70’s Art Legend Colette Just Raised Enough Funds to Save Her ‘Living Environment’

Colette's dizzyingly elaborate installations, shapeshifting personas and fearless vulnerability made her an artist ahead of her time.

A shot of ‘Living Environment’ (1972-83) by Colette. Courtesy of Collette

These days, it’s absolutely the case that good news in the arts and cultural world is particularly hard to stumble upon, but the iconic 70’s New York artist Colette has managed to pull through. In just over a month, Colette managed to raise enough money via Kickstarter to save one of her most famous works from destruction: Living Environment (1972-83), a dizzying installation or “inner sculpture” that the artist created by covering every inch of her loft apartment with crumpled silk and satin fabrics. She also installed concealed lights and altered furniture to produce an even more bizarre, intimate and etherial effect, so that the end result became something like an antique doll’s panic room.

“I feel ecstatic, it’s really so wonderful,” Colette told Observer on Friday, adding that she wasn’t sure who’d made contributions to the cumulative $15,000 she needed to save the installation. “I haven’t checked who all these people are yet; friends, strangers, colleagues, but it’s really wonderful and it’s really mysterious.”

Another one of Colette’s strikingly intimate photographs. Courtesy of Colette

Decades before luxury brands began courting customers with pop-up “installations,” and long before 21st-century contemporary artists embraced the idea of designing paint-splattered jeans or limited-edition accessories, Colette was collaborating with Fiorucci on a clothing line and reinventing herself constantly. She’s gone by many different names, including Mata Hari, Countess Reichenbach, the House of Olympia and Colette Lumière. In 1978, she even staged her own death at the Whitney Museum of American Art. To raise money for the rescue of Living Environment, Colette offered prints of the installation, works from her “Records from the Story of My Life” series and a rare LP from her former band, Justine and the Victorian Punks, for sale.

“This work is for me an old work, but it has all the elements,” Colette continued, describing Living Environment. “I started creating this environment around me, and it grew more and more extreme. It was all white, with fabrics and silks. I was very young and shy when I made the environment, and it was very magical, and I felt very naked. I see it on social media, and there’s no doubt that I was onto something.”

With her project now fully funded with 9 days to spare, Colette and her collaborators can begin the process of conserving Living Environment and finding it a permanent home, whether it be in a museum or in a private collection. Already, much of Colette’s art is in the collections of the Guggenheim, MOCA LA, and the Brooklyn Museum, but the 70-year-old artist is by no means retired.

“I have done new installations and I would love to do more,” Colette said. “We’re all dealing with the unknown and uncertainty, and it’s a very important time to keep our spirits high and a positive attitude. I think we can create a better world; we’re ready for a better world.” 70’s Art Legend Colette Just Raised Enough Funds to Save Her ‘Living Environment’