ViktorRolf Fashion Statements Rolf Snoeren und Viktor Horsting

Arts Review: “Fashion Statements” at Kunsthalle München

Rolf Snoeren and Viktor Horsting (Viktor&Rolf). BrauerPhotos / S.Brauer fŸr Kunsthalle MŸnchen

“Exhibitions are more democratic than the runway: they allow more visitors, and they last longer,” Dutch fashion duo Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have said. It’s minutes versus months—or perhaps seasons versus great spans of time—as evidenced by “Fashion Statements” at Kunsthalle München, which will run through October 6 and showcases thirty years of Viktor&Rolf creations.

On display are 100 designs from their career in addition to sketches, videos and photos from Ellen von Unwerth, Andreas Gursky, Herb Ritts and Inez & Vinoodh that illustrate how Horsting and Snoeren built their lasting career by continuously thinking outside the fashion box: recall their iconic upside-down gowns; their “No” themed garments that married fashion and negation; or the 1998 Russian Doll show featuring model Maggie Rizer dressed, look by look, in nine layers.

A museum installation featuring many ballgownsA museum installation featuring many ballgowns
An installation view of ‘Fashion Statements.’ © Michael Naumann / Tiefenpixel

Speaking from their Amsterdam atelier, Horsting and Snoeren told Observer about recreating Russian Doll for “Fashion Statements,” which involved turning the scant footage of the show still extant into a hologram.

“It was a very important moment in our career because it was a risky show,” they said. “It was kind of a wacky idea. It was very well received. And it’s the only show where we could tell how the audience was responding. The energy was building up and it was beautiful to experience that. To see that again as a hologram was emotional.”

Viktor&Rolf’s talent for bringing boundary-pushing concepts to life has helped the pair attract a loyal following that includes celebrities like Cardi B, Doja Cat, Madonna, Tilda Swinton and Lady Gaga, as well as everyday folk who might otherwise have little interest in fashion. Buzzfeed once wrote, in a story about what it termed ‘Coronavirus Couture,’ that “Viktor&Rolf might be Twitter’s favorite fashion house, if the number of memes it inspires annually is anything to go by.”

SEE ALSO: Katy Hessel Talks About Putting Women Artists Front and Center at Five Major Museums

But no one knows Viktor&Rolf and their oeuvre quite like Thierry-Maxime Loriot, whose relationship with both designers/artists dates back ten years. Loriot, who curated “Fashion Statements,” has collaborated with Viktor&Rolf twice before—on a 2016 Melbourne museum exhibition and a show in Rotterdam in 2018.

Reflecting on the duo, Loriot told Observer that Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren “always come up with creations that trigger reactions,” adding that the pair are inspired by everything except trends. “They are conceptual artists that work in reverse as they first think of the idea of the presentation which sometimes involves them as it becomes performing fashion somehow, and this idea needs an atelier that pushes the boundaries of haute couture every season as it can be dresses made like sculptures, like paintings on canvas, even worn upside down dresses and the whole collection on one mannequin.”

Two models pose in white gowns that appear to have no tops or bottomsTwo models pose in white gowns that appear to have no tops or bottoms
Philip Riches, ‘Performance of Sculptures,’ haute couture collection, S/S 2016. Philip Riches

When asked about any difficulties in mounting this show—it was two years in the making—Loriot quipped, “No challenge really, besides having our made-to-measure mannequins hijacked by pirates in the Suez Canal, delaying their delivery. Never a dull moment!”

One could use the same phrasing to describe Viktor&Rolf’s trailblazing career wins: an exciting, refreshing interpretation of fashion and art that evokes the gamut of reactions. The process isn’t always as smooth as the outcome suggests, however. Horsting and Snoeren have relied on each other as creative partners and friends through every low, middle and high point in their shared history.

As they put it: “By allowing anything and everything that occurs between us/around us, it’s all ok. Everything is allowed to exist, especially when there’s no energy, no inspiration… when there’s boredom, when there’s frustration, when there are a lot of difficult emotions. We’ve learned that we can use our work to work through everything, be it positive or negative.”

Two women in gowns laugh with one another in a photo lit harshly by flashTwo women in gowns laugh with one another in a photo lit harshly by flash
Ellen von Unwerth, Ana Jorge (r.) and Tanya Madisson, Haute couture collection ‘Late Stage Capitalism Waltz,’ Spring 2023. Ellen von Unwerth

Surprisingly, they take a quasi-scientific approach to their ideas, even as their modus operandi fuses fashion and art, treating their work as a laboratory of ideas in which to experiment. “Sometimes those experiments in retrospect are maybe too far out,” they admit. “That’s the only consequence of experimenting and trying to see how far you can go. Mistakes belong as well. For thirty years, without mistakes or going too far, there are no lessons to be learned.”

Loriot has done a stand-up job of distilling that philosophy in the exhibition halls of the Kunsthalle München: “Fashion Statements” is a celebration of not only Viktor&Rolf but also of pushing the limits of what fashion can do. Horsting and Snoeren hope that visitors to the exhibition will leave feeling transported. Loriot, for his part, seems to want more: “I hope it will be inspiring for a young generation, mostly for those who think they are weird and are outsiders, that maybe they are just artists who need to find their way in the world.”

Three models pose in suits with absurdly high necklines and shouldersThree models pose in suits with absurdly high necklines and shoulders
Marijke Aerden, ‘Surreal Shoulders,’ Haute Couture, S/S 2022, mit animierten Schatten von Rodeo FX. © Marijke Aerden

‘Fashion Statements’ in Munich Puts Viktor&Rolf’s Trailblazing Career Wins On Display

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
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