Helmut Lang Makes Modest Debut as Visual Artist

Helmut Lang (Courtesy Patrick McMullan)

For fashion designer Helmut Lang’s debut New York show as a visual artist, like any other artist, he has to start at the bottom. Sort of.

The New York Times reports that Mr. Lang, who is known for his minimalist clothing designs and who left fashion for good in 2004, will hold his first solo show of artwork at a Greenwich Village gallery, an exhibition organized by art dealer Mark Fletcher, independent curator Neville Wakefield and London dealer Sadie Coles. Not a bad start for someone with no footing in the art world.

What’s notable is that it’s a modest debut for someone who could, according to Mr. Wakefield, wheel out his work in “a Gagosian-style showcase.”

Despite Mr. Lang’s venerated position in the world of fashion, that success doesn’t necessarily translate into automatic stardom in the art world. And he might have been able to pull off a bigger show in Chelsea. While that can work wonders on an unknown artist, when the artist is already renowned in another field, that kind of short-cut can raise eyebrows. Maybe Mr. Lang didn’t want to pull a Bob Dylan.

Here are some interesting quotations from the piece considering the sometimes-uncomfortable marriage of fashion and art:

“But I knew I wouldn’t want to be in fashion my entire life,” [Mr. Lang] went on. “I’m hungry now for having the most time I can have for my creativity and less time for managing fame and success. In the fashion world if you’re successful, everyone loves you, and you have available every service. It’s hard to walk away, except it wasn’t hard for me. I had my mind completely made up.”

“No one is going to throw down their head in despair if some of it sells. But the real thing is just putting the work out there and starting a discourse and seeing whether it can be taken for what it is, divorced from all the preconceptions and baggage that people attach to the fact that he had a career in fashion.”

“I think it’s changing, but there’s still a kind of odd Berlin Wall between fashion and art,” Mr. Fletcher said, “a barricade between what’s perceived as a higher art and a lesser one.”


Helmut Lang Makes Modest Debut as Visual Artist