This looks fun. If you happen to be UK-adjacent anytime between now and February 5, do make an effort to see “The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined” at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, it’s getting rave reviews. The show, which explores the idea that “taste is a mobile concept,” features clothing from the renaissance through to contemporary design, and includes looks from Pam Hogg, Jeremy Scott, Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood and many more.
The organizers of the show, curator Judith Clark and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, argue that vulgarity is not something that is inherent to an object, but imposed upon it. “Vulgarity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,” Clark writes in the catalogue. “It is an emblem of artificiality.” It is also a knee-jerk reaction to the unknown: “People,” said Mary Quant in 1967, “call things vulgar when they are new to them.”
Organized into sections like “Showing Off,” “Puritan,” “Extreme Bodies,” “Too Popular,” “Impossible Ambition,” and “Common,” the show proposes 11 ways of looking at the vulgar, and includes objects from the Renaissance to today. This vast span, Clark tells Vogue.com, “is absolutely essential as the exhibition does not point the finger. It does not say, ‘This is vulgar.’ It says: ‘If a copy of something is vulgar, or is vulgarizing an original, does that also apply to Madame Grès imitating the drapery of a Grecian statue? Or a YSL Mondrian dress? . . . If the 18th century was about decadent excess, what are we quoting, when we quote it?’ ”
“The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined,” is on view at the Barbican Art Galley from October 13, 2016 to February 5, 2017.
(Below, displays of vulgarity included in the show from the 18th century, John Galliano, Walter Van Beirendonck, Chanel, and Moschino; via Vogue)