SLEEK’s Best of 2017: 30 Things That Weren’t a Total Trash Fire

Sleek's Best of 2017 features 30 artists, designers, publications and public figures whose work offered glimmers of hope in this trash fire of a year.

Going into 2017, astrology fans were braced for a year of psychic renewal, of death and rebirth. But surely even the most cosmically aligned among us probably wasn’t ready for the kick in the teeth that was 2017. It was a fucking gruelling year, filled with dystopian politics, sexual harassment scandals, earth-shattering violent attacks and natural disasters that devastated communities. Exhausted and frazzled, we find ourselves crawling towards the finish line of a truly terrible year.

However, as is often the case in times of misery and suffering, great culture was a balm. In spite of the doom and gloom, 2017 was also filled with incredible art shows, boundary-pushing political fashion, genre-defying music, and countless artists and designers who offered comfort and inspiration. The SLEEK team have selected 30 facets of culture which truly stood out in the shit show that was 2017.

Without further ado: here are 30 things from 2017 which weren’t a total trash fire.

1. GMBH SS18 MENSWEAR SHOW AT PARIS FASHION WEEK

GmbH SS18, Paris Fashion Week
GmbH SS18, Paris Fashion Week. Image: Courtesy of GmbH.

Countless designers have referenced Berlin’s infamous nightlife in their work; however, Berlin-based newbies GmbH have techno in their DNA. Their PFW show on the top floor of the Institut du Monde Arabe was their first time presenting a full collection, and it was definite highlight for coolest kids during the Paris Men’s shows.

Rachael Rodgers, Fashion Editor

2. PAMELA ROSENKRANZ’S “SLIGHT AGITATION” AT FONDAZIONE PRADA IN MILAN

Pamela Rosenkranz, Installation view, “Slight Agitation 2/4: Pamela Rosenkranz”, Fondazione Prada, Milan. Image: courtesy of Fondazione Prada

In essence, “Slight Agitation” was pile of sand, lit with eerie green light and placed inside the elegant surroundings of  the OMA-designed Fondazione Prada. However, as is always the case with Pamela Rosenkranz, it wasn’t as simple as that. The sand had, in fact, been sprayed with cat pheromones. If  (like a good 30 per cent of Europeans) you suffered from the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis, you would feel strangely attracted to the gleaming pile. The artwork was at once conceptual, deeply unsettling and highly Instagrammable — what more could you ask for?

Ira Solomatina, Fashion Editor

3. SUCUK AND BRATWURST

Sucuk und Bratwurst. Image: Courtesy of Sucuk and Bratwurst. Image: Anastasia Muna.

Sucuk and Bratwurst’s work is visually compelling, their website is beyond, and their web shop is filled with exciting objects. These Mainz-based graphic designers blur the boundaries between art and design, creating commercial projects with aesthetic appeal. Their cheeky “Smoking Kills” scarves are our absolutely favourite merch project from 2017.

-Victoria Gisborne-Land, Picture Editor

4. “UNA MUJER FANTASTICA”

“Una Mujer Fantastica” (2017), dir. by Sebastián Lelio. Image: Sony Pictures Classics.

My six-word review of “Una Mujer Fantastica” was: “a beautifully shot onslaught of injustice”. Part of the brilliance of this movie, though, was that the pile-on of injustices never felt hyperbolic, or wrung out for dramatic effect. This is not another drama where the protagonist’s queerness is their downfall. This is a story of a trans woman navigating grief and prejudice in a way that rings uncomfortably and brilliantly true. Daniela Vega’s performance in this film is exceptional, and I am dying to get my hands on that tinsel jacket.

– Eileen McNulty-Holmes, Digital Editor

5. HELMUT LANG SS18 CAMPAIGN BY ETHAN JAMES GREEN

Helmut Lang SS18, by Ethan James Green. Image: Courtesy of Helmut Lang.

Ethan James Green perfectly captured the essence of Shayne Oliver’s first collection for Helmut Lang. The impeccable cast list reads like a list of everyone we want to be friends with — Traci Lords, Alek Wek, Kembra Pfahler and Larry Clark were among the chosen ones who brought this landmark collection to life.

-Rachael Rodgers

6. DONNA HUANCA AT ART BASEL UNLIMITED 

Donna Huanca once again stood out this year with her performance “BLISS (REALITY CHECK)” at Art Basel. Using her acclaimed performance model, Huanca had painted, nude performers respond to her corporal sculptures and sound cues. The work slowly evolved as the sound progressed, with each performance leaving traces paint and debris in its wake. Huanca’s work redefines stillness and tension; her performances are slow and meditative, and enchant the viewer completely. The entire experience was so surreal and beautiful that you began to feel strange for keeping your clothes on.

