Some thoughts on Cathy Wilkes, Nicole Eisenman and Charlotte Prodger at the Venice Biennale 2019

We’re in Venice. It’s the Biennale 2019. We’ve never before been here on opening week.

For us this is a holiday. It means a slowness of pace, a desire to look at things away from the rushed, the business-like.

It might actually be how most people engage in art. How they use it in their lives to help them move away from, and deal with, what they have to live through.

This preview week has a rushed narrative. People to see, places to go, rushed opinions formed.

The work of artists becomes a checklist.

Many artists make work that is happy to be part of a checklist: spectator art, of immediate message and impact.

What if the artist makes work that has no desire to be part of this checklist?

That is the importance of the work of Cathy Wilkes, and of Charlotte Prodger, here in Venice.

Cathy is showing in the Great Britain pavilion, Charlotte for Scotland.

Here is a text written by Cathy. It’s at the beginning of a pamphlet handed to visitors. It’s a bit creased – we walked around with it all day.

Cathy has made work that is about birth, death, remembrance.

It is of profound, expansive emotion, an accumulation that is other than a checklist experience of art.

A figure in the first room.

Another view, with a painting behind.


Obsessed with how she has painting as part of something larger, rather than a deified act.

In the centre of the room is a grave. It is see-through, so that the dead can be seen.

The fabric is made from pineapple leaf, so it is natural and it is alive.

On the wall nearby is this found framed image.

Another figure.

There is so much.

I actually didn’t take any photos in the second room. This next one is by my husband.

The stains on the floor are intentional, and are part of the work, they represent blood.

The third room floored me.

Out of shot, on the wall to the right, is a found image of children from a newspaper.

That image is then repeated as stickers on the dress and the figure.

The emotion of this is of such total warmth as to be almost unbearable.

This is what Cathy’s work does for me.

It takes so much rigour, so much dedication and distillation, so much strength to get to a place that feels like truth.

Another room.

Along that same wall, to the left, found items.

Another painting.

One more – these pencil marks are figures.

We spent ages in there.

Time removed from time.

What I want art to do to me.

What I want anything of value to do to me.

Cathy’s work doesn’t tell you how to feel. It has its effect on you or it doesn’t.

Part of her radicalism is her lack of neediness. She doesn’t need approval.

I’m going to post again the text she wrote for the show.

Let’s dwell a moment on her words.

That line.

“If I could disappear, how fluid, how graceful and unending, how undisturbed and unpredictable would be the changing patterns thereabout.”

Her project is an extraordinary attempt to encapsulate and understand what it means to live.

It is to the loss and also the embarrassment of the city where I live, London, and its institutions, that there has not been a Cathy Wilkes show in London for ten years.

Perhaps it’s because Cathy suggests a way of being, a connection with emotion, that many cannot face.

Maybe soon we’ll do a list of shame. A list of artists whose work is not seen in London.

Top of that list will be Nicole Eisenman, who has both paintings and new sculptures here at the Venice Biennale, as part of the group show.

This painting is Weeks on the Train.

This is Morning Studio.

So happy to see these paintings again – I first saw them at Anton Kern in NY in I think 2016.

They have played such an important role in how I think about time, our experience of time, whether time exists.

All of the thoughts that led to the show I curated at Lismore Castle Arts that opened a couple of months ago.

Wait I just realised I never wrote on here about that show.

Maybe I will someday soon.

Nicole made new sculptures for my show in Lismore, and she has created new sculptures here for Venice too.

This is Head with Demon.


Please can someone stage a proper decent incredible full rich Nicole Eisenman survey show and new work show and everything show in London very soon please thank you.

The first time I saw Nicole Eisenman’s work was the last time it was shown in London – at Studio Voltaire in 2012.

It was also the first time I saw the work of Charlotte Prodger, who was showing in the second space they used to have in the gallery.

What a monumentally fabulous show that was, the two of them together.

Elsewhere in Venice is the Scottish Pavilion and the new film by Charlotte Prodger.

I am a Charlotte Prodger superfan. Here’s a conversation I had with her for the issue of i-D I edited last year.

Charlotte’s film is titled SaF05 and it is the third of a trilogy of single channel films.

As in, films shown on a screen, rather than as part of a sculpture.

The film is freeing.

For Charlotte, for the viewer.

