As one circles up the rotunda at NYC’s Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, a selection from the life’s work of artist Agnes Martin offers inspirational insight. The introductory piece from 1957 declares Martin’s devotion to abstract expressionism. This yields to decades worth of graphite grid work—punctuated from time to time with watercolor. This grid use nods to a lack of hierarchy and a desire for approachability. Before one reaches the top (and end) of the exhibition, where pieces from the early aughts once again embrace bright abstraction, there’s a sense of organization and levity. This is what appealed to Karin Gustafasson, Creative Director of COS and Martin Andersson, the brand’s Head of Menswear Design. After years of reflecting on the artist (and signing on as sponsors of the present exhibition), the brand releases its 12-piece COS + Agnes Martin Guggenheim Capsule Collection today.
With the entire art world at their disposal, one may wonder why COS committed to Agnes Martin for their artist collection. But both Gustafasson and Andersson said it just made sense. “We looked at her work for so many years for inspiration,” says Andersson. “We love the subtlety and how inventive she is with grids and lines. We had seen one or two works here and there, but it wasn’t until last year when the work came to the Tate Modern and we saw the full body of work that we knew,” Gustafasson adds, noting that seeing the work in real life conveys such a power that isn’t translated onto artist prints. There, one can grasp the greater depth of each piece.
No singular piece translates directly into what we see from the collection. And this was something the board was conscious of. “We had a meeting with them a year and a bit ago,” Gustafasson explains, “and we told them about COS and what we stand for. We brought with us fabric swatches, with hand-stitching, and examples of hand-drawn ideas and coloring and distressing to show them how we would want to catch the spirit and atmosphere of Agnes Martin’s work rather than take one piece and print it onto a collection. We would never do such a thing.” That said, this is not a replication. These are minimal COS staple pieces with the essence of Martin at their core.
Textiles factor heavily into the production value. “It felt quite natural to work with cotton canvas and linen. It almost evokes the ideas of an artist’s canvas,” Andersson shares. “We did surfaces and materials first, then we discussed the aesthetic. It felt natural to base it around an artist wardrobe,” Gustafasson adds. All of the pieces are utilitarian and can be worn in many different ways. There is very much a pared-down aesthetic, again with the focus on textiles. These are pieces meant to be worn and from fabric to stitching, one does believe they’ll only get better with age.
The collection is available at the Guggenheim Museum Store in New York,
select COS shops worldwide and at COS online for a limited time. The Agnes Martin retrospective runs today through 11 January 2017.
Images courtesy of COS, shot on location at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York