Nicola Costantino is known throughout South America for her extraordinary garments for women, subtly decorated with elements moulded from parts of the human body. Her fascination with fashion, flesh and fetish has led to a body of work that is both beautiful and controversial.

Coat (12K) Human Furrier 1995-99, silicon human skin, human hair

These dresses arouse varying degrees of curiosity and bemusement depending on the environment in which they are displayed. Shown in both fashion and art contexts, their function shifts according to the systems and conventions inherent in these different worlds. When they appeared on the cover of Esquire and in the window of Lewis' Department Store in Liverpool, they were often mistaken for the work of a fashion designer.Coat (32K) Human Furrier 1995-99, silicon human skin, human hair When shown at the Ruth Benzacar Galeria de Arte, Buenos Aires, or the XXIV São Paulo Biennial, the perception of their aesthetic altered drastically. Viewers were uncertain whether they were looking at haute couture or artworks.

Costantino's beautifully crafted costumes are made of beige silicon which imitates human or animal skin.
Detail (15K) Worn by elegant mannequins, their softness and fleshy colour evoke feminine sexuality. This illusion of real skin arouses the desire to caress and touch. But like gazing at sensuous supermodels on catwalks, it must remain a visual seduction.

StraplessBra or corset (28K) Human Furrier, 1999, silicon human skin, masculine nipplesOn closer inspection, we are astonished to find that the flesh, which appears so real, is fake. Moulded on the delicate surface are a series of nipples, navels and anuses, along with human hair.

Shoes, Human Furrier, 1999

This fleshy outer skin, decorated with casts of human erogenous zones, covers the real body of the wearers, touching a nerve that triggers all kinds of associations relating to fetish, fear and infatuation. The women who wear these garments can be seen as seductive bait, waiting to be consumed. But they can also be interpreted as predators, ready to devour. The small squares of `skin', neatly sewn to display breasts and sphincters, bring to mind the obsessive acts of serial killers who collect human bits and pieces as trophies. One might even say that Costantino's dresses are metaphors for fashion as a form of cannibalism.ShoesHandbag (48K)

Camouflage and disguise - and by implication, clothes, make-up and jewellery - have the power to transform our perception of reality. While Costantino's skin-toned fabrics signify attraction, seduction and the politics of pleasure, they also make us aware of the innate human instinct to dominate, manipulate and control.   Apinan Poshyananda First published in Fresh Cream, Phaidon, 2000

Link to the artist's web site

Nicola Costantino   Born in Rosario, Argentina. Lives and works in Buenos Aires
Selected Solo Exhibitions: 1989 Italian Immigration Committee Rosario 1990 Latin-American Art Museum of Maldonado, Uruguay 1993 Museum Juan B. Castagnino, Rosario; Casa de Catalonia, Buenos Aires 1998 Ruth Benzacar Galeria de Arte, Bun Aires 1999 Parque de Espana, Rosario 2000 Deitch Projects, New York
Selected Group Exhibitions 1995 `Women's Games', Museum Juan B. Castagnino, Rosario; `Imaginary Beings', Exit Art, York 1996 `Core Exhibition', The Glassel School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 1998 Sâo Paulo Biennial 1999 Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art
Selected Bibliography: 1996 C Basualdo, 'Arte Contemporaneo en Argentina: Nicola Costantino', Magazine Nuevo Estilo, 18; David Pagel, 'Do It Yourself World-Making', Core Exhibition, Houston: Museum of Fine Arts 1998, Ed Shaw `Further Adventures in the Skin Trade', Nicola Costantino: Peleteria con Piel Humana, São Paulo: Bienal de São Paulo; Carlos Basualdo, `Carnal Appearances', Nicola Costantino: Peleteria con Humans, São Paulo: Bienal de São Paulo, 1999 Tony Bond, `Nicola Costantino', Trace: First Liverpool Biennale of Contemporary Art, Liverpool: Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art; Edward Leffingwell, `Report from São Paulo: Cannibals All', Art in America, May; Marcelo Pacheco, `Nicola Costantino, sombre chanchos y otros bichos', Atalantica, 21; Laura Batkis, 'Nicola Costantiino', Lapiz, 148; Rosa Olivares, `Con los cino sentidos', Lapiz, 149-150