Sophia Lawler-Dormer, Art Intern

7. RAF SIMONS’ DEBUT FOR CALVIN KLEIN 

Calvin Klein SS18. Image: Courtesy of Calvin Klein & Loews PR.

Although it already seems like he’s been there forever, Raf Simons’ first collection for Calvin Klein was revealed in Februrary 2017 on Valentine’s day – and it was love at first sight. His slick take on Americana has been all over magazine editorials, celebs and saved New York Fashion Week’s dwindling schedule.

– Rachael Rodgers

8. YAEJI

2017 gifted us with dozens of albums and EPs that were truly remarkable, but few feel as innovative and distinct as Yaeji’s “EP” and “EP2”. Her sound blends elements of house, trap and rap; her lyrics touch on everything from the beauty industry to Korean identity. Yaeji’s sonic and lyrical influences are vast, yet each track is also unmistakably hers. Far from sounding like an identity crisis, each track feels like an excavation of a different element of one person’s internal cosmology. Yaeji contains multitudes, and she’s going to be fucking huge.

-Eileen McNulty-Holmes

9. EVEN MAGAZINE

Even 8. Image: Courtesy of Even

Established in 2015, Even’s tagline is “Global perspective on contemporary art and culture”. And it’s the globality which makes Even stand out in the crowded art mag market; all of their stories embrace the globality of art, but also its hyperlocality. Each interview, longread and show review feels like a portal into a hyper-specific time and place, and the writing is uniformly stellar. For a sample on how unique and how contextually situated Even’s stories are, I would highly recommend reading their take on the closure of colette. 10/10.

-Eileen McNulty-Holmes

10. REI KAWAKUBO’S RETROSPECTIVE AT THE MET

“Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” (2017). Image: courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

Rei Kawakubo is paradoxical. If there is a living designer today, whose work pushes the boundaries of fashion, it is the cryptic founder of Comme des Garçons. No round-up of 2017 would be complete without mentioning the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s retrospective that celebrated Kawakubo’s famous lumpy dresses and two-dimensional skirts. With more than 140 designs from Kawakubo’s womenswear collections from the past 30 years, the show explored her seemingly unquenchable thirst for innovation. The exhibition was both visually captivating and intellectually challenging – chanelling exactly what we love about Kawakubo’s oeuvre.

-Ira Solomatina

11. “THE FLORIDA PROJECT” 

“The Florida Project” (2017), dir. by Sean Baker. Image: Cre Film.

“The Florida Project”, from Tangerine director Sean Baker, proved one of the year’s most memorable watches. Every scene was delivered with gut-wrenching humanity and realism. “The Florida Project” follows six-year-old Moonee (the insanely talented Brooklynn Prince) over the course of a long hot summer spent joyously rabble-rousing with her friends in the mauve-infused environs of the Magic Castle motel, where she and her mother Halley (Bria Vinai) reside. But hard times have befallen the adults, and they threaten to burst the carefree bubble in which the young adventurers exist.

-Daisy Woodward, Social Media Editor

12. IB KAMARA’S STYLING FOR BURBERRY

When we say that Ibrahim Kamara, the 27-year old stylist, has managed to disrupt fashion’s status quo this year, we mean it. Kamara’s work explores masculinity, sexuality and race through the medium of fashion. With his DIY approach and mix of cultural references, Kamara creates strikingly beautiful images of modern-day masculinity. In 2017, we were happy to see Kamara going from strength to strength: from his exhibit “2026” at Somerset House (that imagines what men will look like in 10 years) to styling for Sleek’s favourite designer Rushemy Botter, to creating this series of bold looks for Burberry.

-Ira Solomatina

13. SOL CALERO AT HAMBURGER BAHNHOF 

Sol Calero, “Amazonas Shopping Center” (2017). Image: Courtesy of Hamburger Bahnhof

It was hard not to immediately fall in love with Sol Calero’s immersive installation “Amazonas Shopping Center” at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof. Nominated for the Preis Der Nationalgalerie, Calero created a participatory, multi-purpose installation, showcasing a back catalogue of the artist’s work inspired by Latin American culture. Not your typical white cube installation, Calero’s hyper-kitsch, bright and colourful shopping center housed an operational nail salon, a travel agency, a dance studio and a cyber café. Calero plays on the kitsch and stereotypical “tropicalism” of Latin American culture, and reclaims it as a source of identity.

