Fact of the matter is, classical fine art is simply too outdated to be relatable to today's Pokémon-catching, celebrity-obsessing, consumerism-driven general public. Luckily though, Instagram account @copylab has bridged the gap between these two worlds by incorporating references to pop culture and fashion into classic pieces of art. And while the account's antics have been documented in the past, we hadn't heard from Chris Rellas, the 21-year-old mastermind behind all this, for a second. As such, PAPER caught up with Rellas for a quick check-in to discuss how it all started, working with Gucci and a potential future for the social media handle. Check out our Q&A alongside a few of @copylab's greatest hits below.
"Girl with a Chanel Earring" Original: Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer
So who is the mastermind behind @copylab? Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm originally from San Diego, California. It's a city with a lot of laid-back, beach influence. I spent the last year in Paris studying, and now working at [a boutique called] Colette. I'm also graduating from Georgetown University next Spring. I've been inspired by fashion for as long as I can remember.
What ignited this fire to add fashion and pop culture references to classic pieces of art? Is there a particular purpose or meaning to your work?
I'm an art history major, and my main interests are in modern and postmodern art, so the idea of mixing high and low, and old and new are really compelling to me. Specifically, though, I thought of CopyLab while interning at Nasty Gal. I was looking at denim ads and simultaneously scrolling through a favorite art blog when the idea to bring the two together hit me.
Any cool opportunities that have come from this?
Since its inception, I've had the chance to work with Gucci, Vogue, Calvin Klein, Anya Hindmarch, Moda Operandi, Steve Madden, and most recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most of the collaborations I've done have given me full creative license. That said, each brand and publication have their own aesthetic, and it can be challenging to identify what those fundamental values are. I enjoy the process of identifying a designer's signature elements and I put a lot of thought into honoring them. I like to think that's one of the reasons that people continue to feel excited about CopyLab.
So clearly, you already have some collaborations under your belt, who would be your dream collaborator to work with?
There are so many people and brands I would love to work with. I think Chloe Wise is an amazing artist and creative, so I would love to work with her at some point. I'd like to collaborate with houses like Cartier or Louis Vuitton, and I'm excited about emerging designers like GucciGhost, Code-K, and Mathias Brochorst... There's so much talent out there right now!
Can you list three of your favorite artists and three of your favorite fashion labels?
Chloe Wise, Zio Ziegler and KAWS. I love everything that J.W. Anderson creates, and right now I'm also into Gosha Rubchinskiy and Damir Doma.
Have you thought about a next step for @copylab or for yourself?
There's so much that fascinates me, but I definitely want to work in fashion. Ideally I'd love to do something creative with a few close, like-minded individuals... Whether that's a retail concept, a magazine, or something digital, who knows?