From artist-fashion house collaborations to fashion as a medium for contemporary artworks, Asia prompts us to examine a steadily blurring line between fine and applied art.

Art has mingled with fashion for nearly a century, ever since American photographers Condé Nast and Edward Steichen pioneered the fashion photo as art. Today, there are several links between high fashion and Asian contemporary art practice.

Masthead image from Khoj International Artists' Association in India's inaugural residency "Idea of Fashion".

Most famously, Japanese contemporary superstars Takeshi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama each collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a line of clothing and accessories, partnerships that have, especially in the case of Murakami, been hailed as a blurring of the line between art and commercial production in the tradition of Andy Warhol. In June 2012, not long after the Kusama collaboration, Hermès announced the creation of a line of scarves from Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto based on his colour printing style.

While these artist-fashion house collaborations may fall more under the category of fashion than contemporary art, there are some Asian artists who do the opposite, using fashion as a medium for contemporary artworks. Panda-obsessed photographer and performance artist Zhao Bandi designed an entire line of clothing based off of the iconic black and white animal. In February 2012, Indian experimental art space Khoj ran the second edition of their residency programme “Idea of Fashion” for which they invited five contemporary artists to create artwork inspired by fashion as a societal phenomenon. The exhibition included Indian artists Varun Sardana and Archana Hande,  Taiwanese artist Andy Yen and Pakistani artist Faseeh Saleem.

Numerous Asian contemporary photographers have also ventured into the world of fashion photography. In July 2011, Art Radar profiled Filipino artist Wahoo Guerrero who in addition to his contemporary art practice is also well-regarded in the Manila fashion photography scene. Korean photographer Hein-kuhn Oh has also been involved in commercial, documentary and fashion photography. While not strictly photographers, the Indian contemporary art duo Thukral & Tagra incorporate fashion elements into their mixed media installation and sculpture.

Information on pure fashion photographers in Asia is tougher to come by. Jing Daily recently interviewed ground-breaking Chinese photographer Quentin Shih, whose 2010 Dior campaign got him in trouble with Chinese authorities. In another offbeat crossover project, Korean designer Lie Sang-bong invited his long-time collaborating photographer Lee Yeop to photograph him modelling his female clothing designs.

Which artists do you think are blurring the border between fine and applied art in Asia? Leave your thoughts as a comment below.


Related Topics: photography, art and fashion collaboration

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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