-Sophia Lawler

14. GAL-DEM 

This fierce and forward magazine collective is pioneered by women of colour, and meant for all to read.  Providing a platform for voices traditionally excluded from the conversation, Gal-Dem magazine enlightens the masses one article at a time. The content is thought-provoking, brutally frank, but also funny and moving.

Harriet Shepherd, Junior Editor

15. DONATELLA VERSACE’S RECREATION OF GIANNI’S CATWALK PRESENTATION

Versace SS18. Image: Courtesy of Versace

Dontella’s collection for Versace SS18 paid homage to the iconic work of her late brother Gianni, and the show climaxed with Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Helena Christensen in glittering gold chain mail dresses. Suffice it to say: this show set Instagram on fire.

-Rachael Rodgers

16. LAUNCH OF OMBRA INTERNATIONAL 

Image: courtesy of Ombra International

Berlin-based label Ombra International launched this year, and quickly became the hottest new name of the underground scene. For each EP, Ombra invite four artists from around the world to release a track influenced by their love for post-punk and new wave. Every release so far has fuelled our love for dark disco sounds, and revitalised our love for guitar-heavy tunes made for the dance floor. The visuals are seriously cool, too.

-Rachael Rodgers

17. VESTOJ 

Vestoj Magazine, Issue 7. Image: Courtesy of Vestoj

I can say with confidence that if Vestoj didn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t be working for Sleek. Like many, I was struck down by that lightning rod interview with Lucinda Chambers, in which she revealed even she didn’t read Vogue anymore. For weeks, a single question got lodged in my head: how can we make fashion writing relevant again? It’s a question I’m still wrestling with, but Vestoj are guiding the way.

Eileen McNulty-Holmes

18. ANNE IMHOF’S “FAUST”

Anne Imhof, “Faust” (2017). Image: Nadine Frackzowski.

It’s hard to remember a more divisive or hyped work of art in recent years than Anne Imhof’s Venice Biennale performance “Faust”. In many ways, it makes sense: the heat stroke-inducingly long lines, the Balenciaga models, and the metal music added up to the sort of event some like to pretend to dislike, some like to pretend to like, most want to Instagram, and everyone wants to talk about. Yet in many ways, it was an unlikely contender for IG fodder – let’s not forget this was a multi-stranded silent opera about the persecution of bodies under capital. It was also beautifully complex and staggeringly well-realised. It was an astonishing achievement, even if you didn’t get to make it past the dobermans.

 Charlie Jones, Digital Strategist

19. PRINCESS NOKIA 

Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, the 25-year old rapper better known by her stage name Princess Nokia, is more than just a feminist. She is also an advocate for educating her audience, with speeches that could rival Billy Bragg, but 100% more woke. This year saw her release the deluxe edition of her album, “1992”, as well as embarking on an exhaustive world tour. At her shows, she quite literally creates space for women; she insists on “girls to the front”, with girls of colour especially encouraged to step forward. The result of Princess Nokia’s performance manifesto is an incomparable and totally joyful experience, that has to be seen to be believed.

Victoria Gisborne-Land

20.”THE BOAT IS LEAKING, THE CAPTAIN LIED” AT FONDAZIONE PRADA VENICE

“The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied”, Installation view, Fondazione Prada, Venice, 2017. Image: Courtesy of Fondazione Prada.

Coinciding with Venice Biennale, Fondazione Prada presented a monumental exhibition that unfolded across the three floors of the 18th-century Venetian palace that the Fondazione occupies. The mesmerising  show was a collaboration between photographer Thomas Demand, director Alexander Kluge and set designer Anna Viebrock. Each floor was transformed into a particular scene, with visitors navigating between cosy patios and sombre churches, gallery-like spaces and theatre stages.

-Ira Solomatina

21. JEREMY CORBYN

Backed by the majority of the UK’s grime scene and recently papped with Larry Heard, Corbz is UK’s absolutely favourite geezer. What truly won the hearts of the masses is his humble approach to life and his slogan: “For the many, not the few”. When others thought he would crumble he stood firm and held his ground!

-Harriet Shepherd

22. OLDER FEMALE ARTISTS GETTING THEIR DUES 

Phyllida Barlow, Installation view, folly, British Pavilion, Venice, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the British Pavillion

In 2017, work by older female artists finally took centre stage. Geta Bratescu and Phyllida Barlow represented Romania and the UK respectively at this year’s Venice Biennale, while Frieze’s “Sex Work” section highlighted the remarkable work of Natalia LL, Betty Tompkins and personal favourite Dorothy Iannone. This previously marginalised generation of female artists is finally receiving their dues — we can only hope more marginalised voices are finally heard in 2018.

