Malcolm McLaren is Dead

Somewhere in this very messy office is a slim catalogue for a show I saw at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in 1988. The show was called Impresario: Malcolm McLaren & The British New Wave and it presented all of McLaren’s work — from early art school paintings to bondage trousers to videos for his albums.

An impresario is a person who organises and often finances concerts, plays or concerts. The thing about the show was this: it presented the impresario as the hand the holds the brush as it were. And that everything the McLaren produced — from selling clothes to managing Rock and Roll bands — art. Through his participation in the Situationist Politics it all made sense.

Still its difficult for most to characterize McLaren as an artist. News stories about his death yesterday from cancer sum up his contributions to the world as “impresario, self-publicist and former manager of the Sex Pistols.” Maybe it’s because he also dabbled in films and music. But I have no problem in calling him an artist. His message may have been Malcolm McLaren, and sub culture was his medium. Foe a good twenty year run, he was able to intuit the next big “little” thing — people have been pointing all day that his “Deep In Vogue” came out a year before Madonna’s “Vogue.”)

It’s equally tricky to eulogize the man. As Andrew said, “I think that tributes would bore him.” And most of the blog comments I read after hearing about the news went something like this: “RIP and Fuck You.”

McLaren’s influence on fashion is also legend. With Vivienne Westwood, he ran the shops Sex, Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die and Seditionaries. Westwood dressed the bands he managed. And those bands begat ripped and safety pinned clothes, the pirate look and the androgynous Culture Club style. He also lived with iconic model Lauren Hutton for four years.

So perhaps the best tribute would be to bust out my “Buffalo Girls” look or wear my black tights and throw some shade.