The contemporary art scene has seen its fair share of enigmatic and intriguing collectives, and Bernadette Corporation is undoubtedly one of them. With their anti-establishment projects and multidisciplinary approach, they have captured the imagination of art enthusiasts and critics alike. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the origins, philosophy, and creative journey of Bernadette Corporation while shedding light on the upcoming Supreme collaboration for spring/summer 2023 (Week 13) with an exclusive look on few of the items at the end and an exclusive interview with one of the members.
Origins: A Fusion of Art, Fashion, and Rebellion
Bernadette Corporation emerged in the early 1990s in New York City’s Lower East Side. It was initially formed as a fictional fashion label by Bernadette Van-Huy, John Kelsey, and Antek Walczak. They hosted underground fashion shows, using thrift store clothes and taking inspiration from unconventional sources. This playfully subversive approach to fashion soon became a hallmark of their collective identity.
Bernadette van Huy, one of the founding members, moved to Manhattan at the age of 23 and began organizing parties in New York nightclubs. Looking back, would Bernadette Van Huy have done anything differently?
There’s tons I would have done differently. I proceeded from the inheritance of a bohemian culture – so there was a lot of drinking all night, sleeping all day, and doing nothing, because that was understood as actively subverting aspects of the dominant culture. But looking back, several decades of that was a little overboard.
In 1997, she worked as the costume designer for the Harmony Korine film “Gummo”. If you didn’t already know, Supreme has worked with Harmony Korine on a Gummo collaboration back in spring/summer 2022 which included Skateboards, Tees and more.
Bernadette Corporations origins can be traced back to the countercultural spirit of the 1990s, characterized by a distaste for the commercialization of the art world and a desire to break free from conventional norms. They chose the name “Bernadette Corporation” as a playful jab at the corporate systems they aimed to challenge. They didn’t want to follow traditional political activism but instead tried to put strong political messages into popular items, like a clothing line, taking inspiration from Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols. This raised some questions regarding the Supreme collaboration as Supreme has been acquired by the Carlyle Group and later by the VF Corporation, making it part of a larger corporate structure. We asked if this created any conflicts in collaborating or hesitation, given Bernadette Corporation’s history of critiquing corporations.
A business mentality has invaded every sphere. It’s built into the modern conception of “man” – from Enlightenment times, “man” was re-conceptualized as a unit, and as mercenary. So it’s in art also. There’s very little art in the art world. It’s almost all just business now. So what I try to do, is just enter into the relationship — whichever relationship, in whichever world — and bring something to it that possibly could affect some shift or change. No matter how small, and even just on the interpersonal level, because that is actually I think the most important level, just the way one person treats another person. Every single relationship is a place to start for political change. Even just between one friend and another.
When asked how the guiding principles of Bernadette Corporation changed since 1994, Bernadette Van-Huy explained that Bernadette Corporation’s journey hasn’t been consistent. The members admit to being unstable people who embrace instability, sometimes not creating anything, disappearing for years, or even squandering their cultural capital.
Recent Works: Supreme and more
Bernadette Corporation’s art and fashion have been showcased in numerous exhibitions throughout the years. In 2023, Bernadette Corporation held an exhibition at Greene Naftali, New York, showcasing their latest works. The exhibition included pieces like “Furious Flamez of Desire” which are painted with dry erasable marker on a marker board. In some cases, dimes and pennies stacked or formed on marker board encased pillars. These works were a testament to Bernadette Corporation’s continual exploration of the interchangeability of matter and energy, a theme that runs deep in their recent works.
One item in the exhibition that stood out was the Supreme/Spalding/Bernadette Corporation Basketball. Why was the Supreme Basketball included in the exhibition and what were the inspiration behind the elements on the ball?
We stuck the basketball in the show just for the hell of it. There are some cosmic references in the show — drawings of balls and holes, shorthand for black holes and planets or stars — so it wasn’t too off-base. The motifs on the ball are from an art show we did a few years ago, which was full of Nietzsche quotes and psychoanalysis. So for example, there’s a silhouette of a seagull and the word “eagle” written inside it – the joke is that it’s about an inflated ego, the seagull thinks it’s an eagle. And lack is also a Freudian motif.
While the whole collaboration still has to be unveiled by Supreme, we have an exclusive look at a few of the items and their references from the history of Bernadette corporation. Most of the designs incorporate elements from Bernadette Corporations fashion line created in the mid-90s. This choice aligns with the recent resurgence of 90s trends and aesthetics, which have been gaining popularity in the fashion and cultural spheres for the past few years.
Stay tuned for more infos and the official look on the whole collaboration releasing on Thursday May 18th on Supreme. Find the droplist on Supreme Community.