NEW YORK — Lady Gaga has been accused of ripping off performance artist Leigh Bowery’s costumes, Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier bodysuit, and the late Isabella Blow’s outrageous hats. Now downtown New York multimedia artist Colette, who had her pieces shown at the Guggenheim and MOCA L.A. in the '90s, is saying the pop star appropriated her environment installations (one is pictured at left) for the Boudoir window that’s part of Gaga’s Workshop at Barneys.
Colette’s friend Josh Gilbert shot a video, “Looking for Lady Gaga,” claiming that Gaga’s window display “has legendary multi-media performance artist Colette's notorious creations written all over it.”
“I get 20 million phone calls and emails about that window at Barneys,” Colette says in the video. “But … nobody’s doing something about it, so I have to take charge.” (Colette explained to ARTINFO that while she agreed to be filmed by Gilbert, she didn’t know he was taping her in the car when she said that.)
Gaga’s Boudoir and Colette’s environments do share a color palette, some textures, and similar furnishings. And then there are the window settings, Victorian theme, and lounging females. “One of my signatures is to have a total environment of which I'm part of, usually reclining, sometimes nude,” Colette told us.
Colette admits one notable difference — whoever decorated Gaga’s Boudoir used hair, instead of the silk and satin ruching Colette deployed to cover the walls and ceilings of her works. Not that the artist sees it as an improvement. “Hair is not that most sensuous thing,” she says.
Several of Colette’s supporters have commented on the video’s Vimeo page, including Jim Fouratt, who wrote: “Who ever [sic] did this work for GaGa [sic] should have at a minimune [sic] give an attribution to Colette.”
Others are more skeptical. “Colette could argue that Gaga derived her design from Colette's original arrangement,” wrote a commenter on the Cut. “However it is kinda a long shot...”
In any case, Colette’s not bitter. “I look at [Gaga] more as a daughter or a descendent than as an enemy or competitor,” she says. “I understand her. I respect her.” However, she does wish that the workshop producers went to her to create the Boudoir. “Lady Gaga for whatever reason did not call me to do that window,” said Colette. “I find that very sad. Maybe she knows me, maybe she doesn't. I cannot blame her. I wish she would get to know me. I think she would love what I do.”
This isn’t the first time a pop star has found inspiration in Colette’s work. The artist says Madonna lifted the sepia tones and her scantily-dressed style from her 1979 “Beautiful Dreamer” LP for 1984’s “Like a Virgin” cover (both pictured above left), which was conceptualized by the stylist who worked with Fiorucci when Colette did a window display for the fashion brand in 1978.
Colette also claims her work caught the eye of a few legendary artists. The artist says that Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were influenced by her street art. She even says she did transformation and self-portraits before Cindy Sherman. “I started what Cindy Sherman got credit for as well,” said Colette.
Speaking of Sherman and Madonna, Colette has an idea for how Lady Gaga could pay her back. “Maybe she could give me a show at the MoMA, the way Madonna did with Cindy Sherman,” Colette suggests. “Maybe she can sponsor that, and a catalogue, too. That would be a very honorable thing to do.”