Charlotte has used the films to look at queerness and nature.

What queerness means when it is in nature.

How queerness becomes even more radical, even more thrilling when it is in nature.

Removed from the tropes and cliches that are assumed to be attached to queerness.

i.e. everything and anything that happened in New York this week at the Met Gala to celebrate the opening of its exhibition on Camp.

Charlotte suggests another way for queerness, which also means another way to be a human.

Through the three films – Stoneymollan Trail, Bridgit and now SaF05 – Charlotte has come to a place that is raw and unafraid and open to possibility.

She does so removing the need for narrative or explanation.

As a viewer, I feel no desire to tell you anything about anything in the film.

That’s not the point.

It feels so freeing to realise.

That isn’t the point of looking at art.

For me the importance of the film is as much what happens afterwards, the thinking that happens, the feeling, the implications, how the film is still with us.

The queerness of the mental space.

Here’s an image, that I’ve stolen from the Scotland and Venice website.

It’s taken from a drone, in Africa, above an anthill, Charlotte is speaking over the footage, that’s all I’ll say.

Charlotte’s film is going to tour Scotland over the next few months. If you cannot make it to Venice you have to go and see, the details are here.

I am so very grateful to Cathy, to Nicole, to Charlotte.

I am grateful for the experience they have given us here in this city.

We go slowly, we are not rushed. They have helped us be this way.

That is what art can be.

Duggie Fields lives in the best apartment in the universe and it’s been recreated in Glasgow and it’s amazing

At the Modern Institute in Glasgow right now is an exhibition I wish everyone could see.

They have recreated the London apartment of Duggie Fields, room for room.

Duggie is an artist of singular vision, identity and mode of living.

He has lived in his flat in Earls Court since 1968, making work there, living among his work, making his life his work.

The show not only brings to light his output, but also his way of living that symbolises post-war otherness.

Bits and bobs. Kitsch. Maximalism. Radicalism.

The way that humans in more restricted times used decoration as a mode of expression.

I found it so incredibly moving.

The bed.

Note the paint splattered floor.

A work up the corner.

The canvas slashed, chains on it.

It’s called Those Who Love Their Own Creations Too Much Fall Into Bondage, from 1978.

Up the corner is some tut.

I couldn’t work out why I was so affected by it.

Then it struck.

It reminded me of when I first came to London in the 90s, and visiting the home of an old punk in Camden.

The stuff they’d crammed into their two-up, two-down!

Such a sophisticated, deeply personal language of tut.

A chair, with an action figure.

A recreation of Duggie’s table.

Recreation of Duggie’s wall paintings in his lounge.

Duggie’s palette-leg chair they’ve had recreated.

A life-size wall photo of another table of tut.

OMG the bathroom.

That’s photos of the walls, its shelves and stuff.


Those painted walls!

More work.

Look at those diamond-painted walls!


Duggie himself.

I was in there forever.

If you’re in Glasgow you have to go.

Congratulations to Toby Webster and Andrew Hamilton of The Modern Institute.

It shows the possibilities of what a commercial gallery can do.

It’s on until 26 May – more info here etcetcetc



We had a CHAPTER 10 on Easter Sunday and Roxy Lee came to take some photos and here they are

We had a CHAPTER 10 on Easter Sunday.

It’s a queer rave run by Dan Beaumont, Morgan Clement and I.

We do it about eight times a year in Hackney Wick.

We love it so much. It’s changed our lives, in the way nightlife can and should.

Apart from some people’s Instagram posts, our own terrible iPhone photos, we’ve never really had the night documented.

So while Midland and Avalon Emerson and Sybil and Jay from Siren played records, our idol Roxanne Lee took some pix.

She’s known to us as Roxy.

She’s a CHAPTER 10 regular, and an integral part of life in London right now.

Obsessed with her photography. She took the pix for the story on the Sketch Sesh life drawing classes in the issue of i-D I recently guest edited.

Roxy got these photos developed yesterday and since then she’s been desperate to post them.

I’d better get on with uploading them then.

Jesus it takes forever.

It’s why I’ve not posted on here for like ohgod it’s been eleven months.



Here we go.

Some nice humans at CHAPTER 10.

These humans are in that weird bit at Bloc with the low ceiling before you get to the dancefloor.

There’s a bar, some sofas.

And the toilets.

