Helmut Lang Exhibition

Kirsten for Lang back in the day

Kirsten for Lang back in the day

As a devotee of his runways in the late 90s and early aughts, I was mighty curious to see this exhibition. The press release describes his use of materials “with a certain history, elements with irreplaceable presence and with scars and memories of a former purpose.” Right then. I was all ready for a nostalgia trip, a slideshow of campaigns featuring his favorite model, Kirsten Owen, captured by his favorite photographer Jurgen Teller, washing softly over my eyeballs as I walked to the Bowery.

Inside I was rewarded with an opportunity for contemplation that would last longer than the time I spent in the gallery and it looks like I won’t arrive at any conclusions during this post either: there’s always time for ruminating on the longevity of fashion; the recycling of clothing; the myth of a fashion icon and the destruction of it by his own hand; reinvention; the nature of fashion as art…

But the exhibition also provided fun objects to look at on a rainy January afternoon. If you imagine a fashion junkyard like the ones that take cars and crush them to flattened cubes, there was more than a suggestion of that. If you imagine a great big fashion-obsessed Cookie Monster had gobbled up Lang’s extensive archive, and the bits that fell out of his slobbering gob were swept together, sticky and half-chewed, it might resemble that. I experienced a certain satisfaction in noting the shards of the past protruding from the resin coated pieces: zippers, beads, needles, the stem of a pair of sunglasses, flickering memories of his fabulous metallics. The color palette was classic Lang, the layout of the sculptures had the pared down sparseness of his boutiques, but also recalled bolts of luxury fabric lined up in a fabric mill. Texture was often what elevated his catwalk shows above the sea of 90s minimalism and texture was spotlit in his sculptures here.IMG_5074IMG_5143
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Helmut Lang’s sculptures are on view at Sperone Westwater gallery on the Bowery.

You’ve got until 21st February 2015.

Colorful endnote: One of my Lang purses from my own archive, a piece of art in itself.

IMG_5841If you are a fashion devotee. You like to wear it, look at it, and read about it too, check out my debut novel set in the international fashion industry. Get Silk for the Feed Dogs here.


  1. You know what? I would have preferred to see some of his older fashion designs sitting next to the sculptures. Having said that, I know I may be totally off, since I wasn’t there to really appreciate the exhibition and I do understand the artist wanted a different kind of reference to his fashion days. But even small touches like your colourful endnote would have given a different jenesaisquoi to the whole affair, in my humble opinion. A thought provoking Saturday well spent though xoxoxo

  2. I would have loved to see that too, Lia. Unfortunately it appears that he lost a lot of his archive in a fire some years ago. That amongst other things I believe prompted him to transform the remains into art.
    But I like your thinking! xox

  3. Yes, I was reading about the fire and how these works came to be – how terrible!
    I guess if he changes his mind he would have to rely on his faithful customers 😉

  4. Ahh! I didn’t know about the fire. I was wondering in the back of my head if I had such an extensive body of work, could I stand to “lose it” through transformation? I didn’t think I could do it, hoarder that I strive not to be… But, if I lost some of the pieces already, the continuity is lost and I wouldn’t miss it as much.

  5. Oh no! I don’t like the sculptures at all.. They’re horrible. What do you think? I recall a friend of a friend having his nose punched at Auntie Annie’s (pub in Belfast) but he was more concerned about his torn Helmut Lang suit. AND he was a haemophiliac. I’m my making that up. 🙂
    I am absolutely loving Silk for the Feed Dogs and have lost all interest in writing my blog! 🙂

    • :-D!! Love your reaction! They’re not for everyone, I suppose, are they? I enjoyed them…but I enjoyed his clothes more!
      I think your friend’s hemophiliac friend had a sound sense of priorities.
      Maybe Auntie Auntie’s is not the ideal venue for one’s favorite Lang. I’m missing you but awfully glad your distraction from the blog is my novel. Couldn’t be more chuffed XO!

  6. Maybe if I knew more about the exhibition? I feel bad for judging so quickly.
    One of my new year’s resolutions (there aren’t many) is to read good books and it is so relaxing. I think the fact that I ‘met’ you before reading adds a real thrill. It’s certainly brightening up my days here in cold, wet Tipperary! 🙂

  7. Yours was a visceral reaction and I think art is supposed to produce authentic responses like that. The sculptures were certainly repetitive and one-note. We might need to follow his work over many years to see the overarching evolution and a retrospective some time in the future might reveal more..?

    I too am trying to read constantly. If I see someone with a book in their hands and I don’t have one I want one immediately. I want to be lost in stories all the time. There’s no greater accessory. Currently, I’ve got on the go Nora Webster by our man there Colm Toibin. It’s very quiet. That’s how I”d best describe it. Next up, I have Americanah. A total jump. I want to keep being surprised too by books. And I want to finish my second novel this year too..!

    Olivia, thanks for helping me clarify my new year’s resolutions 🙂

    • Yes, I didn’t take time to absorb the work or look for meaning. What an outburst! 🙂
      Thank you for your current reading list – I’m fascinated to know the tyoe of books you enjoy.
      You’re a busy lady. I wanted to ask when your next book was due too. This year? Wow! Cannot wait!

      • Well, just to update you, I finally ordered the Put the Kettle on that you reviewed. It should be here soon 🙂
        I was a little deflated by the Colm Toibin book, but I am left that way by all his books that I’ve read. Why do I read him? Maybe because he’s Irish yet so internationally revered. And someone gave me this one. Might stop here though.
        A few pages into Americanah and I’m loving every beautiful long sentence she’s making 🙂
        There you have it, Olivia. Now I’ll be over here in me reading chair if anyone calls, not to be disturbed…

      • You ordered it! Wow. I really hope you enjoy it now. I gave it a very positive review. The language is very simple (much like my own) but it’s nostalgic with lovely photos of old Ireland. I’d imagine lots of yiur american pals would enjoy it or those wanting to find their roots.
        I haven’t read anything by Colm Toibin but I’ll check it out and Americanah too. Have a lovely day!

  8. No! I no like either..I would’ve like to’ve seen them transformed into fashion pheonix’s risen from the ashes..instead I feel heartbreak and a touch of primary school.. xxx

  9. Phoenixes (Is that how you spell the plural?! Must be…there’s no nasty underlining in red happening…) is a great idea. The drama of nostalgia, not subtle nods but great orchestral sweeps. I would have loved that too, Kate. I’m on board for your take on Lang’s fashion remake!

    It’s definitely a different Helmut Lang than the one we first met…but can anyone be that cool for this long? Doesn’t one’s aesthetic eventually become a paler version of itself? The passing of hunger, youth, your hold on the zeitgeist…Oh such questions you’re provoking, Kate!

  10. WHOA! Wow! I really liked seeing his sculptures~! Thank you so much for sharing!! And hello…that purse *swooonnnnnn swooooonnn* it’s a total work of art!

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