Have you ever noticed that there’s a certain subset of people who (incorrectly) think they’re very clever because they dislike the fashion industry, or they think they’ve got it all figured out? It seems like artist Shelter Serra, seller of the resin-casted Hermes Birkin pictured above, might be part of that group.

According to Refinery29, Serra calls the two-dimensional “art piece” a commentary on how an object that costs several months’ rent does little more than the function of a simple plastic bag, and he thinks we take such things for granted. This whole premise is annoying for a couple of reasons that we’ll explore after the jump, but first and foremost, it’s annoying because it still costs $2500 and does even less than a simple plastic bag.

Don’t get me wrong, I love contemporary art. The weirder the better! But not only does this piece miss the mark in an attempt to make some sort of commentary on fashion price levels and what that means in a larger sense (people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, art world), but it’s pretty hard to argue that a functional piece of finely crafted, expertly constructed Hermes leatherwork is overpriced when a sloppy resin copy is being unironically sold via Grey Arena for (using the artist’s word choice) more than what most people pay for a couple months’ rent. I would posit that this was perhaps part of the commentary, but not only would that likely be giving Serra too much credit, it also doesn’t appear to be true.

What almost bothers me more, though, is that the cast seems to have been made from a fake Birkin, and a bad one at that. So if the artist is so clever and full of social commentary, where’s his Baudrillardian epiphany about making copies of copies and how it dulls our collective sense of reality and authenticity? Or did he just not think of that, in favor of making the point of, “Like, Birkins are totally expensive, yo.” Because no one’s ever said that before. Certainly, no one’s ever charged you $2,500 to say it. And Serra’s (literally) useless resin Birkin is being made in a collection of 20, so, you know. Stock up.

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  • Ashleyg

    Haha- I thought it was tissue paper when I first glanced at it! Things like this remind me of the scene from Devil Wears Prada when Miranda totally owned Andy about her cerulean sweater. Silly rabbits, they don’t even understand that they aid in making fashion even more important by going to such great lengths to resist it.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      It reminded me of that scene, too. One of my favorite scenes in any movie, ever.

      • Erik

        Indeed…it reminded me of that scene too, i really hope he reads this so he can se how he totally did not make his point, besides it’s really fug!

  • Maria

    An Hermes bag is a piece of art. His “art” copy is certainly less worthy than the plastic bag!

    If the artist went this way – his hopes to sell twenty of these resin pieces – to put those funds towards an Hermes purchase? Well, then it makes more sense!

    :)

  • Silversun

    Great post, Amanda. I’m sure the artist wishes he’d thought of your interpretations. (You made me Google “Baudrillardian”. Nice one. :D )

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      Baudrillard is very relevant to the fashion world, I think. I’m always surprised that his name doesn’t come up more often. He’s an interesting dude.

  • Kjon

    Excellent points, Amanda! I major in art, fashion and business (I love school and I’m Peter Pan) and it’s really interesting seeing the enormous amount of elitism that takes place. I think the art world asserts its superiority over fashion (and most everything else for that matter) because art serves an important cultural/societal/intellectual “purpose” and fashion, to them, does not. Therefore the artist truly believes this piece serves a purpose by simply being called “art” while a real-life Birkin serves little to no purpose.

    Of course I don’t agree with that at all. I think this piece is laughable and its message of consumption/utility was poorly transmitted and overtly pretentious.

  • mochababe73

    Every group has its elite. Hermes is just apart of the fashion elite. I guess that the social commentary side of the art world feel that they are the elite and above anything fashion. In fact, fashion can and does create works of art. Some of it has social commentary like Stella McCartney-a vegan who uses no animal products in her fashions.
    Art is not functional. A bag, be it Hermes or Nine West, serves a function. The function being to hold our lives in it. Art is used to make things pretty but it’s not needed. I think that the art world is taking the fashion world for granted. Fashion has always been depicted in artwork since the beginning. You can tell an era of a painting by its fashion if said art depicts people.
    Besides, it looks like it’s made of toilet paper.

  • Reza Khan

    Amazing for this artist to try to make a commentary on the cost of Hermes, but he himself is charging $2,500 on his awful resin artwork. To each his own, if someone wants to spend $1000′s on a hand bag it’s their choice. It might be month’s rent to this artist but it isn’t to those who buy Hermes.

  • Dawne

    Has the house of Hermes seen this? I wouldn’t think they’d find this amusing any more than the people who were imprinting a “birkin” on those tote bags not long back.

  • Sophia

    I find it so ironic that th

  • KoutureCrochet.com

    If it were ironic it might be funny, but it’s tragically untended to be ironic and rather sad.

  • Sophia

    I find this to be so ironic. Art lies within the same realm as fashion…hello luxury goods! No person absolutely needs artwork just the same as no person absolutely needs a Birkin (although absolutely dying with desire to possess one is a different matter!).

    I think this message would have been better conveyed with a different subject matter, say showing how many plastic bags worth of food or water could have been purchased at the same value (I’m not an artist so sorry if that idea sucked) but the point is poor execution unless his secret plan all along was to broadcast his hypocrisy.

  • Angela

    There’s a reason why Hermes and the other great old fashion houses impose such prices on their products. And that’s because they have the integrity to maintain the high quality products their customers deserve and the integrity to provide the proper compensation to their loyal and very talented workforce – which by the way – may also be the compensation that allows them to pay the rent this ignoramus artist is talking about.

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  • Jenny in Jacquard

    Seriously, for $2,500 you would hope he would have casted the mold from a real Birkin (ouch, that hurts to imagine though)! I appreciate art, but even better … I appreciate a gorgeous bag. :)

    http://www.jennyinjacquard.wordpress.com

  • AJ

    He’s trying to make 50 grand but I don’t think he will succeed. And I too thought it was made of toilet paper.

  • Decor Girl

    I think the artist made something interesting someone else came up with the commentary because it just doesn’t fit. A gorgeous handcrafted item (Hermes bag) is already art which does double duty as also being functional. The cost is reflected in the craftsmanship and creativity. How many man hours does it take to make a Birkin? More than it took to come up with a silly cast resin bag.

  • Nat

    haha, remember Jelly Kelly bags? This reminds me of them.

  • Holly

    What a totally original commentary I’ve never heard anywhere before. Complaining about what fashionable stuff costs! How fresh and original! I can’t wait for this artist’s relentless deconstruction of airplane food.

    The sad thing is that an artist first and foremost should understand why artistic pieces, which a lot of couture pieces are, are so expensive.

    Maybe it’s a commentary on commentary. The artist is pointing out how absurd and dubious most fashion critics claims are – as absurd as a fake bag that costs as much as the original! Both commenter and commentee part of the exact same system, and the critics are doing nothing to circumvent it with their criticism – like the quote above about the cerulean sweater. Their “clever” words are as old and worn out as a crummy fake bag. I like this interpretation better.

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