Fashion and art collided head-on last night at the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery in Soho during the opening of Chinese artist Liu Bolin’s exhibition, “Lost in Art”, which included a high fashion collaboration (not of the H&M variety). For those of you who don’t subscribe to Harper’s Bazaar (disclosure: I do), the magazine collaborated with the contemporary artist to literally paint larger-than-life fashion designers Alber Elbaz, Angela Missoni, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino and Jean Paul Gaultier — who was on hand, working the crowd — into the background.
Liu is quite renowned in highbrow (and deep-pocketed — the large size of the pieces sell for $36,000 a pop) arty circles for his quiet but striking conceptual photos featuring himself painted into culturally and historically important locales in China. Harper’s Bazaar special projects director Laura Brown happened to have stumbled upon his work at a Stockholm gallery recently, whipped up this collaboration and skillfully made it work.
To quote a girlfriend of an art collector who walked into the bash, “I didn’t realize there would be such a fashion crowd here. I would have worn something else.” "Fashion crowd" was putting it lightly — the revelers on hand to celebrate with legendary designer Jean Paul Gaultier and Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey included an impossibly chic Carolina Herrera, street style star Linda Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman, Thakoon Panichgul, and our favorite Scot, Alan Cumming, who summed up fashion-meets-art as “people wear one thing and look at the other one.”
Liu is usually the subject of his own art, so it must have been a change working with not just new subjects, but fashion designers. When I asked him (in my limited Mandarin) if the designers threw any tantrums on set, he laughed and responded good-naturedly, “Mei you, dou fei chang hao. Fei chang, fei chang.” Translation: “No, they were all very good. Very, very.”
In Angela Missoni’s case of intricately-painted Missoni stripes, it took upwards of 11 hours to complete the entire process. According to Laura Brown, Jean Paul Gaultier — who stood for two hours to be fully painted in his signature Breton stripes — needed a leg massage from Liu at one point (presumably after suffering from a charley horse) in order to complete the strenous task.
Well, this clique of famed designers survived the whole production, but how would the formidable Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief fare?
“I think I would be very bad,” Bailey admitted. “First of all, I would want to sit down. I felt so much for Pierpaolo, for Jean Paul because they all stood up. Maria Grazia and Alber sat down. Very wise. Very wise.”
Click through to see a sampling of Bolin's work for Harper's Bazaar and head over here to see the rest!
Photo: Zachary Bako