion industry, celebrating artistic experimentation over commercialization. The French term avant-garde, stands for “advance guard,” symbolizing the movement’s forward thinking attitude. In the late 19th century, Impressionist painters challenged the situation by creating pieces without historical significance or realism, emphasizing that art need not be practical and it was not long before fashion designer conformed.
It is very unlikely avant-garde artists like Max Beckmann, Louise Bourgeois and many of their counterparts would have swapped a canvas with a tote bag or T-Shirt to add their creations on.
Jeff Koon on the other hand welcomed his collaboration with H&M. “I want my work to be accessible to people,” said the artist about his handbag collaboration with high street giant H&M. The bag retailed at $49.50 and showed a six-inch reproduction of his monumental balloon dog on the front side. At the same time the $58.4 million original was on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Such artist and retailer collaboration take away the exclusivity and make the artist work accessible to masses whilst adding class and cultural clout to the high street retailer.

An artist's work can be in many things. The silhouette of a dress. The print on a shirt. The painting in a retail store. It is vital that where art is set, it can shine. The environment should either blend well with it or serve as a background.
Collaborations should highlight the work of an artist and act as a tool to make the work more accessible. It is an opportunity for both parties to reach new audiences and such collaboration can work well as long as the end goal is clear to all parties involved and mutually beneficial.