Exclusive interview with
designer Rick Owens
Famous for his runway shows that have much in common with performance art, Rick Owens is also recognized in the worlds of art and furniture design. The American fashion designer shares his vision with Numéro.
Numéro: Your furniture is currently being shown with work by Carol Rama at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. How did this project come about?
Rick Owens: Since we launched our furniture line, we’ve been receiving a lot of requests from museums. Around 20 pieces are being shown with work by Carol Rama, and the combination is spectacular. To be totally honest, it’s Michelle who’s behind all this. I would have been happy just making the furniture for us, but Michelle is really passionate about the process of fabrication, the dialogue with the craftsmen, the whole exchange thing. She’s more closely linked to the art world than to fashion. She goes round the globe connecting people around projects, she likes to create synergies. Without her, none of this would ever have happened, because my way of thinking is more American and more masculine: I like to find the shortest route from A to B. The Musée d’Art Moderne got in touch to ask us to take part in the exhibition, and the result is quite striking. We started with a large black bench. Michelle sent me a photo of the installation, because I wasn’t there, and I replied, “Oh look, you’re penetrating the museum with a big black dick!”
Your furniture is often now shown at big art and design fairs. What’s your take on a world that, in all probability, is even more cynical and ruthless than fashion? Did you dream of becoming an artist before turning to fashion?
[Laughs.] You’re right, I imagine that the art world is even worse than fashion… And yet my initial desire was to become an artist.
One of those intense artists painting with blood and sperm?
Not really. I wanted to be an artist who was respected for his intellectual legitimacy and his heroic vision of art. And I was intimidated, because I didn’t think I could manage that kind of intellectual rigour. Later, when I started in fashion, I realized I’d over-estimated the art world. I don’t know it very well, and who am I to criticize it − I should probably shut the fuck up − but I’ve the impression that, since Andy Warhol, irony has become an obligation, and that art has started navel gazing, producing works whose only subject is the process of artistic creation. Today’s art seems to me to be a calculated product of manoeuvring to be in with the right people, much more than in fashion. But that’s exactly what’s so fascinating about it: it’s glamorous, sinister and grasping.
Interview by Delphine Roche
Read the full story in Numéro 164, now in stands and available in our iPad app.