Silk Scarves of Massif Central
Massif Central is a New York based company that works directly with artists to produce limited edition silk scarves. Earlier in 2015, Massif Central exhibited designs on silk from ten different artists; Joshua Abelow, Ellen Berkenblit, Julia Dault, Peter Halley, Chris Lux, Chris Martin, Keegan McHargue, William J. O’Brien, Tal R, and Jonas Wood, at the Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago. I recently interviewed the founder and artist behind Massif Central, Tessa Perutz, about her work and the exhibition:
Tell me about yourself and your brand.
My name is Tessa Perutz, and Massif Central is my Brooklyn-based company that produces limited edition silk scarves by contemporary artists. Our name, Massif Central, comes from the mountain range in France where the art of French silk scarf-making originated. We have produced scarves with 10 different artists, always in editions of 50, and we are moving into new, exciting territory soon with one-of-a-kind, unique pieces.
I have always dreamed of being able to take the most fantastic artworks out of the gallery and museum context and onto the body and beyond, as a way to embrace those works physically. I wanted to translate something formal and flat into something luxuriously tactile and luscious to the touch. There is a terrific history of silk scarves by artists, but not many fabulous ones have been produced in recent years. I want to continue in that tradition with a special modern touch to it.
Lets talk about curation. How do you make the decisions surrounding who you work with or when? Is it an idea of framing a narrative for each collection or is it a more reactive process?
In terms of my curatorial process, it really grew organically, starting out with a group of close friends. I remember asking Joshua Abelow first, and with his enthusiasm I felt I could reach further. Our first collection was very well received and so with the second collection I asked some of my all-time favorite artists, whose work I have been following for 5 to 10 years. I am completely dedicated to the artists I work with. I wholly believe in what they represent, and my passion for the business grows when I see their growth, too. It’s a fantastic, symbiotic relationship! When people ask about the company, I tend to say “we” instead of “I” because at this point it has been, and continues to be, a truly collaborative effort. I have so much admiration and respect for the artists I work with.
Is there an ideal display for these scarves? Do you imagine them on the wall or on the body?
Affordability and accessibility are both important principles and concepts that I am constantly re-evaluating and re-integrating into my business model. My collectors include such a wide variety of people; I love that and I don’t want that to change! Many of the people who purchase the scarves are not in the position to afford a painting or drawing by the artists I work with, and the scarves allow access to these artists. There is a wonderful balancing act here, and I love the way it questions how we value art objects.
How do you balance your own painting practice with the demands of collaboration and distribution?
This is not easy! Beyond the daily managing of different aspects of the business, living in NYC presents its own constant stream of intricacies and complexities that I have to navigate. There are always tons of great art openings, parties, gatherings of different sorts, and it is so important to find a balance between socializing and introspection. I am a painter myself, and I am very mindful of the amount of time I give to my own practice versus my business. I am so lucky to be growing at a great pace, but sometimes I have to shift my gears down a little bit and refocus on my own work. Luckily I am in no rush, and I am happy to move and groove at my own speed.
What are some of your favorite artists’ scarves?
Oh my heavens, I totally and utterly lust for the Sol Lewitt scarves put out by Louis Vuitton in my birth year, 1988, especially Undertow and The Earth is Round.
Who are your top three artists, living or dead, with whom you would like to make scarves?
I can name five! Patrick Caulfield, Emma Kunz, Per Kirkeby, Richard Hamilton, Robert Mangold.
Where do you see your brand going in the next 4-5 years?
There is much to be done! I would like to continue exhibiting the scarves in galleries, particularly internationally. Thus far we have had gallery exhibitions in New York, Chicago, Paris, and Portland, OR. I would love to show in Asia, Brazil, and beyond, to a greater foreign market. We recently started stocking the scarves at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in NYC. I am working on developing other exclusive relationships with museums and top-notch retailers. Dover Street Market is a serious dream spot, I love what they do. I am also starting a new phase in the business, with unique scarves. Artists will be producing one-of-a-kind artworks on silk, using a wide variety of media.
How did your Andrew Rafacz show come about? As a commercial art gallerist, it would be interesting to see how he and his team respond to your brand.
Andrew and I have known one another for about 5 years. I organized a silent auction benefit in 2010 to raise funds for Haitian earthquake relief, and a few artists on his program donated works for that show. I always see his exhibitions when I am back home in Chicago, and one day we got to chatting, and we came up with the idea to do a show together. It was a great experience. He has fantastic taste and all-around good energy.
I understand that there are fairly limited editions of these scarves. If another scarf is sold out are you interested in doing reprints? Is this a possibility you would explore and if so, would it require a conversation of the artist behind the painting?
Each image is produced in a limited edition of 50 scarves for public sale and no reprints will be issued.