Art and fashion have always been close companions, dating back to the days when Salvador Dali created that notorious lobster dress with designer Elsa Schiaparelli. But not since the early noughties has it been de rigueur for brands to have their very own contemporary artist to collaborate with.
In 2015, Dior utilized ideas from Sterling Ruby. In 2016, Jeremy Scott transformed the canvases of Rosson Crow. Louis Vuitton’s new Jeff Koons bags are on every fashionista’s wish list. And now, Coach is showcasing the work of local painter Arthur Peña in alignment with the brand’s new “Modern Luxury” direction. Exhibiting Peña’s canvases outside Coach’s new 4,200-square-foot NorthPark store (adjacent to Kate Spade and opening June 30), Coach is also promoting the collaboration through blown-up banners of the artist’s work at Trinity Groves and in One Arts Plaza.
For Dallas Contemporary director of exhibitions/senior curator Justine Ludwig, who is curating the collaboration, the pairing makes perfect sense.
“I think the notion of segregation of fashion and high art is naïve in its approach,” she explains. “It’s all visual culture. Globally, there’s a lot more attention paid [to art and fashion] — it’s a very organic marriage. It’s amazing that a brand wants to actively engage with the community and work directly with a Dallas artist to give him a platform. Imagine how many eyes are going to look at Art’s work.”
Ludwig was originally approached about finding a local talent earlier this year. Under the helm of creative director Stuart Vevers (a British designer who was also just awarded the CDFA Award for the accessory designer of the year), Coach’s collection has been transformed from logo-reliant basics into “It” girl pieces beloved by starlets and models alike.
Since joining the company in 2013, Vevers’ fascination with the American Southwest and his willingness to embrace artistic imagery has evolved the Coach direction into one that is sophisticated and refined, yet playful and authentic — an attitude reflected in the hyper-colored canvases by Peña.
“Coach has really been rethinking the brand under the current creative director, and they asked me about the local community and artists that aligned with their mission,” recalls Ludwig. “Due to their strong musical and artistic influence, Art made sense because of all his endeavors like [the music venue and tape label] Vice Palace and [art incubator] One Night Only.”
For Peña, the opportunity was a perfect one to showcase his work after a long window of time away from the studio. He spent his time on Vice Palace and creating projects such as the experimental collaborative musical Endless/Nameless, shown at the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Reading Room. When he joined the staff at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts last fall as a visiting lecturer, he once again picked up his brushes.
“I didn’t paint for seven months, I was not in the mode,” he says. “But when I started the SMU job, I got back into it. These paintings are all attempts, that’s the body of work I’ve been making. It’s a life-long project; every painting I’ll make will be an attempt. It’s a metaphor for waking up every day and just trying to live this life, and every attempt feeds off the previous one.”
Entitled A Place for Everything, No Time For Nothing, the work was ready to go without a venue when Ludwig saw the suite of paintings during April’s Dallas Art Fair.
“She’s been an amazing friend and a great supporter. She reached out to me and said that Coach had approached her and I came to mind. They wanted to work with a serious Dallas artist, but it’s not just about the paintings, it’s also about my engagement across these different creative outlets, like running the music label, or flying in artists, or teaching.”
As the first market to receive this grassroots-level collaboration, it will be interesting to see how consumers relate to both the sleek new store as well as the artwork outside it. For those looking for a more in-depth exploration, Ludwig and Peña will engage in a discussion on June 12 at 6:30 pm.
For the artist himself, having his work in a place of commerce is an ideal opportunity to grow a larger audience.
“The first time I ever saw a Frank Stella painting was at NorthPark — it’s the first place that a lot of people have an experience with art. For me, having a work in there and having people see it who would maybe never come to a show. It’s about engaging a broader audience and having that connection with somebody.”
A Place for Everything, No Time For Nothing will be on view through June 25 outside Coach NorthPark.