"Björk is not an artist," the Brazilian fashion designer Geova Rodrigues said forcefully at the opening reception for the singer's much-anticipated exhibition last night at MoMA. He was sipping champagne underneath a spectacular black, feathery fascinator, and he said that that his favorite artists were Van Gogh and Picasso. "She is a musician," he said. "But I love her."
Reviews of the show have started coming in that use phrases like "unambitious hodgepodge," "bad, really bad," and "I felt sad and embarrassed leaving the museum." It turns out that a bunch of inanimate objects—dresses, robot mannequins, an airmail jacket—no matter how beautiful or iconic, can't capture the singer's mercurial spirit.
What the party managed to do, on the other hand, was show her impact on a generation, from the 20-something Biophilia fans, who were the only people dancing in front of the DJ booth, to artists like the Icelandic hair sculptor Hrafnhildur Arnardottir (a.k.a. Shoplifter), whose own ponytail was bound up in a kind of black-gridded hairnet, and who was hanging out with fashion consultant Edda Gudmundsdottir. (Both have worked on Björk's avant-garde looks.)
It's a testament to the breadth of Björk's talent that it's impossible to generalize about her admirers and friends, other than to say that they are good at being themselves, and that they aren't afraid of wearing outlandish clothes.
"She makes people want to show off," said MoMA visuals manager Jade White, who saw the singer buying "two or three gigantic bird feeders" at MoMA's design store with her daughter, Isadora, earlier. "She's an icon, man. She puts Lady Gaga to shame."
Although the singer herself only made a brief appearance, Peaches and Le1f were circulating, and looking fabulous, as was the star artist of the New Museum Triennial, Juliana Huxtable, but there was a lot of competition for who was best dressed.
Susanne Bartsch, the influential party promoter, looked like an evil, seductive sprite in a sheer, floor-length black gown over a corset and suspenders, with eyelashes that reached to her hairline and a black pointy headpiece that was somewhere in between a unicorn's horn and a witch's hat.
"She's the shit," she said of Angela Goding, the MoMA PS1 director of development, who joined her on the mezzanine overlooking the ground floor. "No, she's the shit," Goding insisted, pointing out that Bartsch had achieved generation-defining, fashion-icon status in her own right.
The designer and artist Ashley Eva Brock, who made leg-warmers that were in the exhibition, could have been a benign cult leader from the future in a hooded dress dyed with indigo. She'd used seawater for the process, collected near her home in northern California, because it was eco-friendly, she said, and because she's kind of a hippie.
It was a crowded field, but my vote for the look of the night goes to the scientifically minded milliner Heidi Lee, who was wearing her "Endless Echo Hat." 3D-printed from a scan of her own face, it made her look like a robot with eight overlapping faces, and according to Lee, is intended to raise questions about surveillance technologies and the age of the selfie.
The night ended early, and the only climactic moments were when a plasma globe suspended above everyone's heads crackled with electricity in the middle and at the end, but still, the event was full of clashing opinions, boundary-pushing couture, and active artists of every imaginable kind. It did a good job of encapsulating Bjork's boundless, curious energy—better, some might say, than a swan dress on a mannequin.