We're no stranger to references in fashion.
Take Rick Owen's SS16 Women's show, named Cyclops, as a case in point. Gymnast models jaunted the concrete floors of the Palais de Tokyo carrying other models in harnesses. This image evoked the memory of Leigh Bowery carrying his wife Nicola, shot by Annie Leibovitz.
I'm brought to reflect on reference given the prominence it seems to have in recent works of popular music, notably by Beyonce and Kanye West. But beyond musical references and sampling, I am struck by how contemporary art is being referenced by the aforementioned artists in their visual works accompanying songs.
Does the above image look familiar to those who have seen Lemonade? It should. It's a still from Pipolliti Rist's Ever Is Over All, a video from 1997, and seemingly the inspiration for Beyonce's 'Hold Up'. In Rist's video, a police officer gives her a smile of approval. In Beyonce's, it's other women, perhaps in acknowledgement of why Beyonce is doing what she's doing.
Regardless, this is some high-culture meets low-culture stuff. It also brings up some interesting questions. One, who cares? Most people, including myself, would have to be told about this reference hidden in 'Hold Up'. It's easy to miss given the multitude of samples, references to musical motifs, and visual references that ooze all over Lemonade. But second, which is more interesting to me, is what does this show about Beyonce, the far more famous, and richer, artist who is essentially using another artist's work in her own? I would argue that this is far closer to homage, which is exciting. But there is something a bit disturbing in how unconcerned the whole thing seems.
And then there's Kanye West.
He's commisioned Takashi Murakami and George Condo to design album artwork, and has collaborated extensively with Vanessa Beecroft on live performances and Yeezy presentations. Clearly Kanye West is a fan of contemporary art. His video for 'Famous' ends with a beautiful overhead shot of himself, his wife, and ten other famous people, lying asleep nude in a rather gargantuan bed covered in white sheets. This is a direct reference to Vincent Desiderio's painting Sleep.
Perhaps it comes from admiration or an admission that another can make a point better, or already has. Whatever it is, I see an incredible effort to share something to the masses that they would rarely have seen before.