A line of people wrapped haphazardly around the block awaiting the culmination of Bjarne Melgaard and Babak Radboy’s The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment, an ongoing exhibition that first debuted in Paris in 2015. The intoxicating draw of $500K worth of free designer threads had some waiting as early as noon despite the mid-February chill.

Melgaard, who launched an eponymous fashion line in 2014, was purging his closet. As a precursor to the show’s opening he invited the public to sate their retail gluttony with a selection of his castaway garments. The clothes were dispersed in snowdrift-high heaps around the Red Bull Arts space, making the task of separating genuinely rare finds and disappointingly normal selections impossible.

A series of mannequins styled and conceived in collaboration with artist Avena Gallagher also littered the designer wasteland; with their tumbledown appearance – many had been tagged with black marker – and DIY aesthetic it was easy to imagine them as the doomed outcasts of a once-glorious department store chain.

Attendees entered in small groups and were each given red trash bags, all the while a voice mechanically intoned, “welcome to the purge.” Then, a countdown of three minutes, followed by pure consumerism-driven lust.

Droves of the fashion-obsessed threw themselves onto piles of clothes without even pausing to see what they were acquiring. One young man in a multi-color faux fur coat even employed the sneak-and-grab technique (if you’ve been to a sample sale you’ve probably done this or had it done to you), on an entire pile of clothes another attendee was halfheartedly attempting to sort through.

With a time constraint of a few precious minutes and a firm warning that event attendees could only keep what fit in their bags, greed naturally trumped order…disappointment wasn’t far behind. Like carrion birds, the first group of purgers were so thorough that by the second round, which catered mostly to media, only tags, labels and a few garments that couldn’t be stuffed into bags were left.

By the end of round two, empty bags and crestfallen looks were everywhere. “Are there more clothes?” one anxious shopper asked. “I waited for five hours and now I can’t feel my fucking feet,” another visitor complained during a post-purge interview. “Well, there are still labels all over the floor, that’s what this is about isn’t it?” responded another visitor who clearly hadn’t been waiting long enough to lose his sense of humor.

While his more recalcitrant counterpart was in no mood to agree, the philosophizing shopper certainly had a point. “It was never meant to be a great idea, that’s for sure,” said Max Wolf, chief curator of Red Bull Arts. “It’s about finding solace in retail therapy and maybe still being let down. Of course the purge is mildly connected to the bigger Casual Pleasures of Disappointment project but it’s really just a purge; it’s about accumulation, purging and repenting,” he shared.

The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment exhibition is now open and will run through April 9.

Red Bull Arts New York
220 w 18th Street 10011
New York, NY USA

Also see Gucci’s epic 2,500 square-foot outdoor mural here.

  • Photography: Thomas Welch / Highsnobiety.com
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