Perennial Gloss whipping boy Tyler Shields took some shit this week when he released images of his girlfriend Francesca Eastwood gleefully destroying an Hermes Birkin bag–not a regular old $10,000 Birkin, though, a $100,000 Birkin VS in red crocodile. It’s bad enough that such a thing exists, but Shields had to go and purchase one (out of pocket, he claims) and set it on fire.
In the wake of the internet criticism (and death threats), Shields sat down with ArtInfo and explained himself a little. He did it because, uh, something about destruction and freedom and other concepts he doesn’t really explore. But chainsaws!
Anyway, what’s more interesting than that nonsensical explanation is his response to the criticism that it was an act of repulsive excess:
AI: Many critics have commented that the photo shoot was insensitive to those in financial need. What do you have to say about that?
TS: I think if people are [upset] because I spent money on a photo shoot, then they should be upset about every single photo shoot that takes place ever. A $100,000 photo shoot, actually — Paris Hilton spent $200,000 on her album cover. The catering budget for the movie “John Carter” was $5 million. It takes money to make art. People spend money to make their work. If I was operating a McDonald’s, would people be upset because I bought inventory? How many people buy sports cars? How many people buy watches? What if I bought a $100,000 car and I crashed it? I’m not taking anything away from anybody else. That’s the thing, somebody wrote me an email, and she was very upset, and she was like, “How could you do this? You should have given that money to me.”
I was very poor just like six years ago, I had $11 and nobody gave me any money. Nobody just handed me anything. I had to fight for it. I had to work to get what I have. That’s the thing about the country that we live in. You can dream anything you want, and if you’re willing to work hard enough, you can get it.
I support a lot of people. I help a lot of charities. I do a lot of things and when people want to attack me like that, it’s laughable.
There’s a cogent point or two in there, but it’s all overwhelmed by Shields’ pathological certainty that what he’s doing is art. The interviewer picks up on this seeming absurdity:
AI: Why do you consider this to be a work of art?
TS: Why wouldn’t I? It’s what I do. I like to create things. I did this completely for myself because this is what I wanted to do. To me, that’s what it is.
It would appear that Shields just suggested art is “doing things for yourself because you want to do them.” At the risk of continuing to be a complete asshole about the fashion industry’s ridiculous misuse of the word “art,” this definition is… lacking. Of course, by Shields’ reasoning, if we were to give him a wedgie, that’d be art, too.
Further, if we were to take a picture of a Terry Richardson photograph, we’d be Tyler Shields.
As for the bag, what’s left of it is “bolted to a table” in his basement.