Here’s some nice humans having a chit chat in the open door to what’s called F.

Hey let’s ask Roxy some questions while we’re looking through her pix.

She’s on email.

Hey Roxy!

What is it you like about taking photos of nightlife?

“To be 100% honest I’m not really always conscious of what it is I like about it. Nightlife and parties are just where I spend the majority of my time”

“I do really enjoy watching human interactions in clubs though…essentially I’m just a pervert haha.”

How does she choose who to photograph?

“Most of the people in them are friends or people I have relationships with.”

Oh look it’s Georgie B!

“I’ve realised that a lot of my photos of people I don’t know personally remain really anonymous in the image, for instance if I don’t know the person I rarely take a photo of there face but it’s not intentional.”

Our dear co-hosts of this CHAPTER 10 were A Man To Pet and Daniel Sallstrom.

A Man To Pet’s first look was carnival.

This later morphed into an Easter chick mixed with Madonna.

The look from behind.

Daniel wore custom Nasir Mazhar.

Actually it was custom made for another human being but they didn’t come get it.

Hey! Guess the other human being!

Oh look there’s Nasir Mazhar!

Daniel at rest.

Daniel entering the code for the fabulous area behind the scenes.

Daniel on the way up the stairs to the glamorous green room.

i.e. three sofas and a mini-fridge.

Oh look there’s Liam Hodges!

Every so often we make CHAPTER 10 T-shirts that are available to no-one, nowhere.

Here is the final T-shirt of a trilogy of T-shirts that started with GAY TESCO.

And was followed by GAY NIRVANA.

This is the third.

Surprisingly, less people have asked us for a T-shirt that reads on the back GAY NUTELLA.

Oh well.

OMG is that Matthew Josephs at the rave with a saddle bag?

Some beers.


We’re obsessed with your pictures!

What camera do you use?

“I use a few different cameras. All analogue. To be honest I don’t pay a huge amount of attention to like the brand or anything I usually go for what I like the look of with a strong flash. I hate the pressure of digital photography it makes me feel so uncomfortable.”



She’ll be back at our next CHAPTER 10 ready to record the BUS STOP FASHIONS

i.e. the looks of those at 7.13am when we’ve finished waiting at the bus stop wearing whatever they have left on or someone else’s clothes while waiting for their Uber to turn up.

Stay tuned for further updates.

Ooooh follow Roxy at @roxy_lee and at @sausageandcustard

FYI info on the next CHAPTER 10 will soon be made available to no-one, nowhere.

Giacometti at Tate Modern is brilliantly, quietly radical. Here’s 3 million pix

Tate Modern’s new Giacometti show is one of quiet radicalism.

His work itself is of quiet radicalism: internalised, obsessive, personal.

The exhibition has its own quiet radicalism. The display is bare bones – just rooms, plinths, sometimes ropes to keep hands away.

The lack of fanciness allows the work to be seen as it should be. No longer deified, no longer billionaires trophy. 

It’s just a sculpture in a room.

Curators Frances Morris and Catherine Grenier have their own quiet radicalism in widening their scope to include works in plaster and clay.

More malleable materials gives the sense of living work. 

Is de-deification a word?

Whatever, let’s use it.

Giacometti lived in squalour all his life, even when he became rich in his final years. 

The show gives a sense of him then, rather than what he has become.

It was this work that made it all click for me.

Sculpture, rope, bare floors.

It’s a plaster work called Woman with Chariot from 1945.

How radical is that?

Let’s go back a couple of rooms.

Early on is a long sweep of sculptures from the 1920s and early 30s.

Figure (known as Cubist) 1, 1926.

Torso, 1926.

Composition (known as Cubist I, Couple), 1926-7.

Head (Self-Portrait), 1927.

This next is the first time women are put in an objectified role.

Reclining Woman Who Dreams, 1929.

While the man is all butch.

Man (Apollo), 1929.

What are you going to do?

Giacometti had attitudes to women I find difficult.

Many shows make the mistake of pandering to him, deifying him.

(Apologies for the repeated use of the word but deification is my current obsession – I hate it).

In the process, they legitimise his actions, his behaviours.

Here, Giacometti feels fallable, flawed, human.

Let’s carry on.

A work of painted plaster. 

Stéle, 1927.

Woman (flat V), 1929.

The next is called Disagreeable Object, from 1931.