-Eileen McNulty-Holmes

23. CONGLOMERATE.TV  

“Desde el Jardin”. Image: Courtesy of Conglomerate.

Berlin-based collective Conglomerate.tv was founded in 2016, but it was in 2017 that the collective made their strongest artistic statement up to date – the hilarious video “Block Three”. Structured as an episode of an imaginary TV show, the 30-minute video features  contributions from Sleek favourite Melanie Bonajo, Joe Clark, Claudia Comte Soda Plains, Ming Wong, Lauryn Youden and Camp Solong. Conglomerate.tv are making art fun again!

Victoria Gisborne-Land

24. KELELA’S “TEAR ME APART” 

Wu Tsang, Under Cinema, 2017. Installation view: Under Cinema at FACT, UK. Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin. Image: Jon Barraclough

Kelela’s “Take Me Apart” has filled the hole in our heart which was yearning for truly innovative RnB in 2017. This album never pretends to be 20 years old; rather, it reinvents what RnB means. The 14-track debut draws influence from heroes like Janet Jackson and Bjork, and blends electronic and jazz elements. Contemporary masters like Arca and Jam City contributed, too. The result is a beautifully curated album that explores all aspects of womanhood: from fragility to the female strength.

Sophia Lawler

25. “I BULLSHITTED MY WAY TO THE TOP OF PARIS FASHION WEEK” BY OOBAH BUTLER 

Friday {? @jake_photo}

A post shared by @ oobahs on

Vice journalist and everyone’s guilty pleasure Oobah Butler was on fire this year. In 2017 alone, he turned his shed into London’s top rated restaurant, roamed the streets of London dressed as a fidget spinner, and shown us how to hack life better than ever before. But his true 2017 masterpiece was bullshitting his way into Paris Fashion Week under the pretence of being non-existent designer, Giorgio Peviani, THE name of London’s market-stall jeans. Butler proved once and for all that anyone can make it to the top — all you need is unshakeable confidence and an influencer whose fame you can piggyback off.

Harriet Shepherd

26. YOUNG THUG’S “WYCLEF JEAN” VIDEO

Signe Pierce called this video an example of “reality art.” I’m not 100% sure what that means, but it’s a masterpiece either way!

-Charlie Jones

27. “WE, MARGIELA” 

“We, Margiela”(2017), dir. by Menna Laura Meijer. Image: mintfilm

Martin Margiela, the founder of the legendary eponymous brand, never tired of stressing that his label would be nothing if not for the work of his team. However, what was going on inside the avant-garde fashion house was as shrouded in mystery as Margiela himself. The new documentary, narrated by the designer’s long-time collaborators, gives us a glimpse into Margiela’s mysterious laboratory. With many of Margiela’s co-workers interviewed for the first time, expect to be surprised, delighted and genuinely moved.

-Ira Solomatina

28. SHON FAYE 

Shon Faye is the public intellectual the world didn’t deserve in 2017. In a year where trans rights have been attacked with vicious fervour, Faye’s commentary in her work and on her Twitter has been as funny as it is enlightening. This blend of humour and eloquence was crystallised in “Catechism”, her short film which was shown at the Tate as part of Channel 4’s Random Acts series. Her monologue on the injustices she’s faced navigating the world as a trans woman will break your heart — but it will make you laugh out loud, too.

-Eileen McNulty-Holmes

29. THE ORIGINAL WEINSTEIN BOMBSHELL ARTICLE

Harvey Weinstein. Image: Anders Krusberg

On October 5th, in a report by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, The New York Times revealed multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. This article led to the resignation of the Weinstein Company’s all-male board, and to Weinstein’s firing. But that was only a start to a wider and complex discourse on sexual assault that ensued. A true watershed, the article which broke Weinstein scandal has re-defined the whole media discourse on sexual abuse.

-Charlie Jones

30. NOVEMBRE MAGAZINE 

3D story by Ada Sokol & Jeanne-Salomé Rochat. Image: Courtesy of Novembre Magazine

Novembre’s biannual is a language-free manifesto, which encourages us to think better through image. Now 12 issues old, the Swiss-born, now-nomadic collective’s editions continue to stretch the possibilities of magazines, and even the idea of an image itself. Compelling beyond words.

-Charlie Jones

 

 

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