Art and fashion join forces

Swarovski and Whitechapel Gallery’s cultural merger with heart

The annual fundraising Art Plus gala – hosted by east London’s hallowed Whitechapel Gallery, alongside masters of crystal Swarovski – encourages a stimulating collision of disciplines. “It explores the dynamic fusion of the visual arts with other media, such as drama, dance, film or music, culminating in a party-cum-performance event,” explains Sophie McKinlay, artistic director of the Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Art Plus Fashion event.

This year’s event, held on Thursday March 14, will feature catwalk shows courtesy of four fashion postgraduates (cherry-picked by Nadja Swarovski, creative director of her family’s eponymous company) and established fashion luminaries such as Giles Deacon. Funds raised from the £150-a-ticket sales will support the gallery’s education programme, which benefits children and community groups.


Also raising money at the event will be a live (and online) auction of works by high-profile artists, including Bridget Riley (One Small Step in first picture) and Cornelia Parker. A particularly striking creation being auctioned this year is Sam Durant’s map of Ireland (third picture), whose nursery-cute pastels belie its hard-hitting, political subject: tax evasion and money laundering. By contrast, Catherine Yass’s photo-etching (second picture) – based on a damaged film clip from a 1923 movie starring Harold Lloyd – seems nostalgic and dreamlike. “The bite into the metal plate used for the etching became analogous with scratches on the film,” says Yass.

Some art celebrates the area around the gallery, making it mesh especially well with the event. Armed with a camera, Zarina Bhimji snapped midnight-blue fabric from a Brick Lane store scattered with orchids, while the late Corinne Day focused on mannequin legs displaying tights in a shop window. That both of these artworks reference fashion, and that Day was herself a fashion photographer, is apt indeed – a fitting intertwining of disciplines echoing the event’s blurring of artistic boundaries.