VIDEO: Isaac Mizrahi Picks 5 Artworks He’d Want With Him If Stranded on Mars

Visual art is a big influence on the iconic fashion designer.

Isaac Mizrahi is the first guest on The Martian, a new series at artnet News in which we ask our subjects what five artworks they’d bring with them if they were stranded on Mars.

I had the great fortune of being able to speak with the inimitable fashion designer in conjunction with his retrospective exhibition, “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History,” which has transformed a floor of the Jewish Museum in New York into a colorful homage to his life and career, and presents a strong argument for the nexus between fashion and art.

Organized by guest curator Chee Pearlman with Jewish Museum assistant curator Kelly Taxter, the show offers designs from his signature collection, Isaac Mizrahi New York (1987-1998), his semi-couture collections (2003-2011), his Target line (2002-2008) as well as sketches, rare behind-the-scenes photographs by Nick Waplington, and a video installation with segments from his iconic fashion documentary Unzipped, to his stint on television with The Isaac Mizrahi Show.

Installation view of the exhibition "Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History." Photo: Will Ragozzino.

Installation view of the exhibition “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History.”
Photo: Will Ragozzino.

There’s an imaginative and tactile through line from his couture—with designs like “Blackbird,” a sleek black stretch bodysuit with a fluffy ostrich-feather hood—from Sarah Haddad Cheney’s collection—to his vivid feathery costumes for the Mark Morris Dance Group. Evidence of his inspiration from the realm of visual arts is everywhere from his pink and orange dress referencing a Dan Flavin light work to a patterned gown based on a costume that Henri Matisse created for a Russian ballet.

Through the artworks Mizrahi selects for our video, I hope viewers will gain insight not only into Mizrahi’s aesthetic sensibilities, but also into the role that art played in his life.

Isaac Mizrahi, Blackbird, Star of David belt, ostrich-feather hood, stretch wool jersey bodysuit, stretch wool jersey pants, suede and brass belt, fall 1991. Image: © Jason Frank Rothenberg. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum

Isaac Mizrahi, Blackbird, Star of David belt, ostrich-feather hood, stretch wool jersey bodysuit, stretch wool jersey pants, suede and brass belt, fall 1991. Image: © Jason Frank Rothenberg. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum

While I knew Mizrahi, who is currently a judge on Project Runway All Stars and stars in the QVC show Isaac Mizrahi Live!, had an art collection, it was great to discover how integral art was to his upbringing, from his time as a student at New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts (which he says was a turning point in his life after having transferred from Yeshivah of Flatbush) through his years in fashion and up to today.

Having run across a group of women at the exhibition talking excitedly about Mizrahi, and calling him by his first name, I asked if they knew him. “No,”said one woman. “But I feel like I do.” Perhaps that’s the Mizrahi effect. I think you’ll get a taste of it in this video.

Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History” will be on view at the Jewish Museum through August 7, 2016.


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