These vintage ART TEES r the wave 🎨🔥
BBSP Masterpiece Merch retrospective
Art-museum gift shops … are they temples of abject consumerism, laying bare the tacky fraudulence at the heart of the art-going experience? Are the jawnz within them crass emblems of cultural rot?? Here at Blackbird Spyplane — yr no. 1 source across all dope-joints-newsletters for “unbeatable institutional critique” — we believe the COMPLEX answers to these questions involve more French vocabulaire, parentheses & footnotes than we have room for today.
But one simple truth can’t be denied: Art-merch joints can be MF-ing heaters baby!!
None hotter than this one, which future scholars of the intersection of rare grails and post-cubist-neo-ancient-Greek figuration will have no choice but 2 fux with heavy…
YUP: Blackbird Spyplane made a major ART-HISTORICAL BREAKTHROUGH the other day and discovered an officially licensed 1990 Pablo Picasso linen shirt — produced in an edition of 3000 — printed with a circa-1955 drawing … This shirt pops up at auction houses & resellers like 1st Dibs every now and then, unsurprisingly, for big $$$$.
More readily accessible contemporary “fashion-adjacent art-merch” is easy to find if u know where 2 look … Mythic Bootleg Tees sells fire hand-painted tees in tribute 2 artists like On Kawara, Donald Judd, and Sherrie Levine; earlier this year Flat File put out a capsule of bootleg exhibition tees, like the Constantin Brancusi longsleeve above left, then the lawyers came thru on some Drake featuring The-Dream s**t & “SHUT IT DOWN” (Flat File’s putting out some new joints today to help with legal fees, & they tell us that more stuff is in the pipeline); and of course Boot Boyz stay pumping out their bewildering art-theory jawnz. (Also when we interviewed Naomi Fry about a beloved rare possession she put us on to Cynthia Talmadge’s rehab-merch pieces…)
Meanwhile, Helmut Lang has dropped garmies featuring photos by Carrie Mae Weems & Martine Syms; Wales Bonner did a Chris Ofili t-shirt; Advisory Board Crystals did a charity-jawn team-up with Olafur Eliasson — u can find a tee for sale here; Zainab Sumu sells Malick Sidibé tees, and Agnès “I love art” B made one, too. Last year Brain Dead put out Sol Lewitt / Donald Judd / Clay Arlington-themed joints, one of which is above right, for Frieze L.A. … there’s a pair of the sweatpants for sale here…
All of these are varying degrees of cool. But what about *totally un-selfconscious vintage* joints… ?? That high-low-tension / déclassé / touristed-out / ‘90s gift-shop / eBay GAS?? That’s the vibe we’ve been personally checking for recently, nowhere better exemplified than the excellent 1997 Rodin x Michelangelo Philadelphia Museum of Art single-stitch tee above, which u can cop for $150…
We’re not alone: Art-merch tees have been cropping up at vintage resellers like Moth Food, who grammed a bunch of old Dalì joints the other day; Chickees, who posted a weathered Picasso tee; and Space Camp, who posted a deadstock one. In a complete coincidence, a couple weeks ago Blackbird SpyFriend Sam Hine tweeted us a pic of his excellent hot pink 2017 Wolfgang Tillmans Tate Modern tee, which made a cameo in a recent Jordan Wolfson New Yorker profile.
Why do bygone art-show tees feel esp. popping right now? Part of it’s that crowded museum shows are a wrap thanks to Covid, adding something poignant to wearing a crowded-museum-show souvenir. Beyond that there’s a weird nostalgic-ironic appeal to rocking artifacts of old canonizing institutions & the “Great Masters” they celebrated at a time when canons & institutions seem like they’re steadily crumbling…
Whatever the reasons, we conducted some MAJOR Mach 3+ ART-MERCH RECON — and the result is today’s BBSP MASTERPIECE-MERCH RETROSPECTIVE…
The 1983 Picasso tee above left — officially licensed by Spadem, who played a part in putting out the linen shirt up top & a bunch of other Picasso joints — is going for $65 here. This 1998 Picasso “Guernica” tee (not pictured) is $85.
The beautiful Matisse tee above right — size L, made in the U.S.A. — is $225 here.
PLEASE appreciate this GOD-TIER 1984 Hokusai longsleeve — the year, the colors, the font choice, the MOCK NECK??!! Asking $175, here.
There’s tons of mind-bending slappers out there from M.C. Escher tha trippy & heavily merchandised king … We r into this “reflecting sphere” joint (not pictured), selling for $29 and we are especially feeling the 1991 joint above left, which is $115.
Meanwhile the “New Yorker Illustration”-looking-a$$ Georgia O’Keeffe ‘90s tee above right is $155 here ….
There are tons of Barbara Kruger jawns floating around but it’s tough to come across a 1995 joint like the “It’s A Small World But Not If You Have to Clean It” tee above left — priced accordingly at $468 (!!). The Basquiat “Miles Davis All-Stars” tee is from 2000 and going for $125 here.
We found WAY more dope art-merch tees than we could fit here — CLA$$IFIED SUBSCRIBERS can access the special “Private $howing: Blackbird ArtMall” that we made to contain them & delight our Top $ecret Cogno$centi …
It’s worth noting that this roundup tells an extremely incomplete story: Most of the vintage art-merch out there is situated squarely in “dudes of the Western Canon” territory, which is a function of which kinds of artists have historically enjoyed the “major retrospective” / mass-produced-merch treatment, and the societal & institutional inequities that shape that history... 😤😤
⛔⚠️ As LUCK has it, for this coming Thursday’s newsletter we’ve arranged a SPECIAL DROP with FIRE independent t-shirt line And After That, whose next release is a SICK Bjork bootleg that plays on her 2015 MoMA retrospective.
Edgar from AAT made a VARIANT TEE EXCLUSIVELY for BBSP “Classified Tier” subscribers to cop behind the paywall. It’s a certified SLAPPER in a magnificent “Blackbird SpyBlue” colorway, and “100% of profits benefit undocumented folks” — Be sure yr subscribed to our CLA$$IFIED TIER to support BBSP, enjoy beaucoup perks behind the paywall, and — through Sunday October 25th — COP THIS BANGER ⚠️⛔