Bread & Butter
Meet Chloe Wise, the New York-based artist who pulled a major prank on the fashion world with her “designer” bread bags.
“Dots are a symbol of the world, the cosmos. The earth is a dot, the moon, the sun are all made up of dots. You and me, we are dots.”
It was the debut screening of Chanel’s N°5 The Film by Baz Luhrmann in New York City. As celebrities filed in one by one dressed in the season’s Chanel duds – pieces from the “grocery store” collection, specifically – there was one who sent photographers and reporters into quite a frenzy. Actress India Menuez had showed up with a bagel-shaped Chanel bag that no one present had seen before. Insiders and journalists oohed and aahed over the possible It bag, completely unaware that the carb-loaded crossbody wasn’t even Chanel. Turns out, the “bag” – cheekily named “Bagel No. 5” – was part of an art series created by Chloe Wise, a Canadian artist based in New York. “I think it’s pretty funny that I was able to prank the fashion world and obtain that kind of viewership,” she says. Besides spoofing the fashion industry, Wise also pokes fun at many things current, from the selfie culture to normcore to the Instagram generation’s obsession with marble (“like, everyone and everything makes me laugh”). Here, the “art comedian” explains her Bread Bags series, her critique on fashion and the one thing that’s been amusing her lately.
What’s the story behind the Bread Bags series?
I started this series of sculptures based off the name of those little LV bags: Louis Vuitton baguettes. The pun goes without explanation, with the first one I created taking the title literally. Bread is a symbol of status and wealth (think the terms “breadwinner” and “dough”) and these It bags connoted status in the early 2000s, which was the bat mitzvah era of my life. In those days – and, to some degree, still – these bags represented luxury, status and afforded their owners instant popularity. I wanted to show the parallels between the idolatry for luxury items in fashion with the equivalent importance of the commodity in the art world. Sculptures and artworks are valuable status items, and both designer goods and sculptural pieces can be seen as pieces of cultural capital.
Many of fashion’s insiders wanted the Bagel No. 5 bag, not knowing it was a spoof piece. Do you see yourself collaborating with a luxury label?
It depends on which brand. I want it to be clear that these are art objects and not fashion pieces. These pieces are sculptures and are intended to be viewed within an art context. I would consider collaborating, but I think that’s beside the point.
It must have been quite funny to see fashion insiders raving on about the Bagel No. 5. Did you expect such a reaction?
It was so funny. No, not quite like that. I saw a headline that said “Chanel Debuts Bagel Bag, Much To The Shock of Gluten-Free Clientele”, which, in my opinion, is a very, very hilarious phrase.
The Bread Bags series is a critique on fashion but ironically, it was the fashion world that got you noticed.
I think it completes my critique on the fashion world. My critique here would be, to put it simply, that trends can be based on ultimately nothing, as long as a designer logo is attached – and that is precisely what happened, both to my work and myself as an artist. I am pleased and intrigued that the target of my lampooning here came to unknowingly embrace the critique itself.
What should art be?
Art should be whatever the artist making it wants to it to be. Art is intent. My art is intended to be beautiful, funny and confusing.
What’s been amusing you lately?
I was just in Europe, so I’m pretty into perceptions of what is “European” through the eyes of North America, and what is “American” to Europeans. Like, Europeans always wear t-shirts with meaningless English slogans (“Do I Make Party?”), which I think is a funny perception of American culture.
Does art have to be a critique on social issues to be considered “serious” art?
Depends on who you’re asking and what their definition of art is. But most things that are worth considering, whether music, comedy, film, even fashion, incorporate some sort of societal critique.
What’s with Fashion Chats with Chloe Wise, besides the obvious jab at It girl interviews?
That’s a fake behind-the-scenes video from a fake shoot I did for the magazine Frische, based in Canada. They wanted me to use their pages to promote products. I think the idea of the It girl being some sort of figure who is allowed to give you life, beauty and fashion advice is hilarious and vapid. I sometimes get placed in this category, which is problematic and annoying, but I choose to embrace, satirise it. It’s basically just me making fun of myself or satirising how some people perceive me.
What’s your spirit animal?
Siamese kitty cuddling another Siamese kitty.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Is there someone you’re dying to meet?