From Supermodels to Street Style to Hijab to Pussy Hat, a Group Show Explores the Art of Fashion

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only,” Coco Chanel once said. “Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

That definition seems especially true today, in a world where Instagram influencers shape trends, where clothing often serves as political statement, where street style is just as important as what’s happening on the runways at New York Fashion Week. A new group show at Fountain House Gallery embraces that reality.

In “The Art of Fashion,” now on view in New York, supermodels and regular people are side by side on the gallery walls—not to mention punks and protesters, costumed pets and pop culture icons. Yes, that’s Cindy Crawford with a grocery bag in Martin Cohen’s Cindy Crosses the Street (2014), a preening Bianca Jagger in Glenn Goldstein’s Bianca Jagger Portrait (2016), and one of the most popular singer-songwriters in the world, lushly rendered in acrylic on canvas, in Gary Peabody’s Adele Goth (2017).

But other artists in the show chose less glamorous subjects. Photographer Elizabeth Bick, for instance, trained her lens on the women of Bushwick. Captured in their natural habitats, dressed in patterned shirts and purple polyester pants, they’re hardly conforming to conventional beauty standards, yet they look strong and self-confident. (One work in particular, picturing a woman wearing a Marilyn Monroe t-shirt, seems to be a playful wink at that gap between aspiration and reality.) Kathy Pieper’s paintings do something similar. Her portraits of men, writing or painting in jeans and t-shirts, elevate seemingly ordinary subjects, bringing them into the center of the frame.

“Art and fashion have a symbiotic relationship,” says Kathy Battista, the show’s curator. “I love that the artists have considered fashion in the broadest sense, from personal style and identity politics to street art and celebrity culture.”

It’s a broad approach, indeed: elements that appear in “The Art of Fashion,” which features more than 70 drawings, paintings, sculptures, and videos, include hand-printed fabrics and jewelry and shoes shaped like flowerpots, a hijab, a pink pussy hat, Melania Trump on a cereal box, and a chihuahua dressed like Tupac.

All told, the show is a quirky and colorful mélange of artworks inspired by the concept of fashion. That the exhibition brings together both mainstream artists and Fountain House artists—the gallery represents artists living with mental illness—only adds to the spirit of creative diversity.

Cindy Crawford and a tiny dog, a reluctant First Lady, symbols of Islam, symbols of the Women’s March, a slain hip-hop star, a punk girl in fishnets? Sure. As the French say (and as artist Marina Marchand chose for the title of one of the show’s most prominent works), c'est la mode—that’s the fashion.


—Bridget Gleeson


The Art of Fashion” is on view at Fountain House Gallery, New York, Jun 8th – Aug 9th.

Follow Fountain House Gallery on Artsy.