A New Exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design Delves Into the Phenomenon of ‘Garmenting’—See The Dazzling Images Here

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“Garmenting” is a term used to describe artists’ engagement with clothing and fabric as a primary medium for creative expression—turning articles of clothing into sculptures, installations, and elements in performance art. As an artistic phenomenon, garmenting first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s alongside various forms of performance art, gaining further traction in the 1990s. Still, as a cross-cultural artistic strategy, garmenting has remained largely unexamined. Now, however, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is hosting “Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art“ (on view through August 14), the first international exhibition focused on garmenting in visual art, guest-curated by Alexandra Schwartz, a New York-based art historian and professor. 

This wide-ranging and visually marvelous show brings together works by 35 international contemporary artists including Yinka Shonibare, Mary Sibande, Zoe Buckman, and Jeffrey Gibson, as well as several emerging artists exhibiting in the United States for the first time. The exhibition is divided into five themes: functionality, gender, performance, activism, and cultural difference. While all the artists in the show in some way create or repurpose garments for creative ends, their expressions vary widely, from the personal to the outwardly political, the celebratory to the foreboding. For many of the artists on view, garmenting is an apt embodiment of our contemporary blurring of traditional distinctions, both cultural and social. While some works champion this hybridization of cultures, others seek to preserve fading local traditions and communities. 

“The artists brought together share objectives of upending tired distinctions between the fine and applied arts, creating work that explores the essential relationship between the body and the garments that adorn,” said Elissa Auther, deputy director of curatorial affairs at MAD.

See images from “Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art” below.

Mary Sibande, The Domba Dance (2019). Courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Installation view of Zoe Buckman's works in "Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, 2022. Photo by Jenna Bascom. Courtesy the Museum of Arts and Design

Installation view of Zoe Buckman’s works in “Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art.” Photo: Jenna Bascom. Courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Installation view of "Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art" at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, 2022. Photo by Jenna Bascom. Courtesy the Museum of Arts and Design

Installation view of “Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art.” Photo: Jenna Bascom. Courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Three works by Nick Cave, (left) Soundsuit (2018), (center) Hustle Coat (2017) and (right) Soundsuit (2006). Photo by Jenna Bascom. Courtesy the Museum of Arts and Design.

Three works by Nick Cave, from left: Soundsuit (2018), Hustle Coat (2017), and Soundsuit (2006). Photo: Jenna Bascom. Courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Yinka Shonibare, CBE, The Ghost of Eliza Jumel (2015). Courtesy James Cohan, New York. Photo by Stephen White.© Yinka Shonibare CBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2021.

Yinka Shonibare, The Ghost of Eliza Jumel (2015). Courtesy of James Cohan, New York. Photo: Stephen White. © Yinka Shonibare CBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2021.

Jeffrey Gibson The Anthropophagic Effect, Garment no. 4 (2019). Courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins Co., New York.

Jeffrey Gibson, The Anthropophagic Effect, Garment no. 4 (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

“Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art” is on view through August 14, 2022, at Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019.

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