So maybe there was some self hatred in his psychological, sexual tortures.

Disagreeable Object to be Thrown Away, 1931.

Circuit, 1931.

A proud room to contain one of his most troubling works.

In the bottom right is Woman with her Throat Cut, 1932.

I remember how this sculpture was displayed at the last Giacometti show in the U.K., at the Royal Academy at some point in the 90s.

On its own, circled off, on the floor, as if we were witnesses to torture, degradation.

I’d gone to that show all naively obsessed, then saw this work, its title, how it was being deified. It was like, oh.

And then I realised how only the men in sculptures are allowed to walk, the women stand still.


Here’s that work up close.

Tate have been smart.

Placed with other sculptures, it becomes more an insight into his psychology, rather than a statement of horrible intent.

Behind it, Spoon Woman, 1927.

Invisible Object (Hands holding the Void), 1934-35.

Let’s go forward to when Giacometti could return to Paris after the war.

Three Men Walking, 1948.

Four Women on a Base, 1950.

Figurine between two Houses, 1950.

The Cage (first version), 1949-50.

Brought together for the first time in 60 years are plaster works made for the 1956 Venice Biennale.

So many works in the show I’ve never seen before, like The Leg, 1958.

A painted section of Giacometti’s studio wall.

A plaster version of The Nose, on display for the first time.

Clever how adding plaster works to the mix humanises.

Three extraordinary portraits of philosopher Isaku Yanaihara.

More paintings.

His brother Diego x 5.

His wife Annette x2.

Such a clever path the curators have found through his life.

Bombast only happens at the end.

Hi you three!

The work, the hand, the gesture.

All allowed to exist.

The show is a triumph.

It opens 10 May, on until 10 Sept.

There’s no photography in the exhibition, so please steal any of my pics, I don’t care.


The humanity of Comme des Garçons: three million pix from the new Met Museum show

Humanity is the message that sings out of Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons, the extraordinary new show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Mannequins are often at floor level. Sometimes there is no barrier, just a line on the floor.

On the catwalk of fashion shows, in the pages of magazines, the clothing can appear sanctified, which then leads to a sense that Kawakubo’s designs are remote.

Here they are allowed to be human.

Look at these two chatting.

They’re from the most recent Comme des Garçons show, The Future of Silhouette, AW17-18.

At that show, the forms appeared like tentative ameoba.

Here they are human.

I want to be in their gang.

Two dresses from Body Meets Dress-Dress Meets Body, SS97, and one from 2 Dimensions, AW12-13.


Sheer human exuberance.

Blue Witch, SS16.

The show works as an important historical document. 

Here are ten looks from Body Meets Dress-Dress Meets Body SS97.

That look on the left, on its own.

More history: two looks from Holes, AW82-83, the collection that caused such scandal.

The garments still hold their power.

But what sings out throughout the show is expressions of emotion, and a sense of human interaction.


Those three above are from Not Making Clothing, SS14.


Coat from Ceremony of Separation, AW15-16.


Bad Taste, AW08-09.

So often I didn’t see mannequins, I saw people.

A elegant cluster.

I’d completely forgotten about this collection – Abstract Excellence, SS04.

I love these two walking round the corner.

18th-Century Punk, AW17.

I want to be this next human.

Flowering Clothes, AW97.

Some of the looks are on mannequins with no heads, placing all attention on construction.

Lost Empire, SS06.

Inside Decoration, AW10-11.

Transcending Gender, SS95, and The Infinity of Tailoring, AW13-14.

Not Making Clothing, SS14.

The whole show is glorious.

I was in there for two hours.

The privileges of being a hack.

Please steal any of these pix for your own use, I don’t care.

The show, curated by Andrew Bolton, is a triumph.

Hard work worth all effort.

OK enough.

Go go go.

It’s on from May 4 – September 4.


A new show by Wolfgang Tillmans is opening at Tate Modern. It’s called 2017. Some pics

A new show by Wolfgang Tillmans is opening at Tate Modern.

It is called 2017, and is about life lived, the perception of time, the seriousness of now and the urgency of engagement.

Which is to say, it is about Wolfgang Tillmans’s work.

The show is non-retrospective. It’s great to see the Tate spaces used for something so vital.

Here are some images.

17 Years Supply, 2014.

CLC 800, dismantled, 2011.

