Alex Katz is 87 and still going strong. He’s just collaborated with Art Production Fund and Barneys New York to create their Madison Avenue windows. The mural spans all four windows, and at 8′ x 60′, is one of the largest works of his long career. It features portraits of 18 women, including Yvonne Force Villareal, Doreen Remen, and Casey Fremont (all from APF), Ada Katz (his longtime wife and muse), and Elizabeth McAvoy. This is the second partnership between Barneys and Art Production Fund, who collaborated two years ago to launch a collection with the estate of Roy Lichtenstein (I bought several pieces, but it sold out almost immediately) Katz’s a line of merchandise in his signature style has a bit of a twist… Barney asked Katz…
The color scheme is unexpected for you. Why black and white when you usually use such bold colors?
I’ve been doing it a lot lately, and it’s the opposite of what tends to please people—you know, lots of colors. Also, black and white is always a fitting color scheme for New York. I think the products turned out really well like that. I’d like to give some to my wife.
How does your art translate onto items like bags and bedding, as opposed to being created on canvases to be admired on a wall?
I wouldn’t want to do it for a living, but it’s really fun to do. I like to mix it up. I do stage sets. It’s all a way of extending your vision. The overall message is just fun. Honestly, it’s what I could get away with! I have a publisher who goes with anything I do now, because if I do the right things, he can make money! I asked him if we could do prints of the windows—in the same size—which stressed him to no end. So, we made 18 additional prints, which was so much fun.
What is the relationship like between the art world and the commerce world?
Art is supposed to be eternal and fashion is always moving, but I’ve learned that art moves just like fashion. In the art world, there’s a no-no regarding fashion. People think fine art is above fashion, and I think that’s ridiculous! Now, there’s a big merging of the two. When I had my show in Paris recently, I had about 15 magazines review me. It was a fine art show yet most of my reviews came from the fashion world. The fashion world is moving into the art world, and not the other way around.
What’s your own relationship with the fashion world like?
I’ve been involved with fashion for quite some time. I’ve designed sets and costumes for Paul Taylor Dance Company. I also grew up in an atmosphere of fashion, and my parents were involved with clothes, so it was very natural. I like window-shopping, but I hate trying on clothes. I never dress up anymore, but I used to. When I came to New York, the artists dressed very conventionally as artists—you know with paint on their clothes, very bohemian. I never dressed that way. I would wear a shirt and tie and tweed jacket. I didn’t want to paint like them, and I didn’t want to look like them either!
To read the full interview and nab this merch, go here.