Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Are Fashion and Fine Art Currently Stuck in a Navel-Gazing Self-Referential Rut? Two Cultural Critics Weigh In.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

There's a great column in this week's New York by Jerry Saltz who's been covering the 2011 Venice Biennale in the magazine for a few weeks now. One passage in the essay really hit home for us. He writes:

There’s always conformity in art—fashions come in and out—but such obsessive devotion to a previous generation’s ideals and ideas is very wrong. It suggests these artists are too much in thrall to their elders, excessively satisfied with an insider’s game of art, not really making their own work. That they are becoming a Lost Generation.

Our culture now wonderfully, ­alchemically transforms images and history into artistic material. The possibilities seem endless and wide open. Yet these artists draw their histories and images only from a super-attenuated gene pool. It’s all-parsing, all the time. Their art turns in on itself, becoming nothing more than coded language. It empties their work of content, becoming a way to avoid interior chaos. It’s also a kind of addiction and, by now, a new orthodoxy, one supported by institutions and loved by curators who also can’t let go of the same glory days.

Then today we read Flaunt founder Long Nguyen's screed on Paris men's fashion week over at Fashionista, where he brings up some of the same points—but, instead of fine art, Nguyen's talking fashion. He writes:

It was only a few days ago that I was emailing with a fashion journalist for a major daily newspaper who was in Milano covering the men’s shows. I was commenting on the irony of the reporter’s succinct observations that many of the designers showing their spring collections in Milano substituted inspirations–say a moment of past history or a image of an individual who capture a style of a certain era–for any real design innovations. The response to one of my email was simple and so concise in its observation of the current stalemate one can sense in fashion: “When was the last time you saw an idea?” As a close observer of fashion over the years, I was unable to come up with any substantive answer.
Are fashion and fine art suffering from the same sort of navel-gazing self-referential malaise? Please discuss in the comments.
· Generation Blank [New York]
· Rick Owens Men’s Spring 2012: Transcending A Garment’s Gender Identity [Fashionista]