I think I’m write in saying this is a copier with every screw undone.

Market I, 2012.

My first failing with this show: I forgot to note the name of this next work. 

Munuwata Sky, 2011.

What Is A Liquid? 2013

Paper drop, Prinzessinnenstrasse, a, 2014

Port-au-Prince, 2010.

The Blue Oyster Bar, Saint Petersburg, 2014.

NICE HERE. but ever been to KRYGYZSTAN? free Gender-Expression WORLDWIDE, 2006.

Arms and Legs, 2014.

This next work was up high, so please excuse the angle, but it is extraordinary.

Addis Abeba afternoon, 2012.

Wolfgang’s work has taught me so much about how to view the contemporary. 

About the validity and long-term importance of nightlife, club culture, congregation.
Beyond that of just being a youth activity.

It can be a permanent way of life.

It’s something that struck me at his Tate Britain show in 2003, in the year I turned 30, and has helped guide me into adulthood since.

The Spectrum/Dagger, 2016

London Olympics, 2012.

I’ve never seen Wolfgang’s garments before. 

Here is a jacket he made as a teenager – 16 or 17.

Zeitungsjacket, 1985.

Weed, 2014.

Dusty Vehicle, 2012

Collum, 2011

The Air Between, 2016. 

Tube escalator joint, 2009.

nackt, 2, 2014.

The amazing amazing what the fuck is happening work called still life, Calle Real, 2015.

Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast IV, 2014.

Hiya, The Black Madonna!

Hiya, Simon!

Hiya, Frank Ocean!

Eleanor, Lutz, a, 2016.

Oscar Niemeyer, 2010.

In the centre of the final room is Time Mirrored – tables of extraordinary statements.

Excuse the glare and reflection.

On the walls around it.

The State We’re In, 2015.

Italian Coastal Guard Flying Rescue Mission off Lampedusa, 2008.

Gaza Wall, 2009.

La Palma, 2014.

And then three works.

Transient 2, 2015.

Tag/Nacht II, 2010.

peninsula, 2011.

I mean basically go and live in the show.

It opens Feb 15, is on until June 11.

Robert Rauschenberg at Tate Modern: how come a retrospective has work so little known?

Tate Modern’s extraordinary Robert Rauschenberg retrospective is that rare event: a show by a known artist where most of the work is unknown.

Unknown to me, anyway. And little if never seen in London. I’d imagine most don’t know Rauschenberg made a pool of mud.

The breadth and generosity of the work demands a rewrite of perceived art history (that 1950s/60s US art was brash and surface). 

It also points to the benefits and deep value of artists working in collaboration and as a community.

Something thrilling to consider after last night’s Dear Ivanka artist protest in New York.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on him – for that, read Olivia Laing’s excellent Guardian piece

I’m just going to react to what’s in the show. Here’s as many pics as feasibly possible I could take at this AM’s preview.

An early photographic work made with his wife Susan Weil, presumably an exposure of his own body.

Untitled (Double Rauschenberg), 1950.

One of only four works to survive Rauschenberg’s first show at Betty Parsons Gallery – The Lily White, 1950.

An early example of shove it all together Coke can rack, roll of film etc – Untitled, 1952.

White Painting, 1951, included in Theatre Piece No1 in 1952, a collaboration with Merce Cunningham and John Cage.

Moments from Minutiae, a collaboration between Rauschenberg and Cunningham.

Red Painting, 1954.

Charlene, 1954.

Let’s go up close.

A T-shirt.


Dots and lace.

Empire State.

What else?

Short Circuit, 1955, hiding works by Jasper Johns and Susan Weil – Rauschenberg had been accepted into an annual show at the Stable Gallery, Johns and Weil hadn’t.

Gift For Apollo, 1955.

The taxidermied angora goat and tyre known as Monogram, 1955-59.

From the front.

The amazing amazing Bed from 1955.

Gold Standard from 1964 is heaven.

Up close.

Black Market, 1961.

Ace, 1962.

Up close.



The silkscreens: probably the most famous works, and here they feel the most flat.

Retroactive II, 1964.

Tracer, 1963.

The wall text is clear to state that when these silkscreens became to popular in 1964, he destroyed those that were left in his studio.

His was another path away from easy fame.

Facile statement of the day: Rauschenberg was hot.

