The Art of the Scarf


We interview Brooklyn-based artist Tessa Perutz about Massif Central, a company she founded that produces a line of contemporary art scarves featuring artists such as Tal R, Jonas Wood, Keegan McHargue, and Joshua Abelow.


When/Why did you start Massif Central?

MC was officially launched in April 2014 but it had been a work in progress for a year before that. I have always been interested in the artist’s relationship to society’s common landscape (ie: fashion, urban design, furniture, etc). I wanted to ask artists to reflect upon their 2-D practice and envision their works in a more fluid manner, specifically in relation to adorning the body. I wanted to give a real physical and tactile space for these wonderful works of art to exist. We are so privileged in modern society to be able to see and experience such phenomenal art up close, but we are almost never physically involved in the works, especially paintings. I wanted to get as close to that experience as possible, actually “feeling” these works.


What was the reason behind choosing the scarf as a display medium?

There is a terrific history of artist-designed limited edition silk scarves. What I revere very highly as elegant and cutting edge (at the time) silk pieces are Ascher Squares. This company was founded in the 1940s by a Czech couple, Zika and Lida Ascher, who moved to London and created some of the most absolutely brilliant scarves by artists. I’m talking Picasso, Matisse, the true greats. And the superior quality is reflected in the high prices they reach at auction nowadays. Since then, there have been a number of companies that have done this, but they have mostly been flashy high-end fashion brands. I mean, I am an artist and I am totally obsessed by art and all the interweavings that go along with it (pun intended). I wanted to start my own company, by my own rules, working with my favorite artists to create beautiful and long-lasting editions that challenge fashion and collecting but also add to this great history of artist’s scarves.

Chris Lux, The Witch, The Black Cat, and The Floating Cloth (after Paul-Élie Ranson) (SAF)

How do you select the artists involved?

The first collection included works by four artist friends. These were very well received and that success made me feel like I could reach farther and wider on my second collection. For Autumn/Winter 2014 I asked some of my all-time favorite artists to make works, and I was beyond delighted when they accepted my proposal. Massif Central is a single-person operation, I do everything on my own; so I can only work with a small, very select number of artists at a time. I aim to include super-talented visionaries who all have prolific outputs, who are each at different points in their career, and who show their work internationally in galleries, museums, and art fairs.

Joshua Abelow, Self-Portrait

Can you explain the collaborative process? Do you give input as to what would work and what wouldn’t, or are the artists given free rein?

The collaborative process has been different for every artist I have worked with, and that has been a really fascinating and wonderful experience. I have learned so much about how artists view and manage their creative process. Joshua Abelow, who is a dear friend, gave me the freedom to choose any painting of his that I wanted, and I looked through a seriously extensive database of paintings to find the one I wanted to realize as a scarf. A few artists have altered existing works that have, in their editing, then become new pieces. One artist made me an original work for the project. On other occasions the artist’s gallery has chosen the image. I am really quite flexible and I realize there are no boundaries as to what might work, so I have welcomed each and every artist’s vision as an exciting and unique contribution to an ever-growing collection of wondrous silk creations.

Keegan McHargue, Colony – Border – Town

While the scarves are wearable, you’ve displayed some in frames. Are people collecting scarfs the way they would collect prints?

I have truly loved seeing how everyone admires their MC scarf, it’s been such a positive affirmation seeing how much people cherish them! Some collectors have bought two so they could frame one and wear one, which creates an intriguing mirroring effect between how the scarves are worn on that person’s body versus how they are exhibited in their home. Some have gotten the large ones framed, which shows they must seriously adore them because framing a 51×51 inch scarf can cost more than 3 times the price of the actual scarf! I think people are beginning to understand the ever-growing market for artist’s multiples, and really starting to feel like they can be included in collecting art, I am happy I can contribute to that confidence, it’s great!

Jonas Wood, Untitled (Drawing Rally)

What’s been your most popular so far?
Our Jonas Wood scarves have been a real wild success, beyond what I could have imagined! Our first edition with him sold out in a few days, and I’ve only got a few of the new ones left.

Visit Massif Central for more on purchasing

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