Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Ed Ruscha and Alexander Wang

I spent yesterday morning at the Hayward Gallery for the press opening of the Ed Ruscha retrospective, Fifty Years of Painting. Now in his early seventies, Ruscha has been a major figure in American art since the fifties (see his Catalogue RaisonnĂ© here). He is in London for his own opening and for the Frieze opening today. He said hello and seemed modest and softly spoken; he gave a short speech full of interesting insights into how his pictures are created. Everybody interested in modern American art knows his bold and brilliantly coloured paintings often concentrating on a single word – Noise, Scream – but I thought that this exhibition shows how he took this forward in the next couple of decades, playing witty semantic games with strange sentences. For me, the really fascinating ones were his monochrome spray-gun pictures, which were reminscent of very early movies, and his portraits of mountains with random words superimposed over them.

I had lunch with the editor of Esquire, Jeremy Langmead, in Soho. Then to the London College of Fashion to discuss a scholarship in journalism that is being setting up in my name. A great honour and very exciting.

In the evening, Alexander Wang – the hot new kid on the block who is over from New York – joined me at Selfridges for an In Conversation for customers. Twenty-five years old, with a 20-million-dollar-plus company which has only been going for four years, Alex was described by a member of the audience as "awesome". Easy to see why. Apart from his creative and business success, he is also charming, fluent and relaxed. He was an ideal and stimulating conversation companion – something I often find with the top American designers, but not always (alas) with their British counterparts.

Alex is travelling with his brother Dennis, and it is clear that this is a very family-based company which will go far. It already justifies all the hype, even amid the crazy hysteria of Planet Fashion. He told me about his plans to develop his menswear not as men's fashion but as the sort of clothes regular guys feel comfortable in. That's what the Wang approach is about: sexy, real clothes for confident men and women.

Alex could only come from New York: he embodies that city's energetic belief that clothes are not designer statements but products to sell. When somebody asked him to do some really cool clothes for kids, he grinned and said he was already thinking! He is a new Marc Jacobs and, although he assured me he was busy growing his own brand at the moment, he could be interested in looking at a famous name to revitalise some time down the line. But in my opinion, the thing that really matters with this exceptionally gifted man is making his brand even more high-profile than it is already. And he will. No doubt at all. And the world is waiting.