The Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2013 collection got me thinking about ideas of art and appropriation. The collection was inspired by mosaics from the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo, Sicily. I always enjoy seeing people inspired by art for their own work. But does it lose something when taken from its original setting? Something like mosaics, for example the mosaics that inspired the Dolce & Gabbana collection, that are from a religious setting. Their original intent was likely to illustrate religious stories and inspire feelings of piety and awe. So what happens when the idea of these mosaics is translated into an entirely different medium, such as fashion? Obviously the meaning changes. In the case of simple inspiration I think this is a good thing. Looking at art and translating it into your own way doesn’t do any harm to the original, and indeed may give a new appreciation of it.

From the Fall 2013 Dolce & Gabbana collection

From the Fall 2013 Dolce & Gabbana collection


The problem arises when art is just plain ripped off, and exploited for commercial purposes. What happens to a work when someplace takes it and puts it on a shirt or umbrella? There’s no unique interpretation it just becomes another object for sale. And while most art is/was originally for sale, when the image is on a t-shirt or something it can be sold over and over and over again. Really comes down to what Walter Benjamin discusses in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I’m not sure if the original work necessarily has an aura that fades, but I do think that the more an image is reproduced the further it gets from its original meaning/intent. The more people seen an image the less special it becomes.
monalisaumbrella monetwaterliliestop
It’s also interesting when museums adopt a work of art as their mascot, so to speak. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has taken on the blue hippopotamus from ancient Egypt as a mascot of sorts. Certainly that changes the original meaning; it went from being a piece of a burial ceremony and representing one of the most dangerous animals these people had to deal with, to a happy, welcoming mascot of a large institution. The Mona Lisa is another example of a work that has taken on the identity of a museum in a way. It has become so associated with The Louvre that it’s hard to separate the two. And a painting that was done by an Italian painter has since become a symbol of France.
hippopotamus
I’m torn about how I feel about all of this. On the one hand, I hate seeing art being so displaced for purely commercial purposes. On the other hand I’m all about making art more accessible to people, and if putting it on a shirt or whatever brings awareness, and perhaps makes people interested in an artist or art, it’s not an entirely bad thing. I think overall people just need to be respectful of the original piece when taking it for use elsewhere. As always, I welcome others’ opinions.