You don’t have to convince me that fashion is art, and it seems more and more museums are hoping on the fashion band-wagon, to much fanfare and, well, profit. Though there are always heated discussions over where design ends and art begins, costume and clothing design has been making its way into our most prestigious museums over the past few years and with remarkable response.
I was lucky enough to get to experience a number of these exhibitions firsthand over the past year. First, the American Woman exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, was interesting…until it wasn’t. You can read my review at the link below, but to keep it short, the exhibition was awesome, spellbinding and fascinating until it just ended suddenly. And worse, it ended to the tune of one of the most obnoxious tunes every to be remade – American Woman performed by Lenny Kravitz. While the whole of the exhibition itself wasn’t as sallow and formulaic as the song, the conclusion of it was equally as depressing with no mention of the such important eras in women’s fashion as the 60′s ‘hippie’, the 50′s ‘poodle skirt’, the 70′s ‘disco’ and 80′s ‘powersuit’. How the hell can you do an exhibition on women’s fashion in America without mentioning these things!? Lame.
Of course, NYC isn’t the only place concerned with fashion as art: my very own Boston Museum of Fine Art acquired a couturier collection by Arnold Scassi. In it are such works worn by Barbra Streisand, Diahann Carroll, Mary Tyler Moore, and Elizabeth Taylor; and First Ladies Barbara and Laura Bush. His work has always been synonymous with luxurious materials, exuberant color, and refined silhouettes; while the collection is, shall we say, intimate, it is powerful and exciting nonetheless.
Now, with more and more fashion designers and houses doing costume work for film and stage, the two worlds of art and design are colliding, melding and working together for mutual benefit. Most notably, Rodarte’s work in the Oscar winning Black Swan. Anyone who has seen the movie can recognize the power of the costumes – delicate details are matched with hard, rough edges to personify the struggle of the swan and the human character becoming it. They are as sculptural as they are functional, and themselves tell a story. And, I mean, they are fucking beautiful. So there’s that. These costumes are now on view at the LA MoCA and the show is getting rave reviews – if you are in the area and get a chance to see the show, let us know!
Coming up in May, the Met Museum will continue their tradition of celebrating fashion as art with the much anticipated Alexander McQueen exhibition, which will feature the brilliant artist’s work from the past two decades. While this show could have and absolutely would have been a success in every regard, it stands to be a blockbuster of a show in both quality of work and public interest. Since the designer’s suicide only months ago, even us plebs are left with a lingering sense of dread that fashion and art will be hindered without this mind working behind it. Thankfully, this exhibition will further imortalize the designer as a visionary, an artist and inarguably one of the best designers, ever. Period.
The show will feature notable works of the past 20 years, private designs of Isabella Blow (late confidant of the late designer), items from McQueen’s tenure at Givenchy and will also acknowledge the fucking insanity that was his runway show (um, Kate Moss hologram? Walking down the runway with wolves? Hosing down a model with paint?). This is an exhibition to travel for.
All in all, I’m pretty excited to see so much fashion making it’s way to museums. Most designers don’t deserve the title of ‘artist’ (sorry, JJill, you don’t make the cut) but those who are breaking barriers, kicking ass and taking names? Well, I’ll pay just to look at their clothes – especially since I probably can’t afford them.