ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion: An Exhibition at the Benaki Museum in Athens

by Francesca Granata

Currently on view at the Benaki Museum in Athens is the exhibition "ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion." The exhibition includes the work of contemporary experimental designers and visual artists, including Martin Margiela, Walter Van Beirendonck, Bernhard Willhelm, Henrik Vibskov and Charles Le Mindu. "Monsters in Fashion" is curated by Vassilis Zidianakis, Creative Director of ATOPOS CVC, a non-profit cultural organization for the promotion of visual culture, which is also based in Athens and was founded in 2003 by Stamos Fafalios and Vassilis Zidianakis.

ATOPOS is unique in its function as an independent curatorial platform which promotes scholarship and organizes exhibitions on fashion and greater visual culture. It fills an important gap for independent curatorial voices and non-profit organizations in the field of fashion curation—a vital and established practice in the field of contemporary art, where organizations, such as Independent Curators International began as early as the 1970s. ATOPOS's touring exhibition "RRRIPP!!! Paper Fashion (currently on view in Melbourne) and the accompanying catalogue greatly advanced the scholarship on the use of paper in the history of fashion, as well as bringing forth novel exhibition practices.

The current exhibition "Monsters in Fashion" promises to do the same, as it was developed with the accompanying book "NOT A TOY: Fashioning Radical Characters," (Pictoplasma Publishing, Berlin, 2011) edited by Vassilis Zidianakis and featuring essays by Valerie Steele (Director and Chief Curator of the Museum at FIT) Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox (founders of the international curatorial partnership C2), Jose Teunissen (professor at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, Arnhem), the anthropologist Ted Polhemus, as well as myself. Hopefully, the exhibition will travel as extensively as the previous one did, and both eventually will be shown on this side of the Atlantic.

I am really thrilled, as I was invited to Athens to speak at the Benaki Museum on the topic of the grotesque in contemporary fashion in conjunction with the exhibition, so a more complete report on the exhibition is forthcoming!

For now I will leave you with some images of the exhibition and the curator's evocative words:

"Characters are abstract and reduced figures with a strong anthropomorphic appeal and bold graphical silhouette. Over the last decade, they have humorously sampled and remixed their way through visual codes and media, confronting the viewer head-on, regardless of cultural background. This aesthetic approach has a strong influence on contemporary fashion and costume design. International artists create playful dresses, avant-garde costumes and hairstyles, re-inventing the human body and sending their monstrous, enigmatic, radical and grotesque new Characters onto the catwalk and beyond. They redefine the relation between body and costume by mixing visual communication codes and questioning the established aesthetic norms."