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Professor Judith Clark curates ‘The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined’ exhibition at the Barbican

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Published date 18 October 2016

Last week we visited the the preview of The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined – the Barbican’s latest fashion exhibition, which opened to the public on Thursday 13 October. It was curated by LCF’s Professor Judith Clark, alongside her partner, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips.

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined Barbican Art Gallery 13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017 © Michael Bowles / Getty Images

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined
Barbican Art Gallery
13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017
© Michael Bowles / Getty Images

The exhibition explores the idea of vulgarity, looking at various definitions and synonyms of ‘the vulgar’, within the context of fashion. It invites visitors to rethink  exactly what makes something vulgar and why it is such a sensitive word and theme.

“The vulgar and the fashionable have to keep an eye on each other”

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined Barbican Art Gallery 13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017 © Michael Bowles / Getty Images

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined
Barbican Art Gallery
13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017
© Michael Bowles / Getty Images

In her introduction, Jane Alison Head of Visual Arts at the Barbican commented that the exhibition is as much about us, the viewers, as it is about fashion because we have to consider the fact that we bring our own perceptions and ideas, of what it means to be vulgar. She said:

Judith Clark and Adam Phillips have created a highly original, redefining and hugely enjoyable exhibition about fashion past and present. Playing with juxtapositions, different themes and vistas, they’ve set the stage for visitors to wonder, ponder, question, reflect or just revel in why some costumes are considered vulgar, how that changes through time, context and experience.

Introducing the exhibition, Adam Phillips told viewers that the exhibition isn’t organised around what is or isn’t vulgar, but how the word is used and its meaning. He said:

There is always going to be a temptation to constitute one’s own sense of good taste, by knowing who it is one should mock or be contemptuous of. One of the things I’m interested in as a psychoanalyst is why ‘taste’ is so paranoid. Why it depends upon excluding or mocking or being contemptuous of people who don’t share one’s own taste. Why we do we need to do so much work to be sure that we’ve got the right taste?
The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined Barbican Art Gallery 13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017 © Michael Bowles / Getty Images

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined
Barbican Art Gallery
13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017
© Michael Bowles / Getty Images

Professor Judith Clark said:

In the exhibition, Adam’s words came first and in a way, I free associated to continue the psychoanalytic line around his redefinitions of ‘the vulgar’, and I think it’s important that there are 11 of them and not one. ‘Vulgar’ is a word that people come to with such a state of conviction that I think to open it up to more than that which one comes to the gallery assuming to see, is already a start.

She also thanked the team at the Barbican, as well as her colleagues at LCF’s Centre for Fashion Curation. Stay tuned to LCF News for our exclusive interview with Judith, coming soon.

Works on display include contributions from designers such as Walter Van Beirendonck, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Dior, Iris van Herpen, Pam Hogg, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Stephen Jones, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé and Chanel, Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Prada, Jeremy Scott for Moschino, Philip Treacy, Viktor & Rolf and Vivienne Westwood.