Here’s a photo of him performing in a piece he choreographed: Pelican.

That’s him at the back.

That pool of mud: Mud Muse.

It bubbles. It makes noise. It’s amazing.

My favourite works in the entire show are of cardboard, from when Rauschenberg has moved away from New York to Captiva, Florida. 

He was 45 at the time.

A nice age to move from city to sea, don’t you think?

Nabisco Shredded Wheat (Cardboard), 1971.

Volon (Cardboard), 1971.

National Spinning/Red/Spring, 1971.

Fabric works.

Mirage (Jammer), 1975.

Untitled (Jammer), 1975

Amazing metal works, responding to the oil industry in his native Texas.

Glut Data, 1986.

Stop Side Early Winter Glut, 1987.

Sunset Glut, 1987.

That’s pretty much all the show.

Apart from some late photo canvases.

But there’s one room recreating Glacial Decoy, a dance work by Trisha Brown from 1979.

A rotating slideshow of photos by Rauschenberg as the backdrop.

One of the photos: a double R.

Pretty sweet.

He seems like the loveliest man.

Is that a weird way to view a show?


Enough artists are celebrated for being vile.

It seems to be his character, his curiousity, his genuine interest in others, that makes the work stand on its own.

His readiness to change and to try the new is deeply inspirational.

And his disinterest in creating work of eventual famous or infamous image.

Which is why a major restrospective can be full of work that is happily unknown.

Go see go see go see at Tate Modern – it opens on Thursday Dec 1, runs forever – until 2 April.

The Vulgar is the most exquisite fashion show in London for an age. It’s also the most infuriating. Intentionally so

The Vulgar, a new exhibition at the Barbican, is the most exquisite original fashion show in London for as far back as I can remember.

I’m discounting Savage Beauty at the V&A, since that was first shown at the Met in NY.

The quality of garments, the elegance of their poise, the sympathy of the display with the Barbican building itself: all remarkable.

The curator is Judith Clark. Her selection of garments responds to eleven separate wall texts on different notions of The Vulgar by her partner, the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips.

From the off, The Vulgar assumes intelligence on the part of the viewer.

If only if all fashion exhibitions were so.

The tone is demure and the opposite of assumed vulgarity: grey walls, generosity of space, no clutter.

The exhibition is also profoundly infuriating, as I suspect it is supposed to be.

Phillips discusses taste, class and what is common.

The garments that follow are all those of luxury, whether historical garments for the upper classes of unknown designer, or pieces made by 20th and 21st century high fashion designers.

Hackles rise.

How dare you talk about what is common, when all around is overt display of wealth?

I was in show for over two hours, and it was only 90 odd minutes in that I saw its subversion.

Here’s the first display.

On the left is a fragment of a chasuble from 1480-1500.

A time of sumptuary laws, when the use of cloth was regulated by class and position.

On the right is a gold thread gown by Elsa Schiaparelli from 1937.

Starting from sumptuary laws casts meaning on the whole exhibition: fashion of luxury is inherently vulgar.

First section discusses classicism, and the vulgarity of taking from another age.

Two by Madame Gres.

Dresses I’ve never seen before by Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, from 1984.

It’s great to see designers such as Pam Hogg and Sophia Kokosalaki in the show.

Hogg is on the left, then two Kokosalaki.

It’s remarkable how much the exhibition shies away from ideas of sexualised vulgarity.

A rare case is a section on Adam and Eve, titled The Fortunate Fall.

Vivienne Westwood and Walter van Beirendonck.

Some of the wall texts are exasperating.

“The Vulgar, like fashion, is always a copy.”


A section on copying.

The Mondrian dress by Yves Saint Laurent.

Maision Martin Margiela x H&M, next to Maison Margiela by John Galliano.

The middle hall is glorious.

Another view.

It’s this section that really hammers home the exquisite vulgarity of wealth and it’s display.

An outfit by John Galliano for Christian Dior from spring 03.

It is from one of the most extraordinary shows I have ever seen.

I can still remember that squared point of its drape.

I could look at the thing for hours.

See that flash of red?

So vulgar.

Across the way is another Galliano for Dior, this from Spring 2005.



By this point on first viewing, the show was driving my crazy.

Such presumptions of fashion being about wealth.

But then seen as a subversion, it is saying that the garments of the wealthy are vulgar.

