Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) will showcase the first global survey exhibition devoted to using clothing as a medium of visual art, Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art, from 12 March to 14 August, 2022.

The exhibition will feature the work of 35 international contemporary artists, from established names to new and upcoming artists, many of whom will be exhibiting their art for the first time in the United States. Sharing their artistic expression by transforming clothing into garments, sculpture, installation, and performance art, they articulate the issues of subjectivity, identity, and difference.

Garmenting as an artistic strategy appeared during the 1960s and 1970s driven by performance art, as clothing showcased in installations often served as costumes in live and video-based performances. During the 1990s, the practice flourished in popularity parallel to the emerging effects of globalization.

Artists across the globe have embraced garmenting as they look for ways to address the blurring of socioeconomic boundaries, cultural boundaries, and identities of the twenty-first century. While some celebrate the fusion of cultures resulting from globalization, others protest the fading of ethnic and cultural identities; and many do both simultaneously.

The exhibition is guest curated by Alexandra Schwartz, a New York-based art historian, curator, and adjunct lecturer in the School of Graduate Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. 

“Despite the current ubiquity of garmenting as a visual arts practice, it has not previously been examined or theorized. This exhibition centres contemporary artists’ exploration of dress as a formal trope and critical tool, using the language of fashion to address fundamental aspects of subjectivity, including gender, class, race, and ethnicity,” said Schwartz.

“Garmenting furthers MAD’s mission to connect handcraft and design to the global contemporary art world,” said Elissa Auther, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs, and William and Mildred Lasdon, Chief Curators. “The artists brought together share objectives of upending tired distinctions between the fine and applied arts, creating work exploring the essential relationship between the body and the garments that adorn it.”

The exhibition will incorporate garments, sculpture, installation, video, and live performances across two floors of the Museum. Organized around five interrelated themes, Garmenting will introduce attendees to the concept of garmenting and its historical antecedents.