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Fashion or art? Michael Müller

INTERVIEW! Berlin-based artist (and not the mayor) Michael Müller blurs the line between art and fashion with his new exhibition Teil 18. Die Welt gibt es nicht! at Galerie Thomas Schulte. Catch it before it ends Jun 24!

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Photo by DOTGAIN

Berlin-based Michael Müller blurs the line between art and fashion at Galerie Thomas Schulte.

The exhibition Teil 18. Die Welt gibt es nicht! opened with a fashion show, in which models presented Müller’s clothing collection “00000000” and transferred them to mannequins now appropriately on display in this former fashion store’s corner window spaces – alongside a new line of cosmetics, soap and a perfume. Müller, best known as a sculptor, explained what makes this art.

What inspired you to work with fashion as form?

With this year’s conclusion of my 18-part exhibition cycle at Thomas Schulte, I took the gallery space itself as the starting point. At the beginning of the 20th century, the co-founder of the Werkbund Hermann Muthesius converted this imposing corner space into the Jewish women’s department store Kersten & Tuteur  – so it was built to display fashion. Normally, when we talk about the crossover between art and fashion, an artist transfers their aesthetics from the art world into the fashion world, but I am not interested in that. What I did was try to transfer the structures. For example, when we talk about Duchamp, you can go into a home store and buy something for €20, but put it into the context of the art world and now it’s worth €10,000. What has changed? The material is the same. It is only the way we look at it. This can be the same in fashion.

What then makes this exhibition art, and not fashion?

I am interested more or less in it as something in between. For example, if you go into a museum, or a church or a home, the way you behave is much defined. Normally, in a museum or art gallery, you would never touch anything, but with clothes, it is different. I was interested in asking: how do you behave here in the gallery? What do you ask yourself? Can I touch it? Do I want to try it on? Do I think it is an artwork? I think generally there is not a clear answer here, and in the end you have to decide by yourself how you behave. Therefore, in a way, it is also asking about your own freedom – on how to behave in the space.

 And your cosmetics line? How does that factor in? 

The cosmetic products can be read, above all, as a satirical commentary on the assumption that art and its related social events are fundamentally open to all social classes alike. This also relates to my own background as a child of a working-class family and is an attempt to realise the utopian idea of a “classless” art in two ways. The hand-printed soap and the perfume contain a drop of my sweat, so almost anyone can take a piece of the artist home with them. The industrial hand cream and “undernail polish”, with which to apply a dirt line under the fingernails, simulate the residue of physical labour while also being very functional. 

What is the role of collaboration in your work?

Many of my exhibitions are the results of collaborative work with dancers, performers or musicians, but also increasingly with people from non-artistic professions.  The fashion show was called Garten der Freundschaft (Garden of Friendship), which means that art is about a conversation – in this case, a conversation with friends – which is different than having a normal conversation, because with friends you already have trust. That performance was the latest in a series that focuses on how people can connect with each other. In this way, I think an artwork is an invitation to become a friend. I also think this exhibition is an invitation to play – by not just looking different, as you might play with the idea of dressing up, but by looking at things differently.

Michael Müller: Teil 18. Die Welt gibt es nicht!/Teil 33. Nachlass zu Lebzeiten, through Jun 24 | Galerie Thomas Schulte, Mitte