For weeks before opening its doors in 2009, the Ace Hotel New York was filled with artists-in-residence and walls were being graced with the work they'd leave—all of which still stands today. Visionary founder Alex Calderwood hand-picked many of them himself. Even as its acclaim has grown and demand for rooms has kept occupancy very high over the last five years, the Ace continues to invite artists to work within. As an extension of this, rather than partnering with outside brands for this upcoming Fashion Week, they chose to focus attention on work made by occupants.
Ace Hotel Cultural Engineer Ben Sisto invited four art collectives to reside in the hotel from 22-25 August, for a program named "Sleep / Walk" with a view in mind to produce work while tackling the topics of gender, presentation and identity. With the help of post-drag performance group Chez Deep—the first artists selected, who also functioned as advisors in the rest of the selection process—Sisto further extended invitations to artists and designers Mike and Claire, performance artists House of Ladosha and beauty and art collective FCKNLZ. Each unit began to design "modules," a word that Sisto uses to define "micro-performances, photo shoots, games, scavenger hunts and other in-room happenings" all within the loose confines of the fashion world.
CH went to explore the rooms and met with FCKNLZ in a space that had already morphed under the artists' vision. The room was scattered with supplies and a giant mood board occupied one wall. The collective replaced all of the room's lightbulbs with their own—stating that a proper workspace requires the best lighting. And, while altering the lights, the collective (who claims to specialize in mistakes) also took to wrapping up the furniture with fabric. According to Grant Worth of FCKNLZ, "We sort of got all these supplies and this weird fabric, just something we picked up that was funny and strange and there was so much of it. We like to take control of the spaces we're in but originally it wasn't clear what we would do with the fabric. We immediately walked in the room and started covering everything." This reaction to the space turned into something more, an experience and a product that they refer to, jokingly, as "furniture clothing." It's beautiful and delicate and touches upon both fashion and identity. It was this responsive action that will ultimately beget their piece that will be on display 7 September.
Worth continues, saying that the residency provided "the freedom to explore and play." He furthers notes, "There weren't really any restrictions or rules. There were suggestions, but it's always really exciting when there isn't any kind of rules about output and as an artist you are allowed to really explore." Sisto echoes this sentiment, "I feel, for artists of any discipline, one of the most important things is not to get stuck in your own work rut. There's value in working in a different part of the city, in a different environment—it mixes up the thought process. The Ace is clean, creative and hospitable. Not a lot of people think to come to Midtown. We are offering people a reason to work in and explore this part of the city, and it will effect what they create."
On Sunday, 7 September (during Fashion Week), all creations made during the residencies, whether they are wearable or not, will be on display in the Ace Hotel's Liberty Hall. It's an event, open to the public, that reflects the true creative nature of the location and the team's desire to support the arts. And to a certain degree, it's the most honest fashion week event they can have: these works were made on location for a venue that has long-embraced the arts world.
Images by Cool Hunting