Artists from Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg to Tom Sachs have worked in shop display windows. This summer will see new additions to that history.
For a month starting on Wednesday, Barneys New York’s windows on Madison Avenue will host an art exhibition organized in collaboration with the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens. Started by Greek-born art collector Dakis Joannou in 1983, the foundation organizes exhibitions and supports artists’ projects and publications.
A project of Joannou and Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman, the show will host installations by five artists, writers and other creatives who have been involved with destefashioncollection, a project of the Deste Foundation. The collection consists of work that “investigates, interprets and celebrates the complex relationships between art, fashion and the culture at large,” according to Deste press materials.
The exhibition participants will be Paris-based design partnership M/M (Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak); poet Patrizia Cavalli; artist and former fashion designer Helmut Lang; photographer Juergen Teller; and filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari.
A.i.A. talked last week with Joannou about developments in his home country, and “Skin Fruit,” the controversial 2010 show at New York’s New Museum for which Jeff Koons curated works from the collection of Joannou.
BRIAN BOUCHER Have the chaotic circumstances in Greece affected your exhibition programming?
DAKIS JOANNOU It’s very miserable. Usually when you see situations like this on television, it’s not as bad as it looks. In this case, it’s worse. We just postponed a project with Urs Fischer and Josh Smith that was to take place this summer on the island of Hydra until next year, because it was scheduled for exactly the day of the election, which was not great timing.
BOUCHER Did the history of artists working in display windows have anything to do with the inspiration for the Barneys project?
JOANNOU Not really, actually. It started from a quite different angle. I’ve always had an interest in fashion and wanted to deal with it in terms of collecting.
In 2005 or 2006, with M/M and Dennis Freedman, we came up with a format for a fashion collection. Each year we invite a “curator” who chooses five fashion items from that year, completely subjectively, and interprets them with their own art, be it films, words, whatever. Each of the artists involved in the Barneys project was the curator for one year. The resulting “capsule” collection contains the runway photographs, the items themselves and the artist’s interpretive pieces. Plus we always have a major magazine write an article about it, and we make a small publication. For every year these capsules represent the point of view of that curator.
We thought, Why not display the destefashioncollection in the Barneys window? It’s a completely non-institutional collection, so it might be a good venue.
BOUCHER So is this basically a display of that whole collection?
JOANNOU Each curator/artist could also make a new project for the window. Juergen Teller isn’t showing anything from his capsule, just a photograph of Yves Saint Laurent. He’s boarded up the windows as if there were a hurricane, and on it he’s put the photograph. You see, the year Teller did his capsule, Yves Saint Laurent died. Teller added him as a person, as it were, to his collection, along with some vintage YSL clothes.
BOUCHER Press materials on the Deste fashion project indicate that the idea is to study the link between art, fashion and culture.
JOANNOU We aren’t really trying to make a statement out of this. The curator makes the linkage.
BOUCHER How is the poet Patrizia Cavalli dealing with a window display?
JOANNOU She’s showing a famous Viktor+Rolf dress that she wrote a poem about, along with a recording of her reciting the poem.
BOUCHER This month you’re releasing Jeff Koons’s book Skin Fruit, which deals with the 2010 show of the same name. Has the publication occasioned any new thinking about that show in retrospect?
JOANNOU For the book, I asked Jeff to take some photographs of the installations, so that we have a record of his point of view on the relationships among the pieces, which, of course, are not strictly speaking curatorially correct, as a lot of people pointed out. Of course Jeff is not a curator. He was making his own statement. Then I asked Hans Ulrich Obrist to talk to Jeff about the show. The book combines the installation shots, which represent Jeff’s eye, with statements from the interview, which are Jeff’s ideas.
After all the commotion about the show, I got a little bit annoyed. Instead of talking about the show, they were talking about me, about the relationship, about my being a trustee. I mean, for God’s sake, look at the show! You can talk about these other things in a gossip column.