‘A Dream Situation’: Richard Hawkins on his Loewe Collaboration

The artist talks creative freedom in the label’s A/W 2024 menswear collection, perfecting the ‘horny-old-man zoom’, and putting Manu Rios in a monkey cage

BY Richard Hawkins AND Andrew Durbin in Interviews | 01 FEB 24

In January, Los Angeles-based artist Richard Hawkins collaborated with Loewe on their Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection. The clothing and runway presentation incorporated Hawkins’s paintings and videos of diabolically pretty young men – a signature subject for this artist whose celebrated career has spanned decades. On the afternoon before the show, I sat down with Hawkins to speak about how his work with Loewe challenged and changed him.

Andrew Durbin How did this collaboration with Loewe begin?

Richard Hawkins It was a dream situation. I thought they’d be like the huge corporation they obviously are, that they would just give me cents on the dollar for my most iconic stuff, and I’d never hear from them again. But from the first call with Jonathan Anderson and his team, I realized they knew much more about my work than I expected and were offering me just … carte blanche. I asked for photoshoots to manipulate, and they basically handed over their shirtless brand ambassadors.

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Loewe Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection. Courtesy: LOEWE

AD Now that it’s over, do you think it’s work that might feed back into your practice in some way? I think of you as an artist who recycles – so, I guess, I’m curious what happens after a major moment like this.

RH I didn’t realize how major it was until I was sitting between Kit O’Connor and Manu Rios during the runway show, staring across at the cast of Challengers. I usually really only make videos for myself and a few friends, so I doubt if it’s a new career direction. I might hold on to some of the crappy-app AI though.  

AD How might you reuse it?

RH I might use some of the AI script that went in to generating the collages that are the sources for the paintings I made, but I need to start driving the figures away from their mostly copyright-infringing sources. It’s tricky though, the AI seems bent on distorting the cute out of a face. It reminded me of running little 72dpi jpegs of Matt Dillon through that brand new program Photoshop in the 1990s. Ugly was easy, keeping it attractive was the hard part. 

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Backstage at Loewe Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection Courtesy: LOEWE; photograph: Molly Lowe

AD I love that generation of early internet porn where users cropped celebrity heads onto nude bodies, but it was always so crude – you could really see the seams, and the object of fixation was a mash of two decapitated figures. AI smooths that out, but I feel that you’re the kind of person who really likes to see the seam. 

RH Somewhere in the files I have the first Marky Mark dickpic which went out over fax! But yeah, even in the face of deepfake celebrity fucking, there’s still something great about those masturbating photoshoppers who don’t care that Justin Bieber’s head does not fit exactly on Cody Seiya’s body. They kind of expose the compromises and substitutions that desperate desire is willing to make.

AD It resembles the past. I was just rereading Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts (2004) and thinking about how technology stimulates desire through these phantoms and simulations.

RH The Goncourt brothers say that ‘the true horror of nature consists in sincerely preferring paintings to countrysides, and preserves to real fruit.’ The real, aside from being less satisfying, might also be far too complicated.

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Backstage at Loewe Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection Courtesy: LOEWE; photograph: Molly Lowe

AD Thinking about these fantasies, I want to return to your collaboration with Loewe. You aren’t the first artist or artist’s estates they’ve worked with – we could mention Paul Thek and David Wojnarowicz, for example – but something about your work is usually subversive. I’m wondering if you worried whether the label might neutralize some of your themes.

RH For the videos I made for the show there were some negotiations around whether I could depict, and zoom in on, nipples and buttcracks, etc. But nothing major or deal-breakery. I don’t think Loewe has collaborated with an artist to the extent that they are with me, so I can’t really say. With Thek and Wojnarowicz, to whom I’d add Guibert and Platt-Lynes, that was through the Loewe Foundation who act as funders and promoters rather than collaborators or licensors. 

But neutralize, I’m not sure. Sneaking porn in was obviously no-go but they were thankfully quite permissive with rampant insinuation, and what I’m now going to call the horny-old-man zoom. 

AD Ever since your show Hotel Suicide at Greene Naftali in 2018, I’ve thought about how your works possess this unnerving hint of threat. I suppose what I mean is, for a brand that sells luxury products, how does it address itself to some of the more challenging aspects of your paintings.

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Loewe Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection. Courtesy: LOEWE

RH Well, the videos do show Manu Rios in a monkey cage with his severed head on a stick … but that was just for the runway show. I don’t really mind if that aspect of my work doesn’t make it very far out of the Western world. Or East Texas for that matter.

AD That’s what’s so interesting. Their audience is so not your audience. They have to universalize something that you’re deliberately not universalizing.

RH Hmm, yeah the audience. Well, certainly with the bulging knit nipples and bushy yarn armpits, Jonathan made sure to leave in – if not totally overly emphasize – the faggot aspects of the work. But the question of universalizing reminds me of an apparently ever-growing phenomenon – K-Pop fans who don’t know a word of Korean.

Main image: Loewe Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection. Courtesy: LOEWE

Richard Hawkins is an artist based in Los Angeles. He currently serves as Professor of Painting & Drawing at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Andrew Durbin is the editor-in-chief of frieze. He lives in London, UK.