Before assisting Kanye West on his short film “Runaway” and then the scenography of his Yeezy fashion shows, feminist artist Vanessa Beecroft was already well established on the American conceptual art scene. For the last 20 years the activist has been questioning the female nude and the female status between object of desire and repulsion, through her performance pieces assembling dozens of women. Installations are often very similar to one another; the protagonists are almost or entirely nude filling the empty spaces in which they find themselves with their bodies. They are instructed not to move apart from to sit or lie down, to remain natural while ignoring the public’s gaze. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, the artist explained, “This state of passivity is very easy for them; they’ve been well trained to behave like that throughout their lives.” Almost 53 performances, each one entitled VB01 ,VB02, VB03… refer to this body-object status that society either avidly consumes or fiercely rejects.
“This state of passivity is very easy for them; they’ve been well trained to behave like that throughout their lives.”
We had to wait until 2008 before the artist starting collaborating with Kanye West, a union that led to the scenography of the musician’s most spectacular Yeezy runway show. With the ultra-strong cast and a grandiose mise-en-scene, the fifty models became nothing short of living frescos fusing art, music and fashion. The duo’s work has not been without controversy however, like the Yeezy Season 4 show that took place in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park when after two hours of standing motionless beneath a searing sun, several models actually passed out. The fruitful friendship did eventually run its course and Yeezy Season 5 was not orchestrated by Vanessa Beecroft. A rupture that followed the polemic remarks made by the Italian artist about her proximity with the rapper: “I have divided my personality. There is Vanessa Beecroft as a European white female, and then there is Vanessa Beecroft as Kanye, an African-American male. I even did a DNA test thinking maybe I am black. I actually wasn’t but I want to do it again.”
“I have divided my personality. There is Vanessa Beecroft as a European white female, and then there is Vanessa Beecroft as Kanye, an African-American male. I even did a DNA test.”
But Vanessa Beecroft hadn’t waited for Kanye West to mix art and fashion in her performances. For the last few years she’s been nourishing a veritable passion for this world and the numerous designers whose clothes she features in her performances. Prada, Tom Ford, Helmut Lang, and Dolce & Gabbana are just some of the big names associated with her creations. It’s a means for the artist to carefully highlight and detail the body of the woman she exhibits. And inversely numerous houses and couture labels have invited her to stage their collections. From Valentino to Tod’s, the artist shows her living tableaux according to the reflection and the style of these big houses. Her latest collaboration has been with Sisley who called upon her services to illustrate its spring-summer 2017 campaign with collection theme being, “From order to chaos, from unity to division.”
Credits: Kaldor Public Art Projects 12 – Vanessa Beecroft “VB40”, “2”, “4” et “5”. August 1999 – Musée d’Art contemporain of Sydney.