Collaborations between artists and fashion designers have been around for nearly as long as fashion itself. All the way back in 1937, Salvador Dali and Else Schiaparelli made headlines with a couture dress adorned with a painted lobster. In 1965, French designer Yves Saint-Laurent worked with Piet Mondrian on a shift dress styled after one of the artist’s geometric abstractions. Many of the artists in Yieldstreet’s Art Equity Funds have followed in the footsteps of their twentieth-century forebears, working directly with luxury fashion houses and their designers to produce pieces marked by their distinctive visions. These artists have also collaborated with musicians, technologists, and other creatives to make their mark on popular culture.
Takashi Murakami, an artist in Art Equity Fund III, is perhaps one of the best-known artists to enter the commercial sphere. In 2007, Murakami created the album artwork for Kanye West’s Graduation, a record that has been certified double platinum in both America and the United Kingdom. In the growing realm of streetwear, Murakami’s influence is also strong: the artist has made collections with Supreme, Vans, visvim, and many other leading brands. Last year, Murakami worked with Hublot to design watches featuring his signature smiling daisy. In 2018, he collaborated with the late artist and fashion designer Virgil Abloh on “America Too,” an exhibition of thirty-five works at Gagosian’s Los Angeles outpost. Drake purchased one of their co-authored sculptures.
Damien Hirst has also worked with Abloh; last year the two partnered to create one-of-a-kind jackets, upcycled from Abloh’s personal collection and covered with paint and patches in the shape of the artist’s iconic pills. Hirst’s involvement with high fashion doesn’t end with his Off White jackets—in 2013, inspired by their mutual use of skull motifs, Alexander McQueen invited Hirst to design a limited run of thirty scarves. In 2021, Hirst designed the cover of rapper Drake’s acclaimed album Lover Boy.
Younger artists in Fund III have also been picked up by major designers. Last year, Amoako Boafo became the first African artist to collaborate with the luxury fashion house Dior. Men’s artistic director Kim Jones took inspiration from his vivid color palette and featured prints of his visionary portraiture on bags, sweaters, and other items of clothing. Mickalene Thomas has also worked with the house, creating a redesign of the luxury label’s iconic Bar Jacket. In August of 2021, Boafo painted three portraits—one of himself, one of his mother, and another of a friend’s mother—directly onto the outside of a rocket owned by Jeff Bezos’s company, Blue Origin, using space-grade paints. The rocket was successfully launched into orbit, making Boafo the first artist from the African diaspora to enter outer space.
Amid the global art trade’s 2021 rebound, the contemporary art market experienced a record-breaking $2.7 billion in sales at auction with a record number of artists (34,602) accounting for a record number of transactions (102,000) in a period of twelve months, according to Artprice. Young contemporary artists—those who are under forty-five years old—recorded the strongest sales growth in the auction market, with a new high in sales of $395 million (up from $131 million in 2020). Artists in this category also saw a large increase in the average price of a work, up from $127,700 in 2020 to $293,649 in 2021, according to ArtTactic.
Younger generations are not only producing works that overperform at auction—they are also buying them. While collectors who came of age in the 80s and 90s have dominated the scene for years, according to Bank of America, the market is finally seeing a shift towards a new, younger group of buyers. Having been raised on the internet and in a world that places ever-more value on the creations of women and BIPOC, this generation is looking to collect digital art as well as pieces by artists whose identities drive their practices.
“We’re seeing a lot of people interested in contemporary figurative art specifically,” says Patrizia Koenig, the Twentieth Century & Contemporary Art Specialist for Phillips. “As we’ve also seen politically, there’s been a really strong reckoning with the Western-centric tradition in our history. So we’ve been seeing collectors and curators, scholars looking towards historically underrepresented artists. I do think longer term, there is a desire to change the focus finally. And I do personally think this will sustain itself in the years to come.” The rising market success of artist Faith Ringgold, an artist in the Yieldstreet Art Equity Fund II, whose retrospective “American People” opened this month at New York’s New Museum, is a prime example of this trend. Writing in the New York Times, Holland Cotter wrote that the exhibition “makes clear that what consigned Ringgold to an outlier track half a century ago”—her identity as a Black woman and an artist working with figuration—“puts her front and center now.” As tastes continue to change around what makes strong art, more figures like Ringgold are sure to emerge as symbols of the art world’s new commitment to formerly overlooked artists.
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