As the influence of Vivienne Westwood is explored in a new exhibition in Shanghai, Culture Trip delves deeper into the designer’s history and legacy.
The new exhibition of the famously provocative fashion designer and activist’s work is a result of an initiative by Adrian Cheng, founder of the K11 Art Mall, who wants to showcase the interconnecting relationships between fashion, art and wider global culture.
While Westwood has long been known to champion and support environmental causes, this is one of the first occasions that the disparate strands will be brought together in one presentation. The timing is perfect, following on from her recent London Fashion Week Men’s return, in which the punk aesthetic and cause was the locus of the AW17/18 collection.
Vivienne Westwood’s influence on her contemporaries and consequent generations is surely one of the most far-reaching of designers working today. In the early 1970s, along with her partner at the time, Malcolm McLaren, Westwood instigated a cultural revolution that brought punk and a new wave of anarchism to London for the first time. Using her designs as a means for communicating and disseminating ideas, their shop on the Kings Road became the nexus of controversial ideas, intimately entwined with bands such as the Sex Pistols.
While the original rawness of punk as it was first conceived has evolved and expanded well beyond London’s borders, Vivienne Westwood’s designs have continued to embody her activist, provocative spirit – from her Pirates and Nostalgia of Mud collections in the 1980s through to Anglomania collections through to noughties campaigns shot by Juergen Teller. This new exhibition not only offers an extensive survey of how her creative output has been fused with ideas, but also invites contemporary artists to respond and engage with her work – further expanding Westwood’s wide reach.
GET A LIFE is divided into six themes which, along with formative collections such as Save The Rainforest and Mirror The World includes exhibits from her work with Greenpeace and other recent campaigns.
The sixth theme will feature the artwork of seven Chinese artists including Sun Xun, Wu Junyong, Zhang Ruyi, Yu Honglei, Wang Congyi, Nathan Zhou and Zhu Xi. Working under the show title Monument of the Peach Blossom Valley – a reference to the Chinese poem of the same name that evokes a natural utopia – this response draws directly from Westwood’s work on the environment and hopes to further challenge the audience’s ideas of climate and their surroundings.At a time when China is increasingly taking the lead in terms of Green energy and climate change prevention, this new exhibition re-affirms the shift in global conversation and brings Westwood’s dynamic legacy to new audiences at a crucial time.