Fashion illustration: collections designed with style
âA lot of galleries do art fairs, but the difficulty for us was that we didn’t really match the highly edited fairs like Frieze and Art Basel, and what you might call pure contemporary art – we always went to be the strange one out “, explains William Ling, founder of the Fashion Illustration Gallery. His solution: to create FIGAF, his own Fashion Illustration Gallery Art Fair. Last year’s inaugural event was was so successful that the second will take place next week.
Fashion illustration is a booming art form that became evident to Ling some time ago when he started selling his wife Tanya’s work. âI was selling it to friends, then to friends of friends and realized that when your main creative identity is that of a fashion illustrator, you can’t sell your work anywhere, and I thought there really should be a gallery doing it. âSo 10 years ago he opened his. Now he has a list of names including Gill Button, Richard Gray and David Downton.
When it comes to modern fashion illustration, all roads lead to Downton, who has been a leading name for over 20 years and is also the celebrity portrait painter for Vanity Fair. He saw how the medium himself is subjected to the vagaries of fashion. âIt goes up and down, but it’s still there,â he said to himself. âAs long as we have fashion designers, there will be artists to perform their work. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Collectors will always be there too, slowly driving up prices – although this is certainly a more affordable area of ââthe art market. At Sotheby’s New York, a recent archive of fashion illustrations by Kenneth Paul Block, valued at between $ 3,000 and $ 5,000, sold for $ 16,250. In 2011, some of RenÃ© Gruau’s works sold at Christie’s for three times their estimate, reaching Â£ 10,000 each. Average prices for original sketches at the Fashion Illustration Gallery range from around Â£ 2,000 to Â£ 10,000; its best-selling artists are Downton and Ling.
Works by Gruau, Sir Cecil Beaton and Romain De Tirtoff – known as “ErtÃ©” – sometimes feature in Christie’s interior auctions, “attracting longtime collectors, interior designers and art lovers at the start of their collection adventure, âexplains Krassimira Kuneva, fine arts specialist at Christie’s. She highlights recent focused exhibitions that have sparked wider interest in the genre at the Barbican and the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has its own collection of fashion illustrations.
The Claridge Hotel has also been busy on the grounds, working with Downton as a Fashion Artist in Residence. âWhile we are perhaps best known for our fashion photography at the hotel, we have also long been fans of fashion illustration, with works by RenÃ© Gruau and Carl ‘Eric’ Erickson already adorning our walls. When we met David Downton, we came up with a plan for him to ask many of our style and fashion guests to sit down and be drawn in, âsays Paula Fitzherbert of the Maybourne Hotel Group, which includes Claridge’s . The hotel will soon unveil a wall of some of Downton’s portraits, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane von Furstenberg.
And fashion illustration has recently had a more intimate relationship with fashion itself. Tanya Ling is currently working on a collaboration with Nina Ricci, for example, and Helen Downie has been working with Gucci since she was discovered under her working name (and Instagram handle) of @unskilledworker. Many attribute the growth in media interest to social media and Ling has connected with a number of new artists at this year’s FIGAF via Instagram.
Wendy Yu, the 27-year-old philanthropist, fashion frower and founder of Yu Capital, became addicted to fashion illustration when she moved to London to study at the age of 15 and landed her career. first illustration at a market. “It wasn’t a famous piece,” she says, but it was the start of her collector’s life (she also collects couture clothes). “[This is] an art form that crosses cultures and continents in a transparent way; it is a perfect bridge for fashion and art. His collection includes a personal portrait of Downtown and two HermÃ¨s bags personalized by Ling.
Yu’s company is sponsoring this year’s FIGAF, and it hopes to take the fair abroad. âOne of my missions is to be a bridge between East and West, especially in the space of artistic and cultural exchange, so it’s something that I definitely envision. With personalization so important in the luxury space, I can see the trend of Asian women asking Western artists to paint on their bags or order portraits and I wish I could connect those sides.
June 30-July 2
Photographs: Fashion Illustration Gallery