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Artists' Mannequins and Display Mechanisms

If you are facing the main entrance to the Museum, to your left is the contemporary part of Passer-by.  Atelier E.B approached the artists Tauba Auerbach, Anna Blessmann, Steff Norwood, Elizabeth Radcliffe, Bernie Reid, and Markus Selg to make mannequins or supports to display outfits from the duo’s previous three collections: The Inventors of Tradition, Ost End Girls, and Inventors of Tradition II. These artists are customers and collaborators of Atelier E.B, so they already had direct contact with the clothes they display. What’s more, they all work in diverse forms and mediums, and have a sophisticated understanding of the cultural importance of dress and the human body in relation to clothing and design.

The only brief to the artists was that their work should showcase Atelier E.B’s clothing in ways that made it beautiful and interesting, whatever that meant to them. In all these works the concept is expressed through the material choices in support of, and in contrast to, the garments on show. For artists today, with easier access to 3D digital technology, there is the misconception that traditional craft is now superfluous in replicating human forms. There is the assumption that a full body scan of a beautiful woman, which is digitally fine-tuned and then carved from expensive marble, is somehow the same as a Canova sculpture. But it is not. The works made for Passer-by show how important stylization and simplification are in creating beauty. The pieces also express what can be done when an object and its display are created with a consciousness of the power dynamic inherent in the relationship, and actively address the distinction between artwork and mere prop. If mannequins are deficient in any way it is, in part, because they have to embody a universal ideal while being versatile enough to demonstrate a wide selection of clothing. The mannequin custom made for a specific garment or outfit does not have this problem, as it can fuse with the clothing and the spirit of the outfit in a far more subtle and complex way.