Matthew Brannon and Adam Lippes Get Contemporary

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Published June 30, 2010

“I’ve been co-chair of the Whitney Contemporaries for two years, and I really wanted to give back to the Whitney, ” said designer Adam Lippes last night at the dinner at his art-filled penthouse home to celebrate the launch of the tees.  “And I thought, if we could do an artist collaboration on T-shirts, limited edition, but not ‘X designer loves this artist,’ and they do it together. I thought, ‘Would the Whitney curate it, pick artists that the museum thought were relevant and valid?'”

The Whitney said yes.  The curatorial department ended up choosing artists that had all recently exhibited as part of the Contemporaries program (as that’s where the proceeds are to go), finally deciding on Matthew Brannon, E.V. Day, Ellen Harvey and Phoebe Washburn.  All the artists were approved by Lippes. Each of the four wearable art tees run in a limited edition of a 1,000 and sell for $95.

Brannon, whose tee was designed with the graphics of a centimeter ruler, a shrimp, an outlet plug, and a secret note written on the inside breast, was present at the party. Did he have challenges turning his art into a T-shirt? Did his work feel cheapened? “I like feeling cheap. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he laughed. “You can look at as a complication or an abbreviation.” Certainly, with the Whitney’s curatorial choice, Adam’s brand appeal, and Gilt Group’s retail strength, there’s no shame among the project’s supporters.

“I’m really attracted to his work in general, but I thought also for this project—it was quirky and fun, and there was humor to it,” Lippes said of Brannon. “And I think we need humor to these things. If you take it too seriously, it’s just a big ol’ bore.”

The shirts will be for sale exclusively on Gilt Groupe starting July 1, with sales benefiting the Whitney Museum.