As seen in the vulgarity of present day consumption, via Chanel’s supermarket show.

Upstairs is a rare moment in the show of non-catwalk subversion.

An ensemble by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.

It’s next to a Rudi Gernreich.

A total surprise in the show is Snow White dress by Charles James from 1938, made the year after the Disney film debuted.

I’ve never seen it before.


And so the show continues.

The message seems to be that although the work created within high fashion can be extraordinary, the societies that have demanded and consumed it are often reprehensible.

Incredible work done within vulgar confines.

There is barely any menswear in the show.

It’s the norm. In most cases, “fashion” stands for womenswear.

But in this instance, it is troubling.

Towards the end is a garment of constriction.

(Apologies for the blur)

It made me realise: this isn’t a show that is just about The Vulgar.

It is a show about the vulgarity to which women have been subjected, and by which they are then judged.

Throughout, Clark refers to other fashion exhibitions, wanting to make other points about the art of curating.

She talks in particular about The Ceaseless Century, a show at the Met in 1988 by Richard Martin about the enduring influence of the 18th century.

By doing so, she seems to be asking: why are women still subjecting themselves to these themes and ideas of luxury which come from times that were oppressive and without emancipation?

Fashion’s big trap.

That seems to be the biggest vulgarity.

What I’d have liked to have seen, maybe in a different show, at a different time:


ii) the 21st century empowerment of vulgarity, particularly in this age of the self-revealed body.

iii) fashion that is not by white designers, and not from a white western viewpoint – the only black face I could see in the entire show is presented as a figure of ridicule: the US Vogue cover of Kanye West with Kim Kardashian.

The only black designer I could see: Rihanna as co-designer for a pair of boots with Manolo Blahnik.

Maybe the whiteness of the exhibition is even more of an indictment of the vulgarity of what has passed for high fashion for the past however many centuries.

To be discussed.

It’s an excellent excellent show: go see, make sure you give yourself time to chew it all over.

It’s on at the Barbican from 13 Oct-5 Feb 2017

The construction of my new season Craig Green jacket, and why Donald Trump’s is like a minidress

It’s been ages since I’ve written about clothing on here.

The shows are now so intense, the rest of the year I tend to run away from thinking about menswear.

But yesterday I got this new jacket by Craig Green, from his autumn/winter 16 collection.

And I wanted to look at it in more detail.

Hey! Let’s get nerdy!

Said jacket in question.


It’s silk, quilted.

A confession: what I really wanted from the show was one of the insane quilted blankets the models dragged behind them during the show.

Let’s nick a photo from Craig’s website.





As I’m sure I’ve said three million times before, I’m obsessed with blankets.

I’d be happy if it they renamed it London Blanket Week.

But the quilt was apparently too expensive to produce, and so it will never reach stores.


(Ohmygod it’s been so long since I’ve written this sort of nonsense on the site I don’t believe I’ve ever typed an emoji before)

(Exactly the appropriate actions of a 42 year old)

So I got the jacket.

Let’s look at it close up.

The jacket, on the examining table.

i.e. my desk.


Those overlaid pockets.


An elbow tie moment.


(Yes, my desk does need re-glueing)

The back hem sits slightly lower than the front.


(Yes, I am wearing shorts with socks and sneakers – I was gardening earlier)

But the thing that gets me most with this jacket is the construction of the back.


From the beginning, Craig has taken from workwear jackets.

Hence the horizontal line across the back, which I’m guessing comes from a need to strengthen the garment through construction.

It’s as opposed to the vertical spine seam of the tailored jacket.

(You don’t need me to go and get a tailored jacket and photograph its vertical spine seam do you? Oh you do. Hold on a second. Here’s the tailored jacket I’ve been wearing most this year – by Hedi Slimane when he was at Saint Laurent)

(Excuse the creasing – it’s been around a bit)


That vertical line is what defines the traditional tailored jacket.

Here’s the inside of Craig’s.


Simple, right?

Yet it’s the horizontal back seam that I find so thrilling in Craig’s work.

It denotes an ambition which is humble, because it has its roots in workwear.

But it also more open to possibilities, because this seam offers a new path away from the cul-de-sac of male tailored clothing.

So much of the problem with male tailoring is the assumption of power that the suit jacket has come to denote.

As soon as a man puts on a tailored jacket, he is in some way claiming power and authority.

