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Bjarne Melgaard talks about repurposing his old clothes as high art

Bjarne Melgaard talks about repurposing his old clothes as high art

Having flirted with couture over the past several years, Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard is seizing the moment during New York Fashion Week to mount “The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment,” a presentation of one-of-a-kind outfits displayed on bizarrely painted mannequins—along with a jewelry line modeled by miniature pigs. Created by Melgaard and several collaborators, including compatriot designer Bjørg, the show whimsically transforms Red Bull Arts New York (the former Barneys Co-op) and Gavin Brown’s Lower East Side gallery into renegade boutiques. Recently the bad-boy artist took a break from supervising the Red Bull installation to talk about repurposing his old clothes as high fashion.


Bjarne Melgaard, Muppet in collaboration with Jim Henson Company and Babak Radboy, 2016
Courtesy Red Bull Arts New York, © Bjarne Melgaard





Is this a fashion show or an art exhibit?
Both. Everything I do is a single pursuit, whether I’m making paintings or sculptures or fashion. They’re all part of the same gesamtkunstkwerk, or total artwork.


Abuse jacket from the MELGAARD collection, 2017
Courtesy Red Bull Arts New York, © Bjarne Melgaard





You’ve described the project as a psychopathological department store. What does that mean?
It’s a department store where we not only show clothes but also different attitudes toward language, art and fashion. Everything is a bit derelict. There are sex booths that people can use and also fictional group-therapy sessions.


Bjarne Melgaard and Avena Gallagher, mannequin from The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment, 2017
Andy Harman and Vinny Dellio II, courtesy Red Bull Arts New York, © Bjarne Melgaard





What other kinds of things are you including?
There’s a couture line made from my own cut-up clothes, along with a ready-to-wear capsule collection. I’ve created three videos for the show, plus an architectural installation. There’s also a look book featuring a hard-core porn shoot with models wearing the clothing. I’ve customized the mannequins to give each a different personality and accessorized them with things like meth-pipe earrings and raccoon bags.


Bjarne Melg aard and Babak Radboy, Goodbye To Love, 2017, video still





You mentioned videos. Could you describe them?
One of them shows me performing songs by the Carpenters as a muppet, which Jim Henson’s Creature Shop made for me. There’s another of a burning rainbow flag and a third of poodles with their hair colored and shaped to look like different types of animals, which is popular among dog owners in China.

What does the jewelry line at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise involve?
It includes items shaped like penises and phrases like i just want to be a lesbian made with precious metals and stones. They’ll be modeled by miniature pigs at the opening and closing receptions and displayed in cases during the show.


Bjarne Melgaard and Gallagher, mannequin from The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment, 2017
Andy Harman and Vinny Dellio II, courtesy Red Bull Arts New York, © Bjarne Melgaard





Do you consider yourself a fashion whore?
No. I’m interested in clothes but not fashion per se. A fashionable lifestyle doesn’t interest me.

Bjarne Melgaard, “The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment” is at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise through Sun 19 and at Red Bull Arts New York Thu 16–Apr 19.





A friend and I went to the Bjarne Melgaard The Purge at Red Bull Studios NYC event yesterday 2/14 and we got there at 2:30 PM for the 5 PM event, my friend went to the front and counted the people waiting and we were #92 and 93, we thought we would be part of the first 100 to get in since the event was advertised in Bjarne's flier and online as letting the "public" go into the event in groups of 100 on a "first come, first served" basis. The line was single file, as it got closer to the 5 PM start time, everyone in line was moved up into a cluster. While on line a camera came through and filmed everyone in line. Originally it was advertised online on several websites that each group would get 15 min., as we waited we were then told it was only 5 min., and then again told it would be 3 min. Only about half or less of the first 100 people got in and "other people" came to the front of the line. Not sure if they were VIPs, friends and family, or press and others that cut into the line. So, very few of the people that were in line actually got in. The "custom designed Bjarne Melgaard garbage bags" also advertised were plain red garbage bags, not sure what his design role was in those. The garbage bags were thrown into the air at the crowd with people's hands up trying to catch one. At 5:20 PM we were told that the event which was advertised as going from 5-8 PM was over. The red garbage bags were littering the sidewalk and streets with people stepping over them. A woman came out and said you can come back and see the exhibit tomorrow. Although there was no promise of getting anything I thought this event was dishonest with inviting people to wait in line when others were brought to the front, the "custom designed garbage bags" were plain red bags, the event was over at 5:20 when advertised as going to 8 PM. What was the purpose of this event, a tax write-off for used clothing? People in line were exploited in being filmed for an event that was falsely advertised. Today there was an article online in the NYT which stated that it was a VIP event, not sure what is going on there, maybe the artist can explain...