Since Felix Gonzalez-Torres' installation in 1991 at the Hammer Museum, a go-go dancer in a silver lamé Speedo has mounted an illuminated platform in various galleries around the world and for five minutes... well, done his stuff. It's a performance piece devised by the Cuban artist, and it formed the inspiration for Sebastiaan Pieter's collection. Which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows the Dutch designer's previous work, presented in London under his surname only for the past six seasons. Pieter isn't overtly obsessed with gay culture -he lives it, immersed in some aspects, observant of all. He has previously based collections around the codified phraseology of the gay hook-up app Grindr, and last season was inspired by cruising for sexual rendez-vous. It's a reflection of reality. This time, Felix Gonzalez-Torres' art led Sebastiaan Pieter to the notion of the hustle -gay for pay. And to silver lamé Speedos too, many of which peeked above the extra-low waistbands of his models' snug pants. Those pants are the more interesting element of what Pieter does, which is to actually challenge notions of dress. There were plenty of straightforward tee-shirts splashed with punchy tongue-in-cheek slogans. 'Rent', said one, 'Come', suggested another, which would seem innocent in a different context. They're funny and an easy sell : Pieter retails in boutiques in New York, the Far East, and his native Netherlands as well as the men's department of London's Harvey Nichols. More intriguing, though, is the designer's challenge to the status quo of clothing, like those crop tops and ultralow waistbands, provocatively exposing a good three inches of spandex underpant. Jackets were sliced at the sleeves to reveal biceps, and sweaters were carved away behind to bare the back. Then there's Sebastiaan Pieter's affection for the dress for men, here in sensuous swathed viscose knits that wound up looking like sweaty towels (in a good way). One, cut like a tank, was elongated to the floor in front and chopped away to a slither around the shoulder at the rear, baring yet more Speedos. It's all unapologetically, unabashedly sexy, and presumably for men who are interested in other men -but not only. Sebastiaan Pieter talked about the new landscape of sexuality, about Gonzalez-Torres' work exploring mortality and loss due to AIDS (the artist himself died of AIDS-related causes in 1996), and how that's already shifting due to not only pre-exposure prophylaxis medications, but to successive generations and their attitudes. Sebastiaan Pieter's attitude to masculinity and sexuality is the most fascinating element of his work, and it's kudos to him that he refuses to let it be boiled down into a simple slogan tee-shirt. The dress for men may always prove to be a tough sell, but Pieter's sophisticated proposition of the man as the sex that both looks and is looked at is exciting enough to persuade at least some to dare to bare. Who doesn't want to be desired, after all ?
Be bold !
Be bold !