A man, wearing a suit, claiming power and authority.


So strange that this fabric in this cut stands for the maximum in virile masculinity, and yet it’s basically the same length as a minidress.


I digress.

Craig has been working with this back seam for a few collections now.

This summer’s nylon situation.


The inside.


This blue cotton event from one season or another, I can’t remember.


The inside.


It’s this back seam construction that makes his jackets such a pleasure to wear.

And allows them to be unassuming, even if they feature fashion bells-and-whistles (in this instance, the ties at the elbows and waist).

When I was talking about Craig with Andrew Bolton, curator-in-charge of the Costume Institute at The Met, he said that when he and his team first got hold of Craig’s pieces, they opened them up, obsessed with how they were constructed.

Such small details are the ones that really matter in the design of clothing.

On Friday evening, after about the 3millionth unit of alcohol of the approx 6million units eventually consumed, I got deep into conversation with someone about data.

He was telling me what counts for brands is the data of their construction; the data of their archive.

My head has gone through twelve million backflips trying to get to grips with this, and I’ll return to it again, somewhere.

But I think he means this: that the simple strength and decisiveness of Craig’s cut is data, much like the cut of Levi’s is data.

And its the data about Levi’s that gives it such connection to the generations that have worn its products.

It is the data of Craig’s work that is currently building his reputation.

And pointing towards calmer, quieter routes for the male jacket that the tailoring brands cannot provide.

Ohgod that got really convoluted.

Basically, I like the jacket.

Should you wish to buy said jacket, they’ll be getting it in black on the DSM e-shop soon (maybe they already have it in store)

Hey! Because this is the fast and speedy World Wide Web, I’ve been meaning for ages to post all my extraordinarily fascinating newsworthy pictures from the recent menswear shows that happened three years ago or something.

Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

Or the next day.


Here’s a nice record.


The first UK retrospective of Georgia O’Keefe for twenty years opens this week at Tate Modern. The work is expansive and revelatory

A new retrospective of Georgia O’Keefe opens this week at Tate Modern.

The first in the UK for twenty years.

I almost didn’t go to the preview – I have my own prejudices against O’Keefe, long held and entrenched.

Flowers; a claustrophobia.

It is as if the show was planned to move her away from such confines.

It allows her to be seen as expansive and contemplative.

It is a crucial decision of its curators to only dedicate a small space to flowers.

In it are only seven works.

Allowing other rooms to be filled with much else deserving of attention.

Not everything is perfect, and at the start I hadn’t planned on posting about it here.

But then I took more pictures.

And more.

And so here is a snapshot.

The first room is a recreation of the New York gallery 291, where O’Keefe made her debut in 1916.

Black Lines from 1919.

No.17 – Special from 1919.

Early on, curators Tanya Barson and Hannah Johnston strike to move O’Keefe from the assumed narrative of the erotic.

“When people read erotic symbols into my paintings,” a wall quote from O’Keefe reads, “they’re really talking about their own affairs.”

Another liberating curatorial act. From what I can recall, eroticism is never again mentioned in the show.

So the work can be looked at as it is.

Line and Curve, 1927

Black, White and Blue, 1930.

Mask with Golden Apple, 1923.

An extraordinary work, titled Farmhouse Window and Door, 1929.

A trio of still-lives.

Alligator Pear, 1923.

Two figs, 1923.

The Eggplant, 1924.

I’ll skip the seven flowers.

But in the exhibition’s run, they happen here.

Its clear I’m attracted most to the works that feel in some way expansive.

Soft Gray, Alcade Hill, 1929-30.

Black Cross with Stars and Blue, 1929.

Which has obvious parallels to Malevich, recently seen at Tate Modern.

I wonder if she knew of him?

Purple Hills, 1935.

Blue Sky, 1941.

The Black Place III.

And clearly I’m attracted most to those that are of pure abstraction.

The work that got me the most in the whole show was My Last Door, 1952-54.

Again, Malevich.

Pelvic Series, 1947.

Pelvis I, 1944.

Wall with Green Door, 1953.

A little known work: Kachina, 1931.


Sky with Flat White Cloud, 1962.

Sky Above the Clouds III/Above the Clouds III, 1963.

Such a great show.

Of effect both calming and stirring.

It opens this week, is on forever – until 30 October.