Pret Reporteur: Fashion On Display

August 29, 2011 • Magazine, Pret Reporteur

The record-crushing success of the Met’s Alexander McQueen exhibit is proof of fashion’s powerful impact in a museum setting. Although the exhibit has now been taken down and those two and half hour long lines have subsided, there are lots of incredible fashion exhibitions cropping up on the horizon — everything from the first international exhibition of Jean Paul Gaultier’s work in Toronto, to Daphne Guinness’ personal wardrobe at FIT, to Japanese kimonos in Chicago.

1. FIT: “Daphne Guinness”
Daphne Guinness is, unquestionably, one of the most sartorially innovative women in the world. To call her “fashionable” seems trite. “Daphne is one of – if not the – most stylish women living,” Tom Ford has said. In a rare approach towards fashion exhibition — one in which it is not the designer on display, but an individual’s wardrobe —  FIT is producing their “Daphne Guinness” exhibition, which features approximately 100 garments and accessories from Guinness’s personal collection, plus films, videos, and images, of and by her,” according to the museum’s website. Not only did Guinness co-curate this exhibit but the space’s design will be inspired by her own apartment. Could you ask for anything more? “Daphne Guinness” runs September 16 — January 7, 2012. There are also three dates set aside for free tours of the exhibition led by museum director, Valerie Steele. Visit the website for more info.

2. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.”
Our friends up north like fashion too, and, inspired by one of their French counterparts, the Montreal Museum of Arts is currently running an exhibition of Jean Paul Gaultier’s clothing entitled: “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.” Including over 140 ensembles and resources depicting Gaultier’s iconic career, the exhibition is described as “particularly innovative in the theatrical mise en scène and multimedia approach provided by UBU/Compagnie de création’s animated mannequins.” Despite Gaultier’s historic success in the fashion industry, this is the first international exhibition dedicated to his work. It only runs until October 2, though, so if you’re a Gaultier fan it’s time to get your passport ready. Head on over to the website for more info and to see some incredible photos from the exhibit.

3. Art Institute of Chicago: “Japanese Kimono, 1915 – 1940: From Tradition to Ready-to-Wear”
Did you know that there were ready-to-wear kimonos? I certainly didn’t. But I was absolutely delighted to stumble upon an exhibition in the basement of the Art Institute of Chicago featuring both traditional and ready-to-wear kimonos from 1915 — 1940. An intriguing entree into a cultural fashion that is more than a bit obscure here on the Western Hemisphere, AIC’s exhibit, “Japanese Kimono, 1915 – 1940: From Tradition to Ready-to-Wear,” is a beautifully curated journey through the history of the Japanese kimono, and its intrinsic relationship to the cultural movements of Japan. The colors and subtle witticisms that abound within the patterning of the garments make this quiet exhibition a true treat.

4. Jack Shainman Gallery, Mary Boone Gallery: Nick Cave, “Ever After”
If you happen to be in New York City for Fashion Week, you can pay homage to another Chicago fashion institution: the Soundsuits of fashion designer Nick Cave. This solo exhibition of his new work presented in two parts (opening September 8 at Jack Shainman, and September 10 at the Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea) explores subtle reinvisionings of Cave’s favored themes: social consciousness, racial hostility, and a general unification of humanity via a medium that disrupts notions of gender, race, religion and sexuality. Although beautiful on display, Cave’s Soundsuits — which represent the foundation of his work as an artist — duly function as performance art when worn as a costume and are manipulated through movement. According to Jack Shainman’s website, the muted black and white tones of Cave’s work at the Shainman Gallery are meant to form a “complete encounter” with those on display at the Mary Boone Gallery — a collection infused with Cave’s more typical, exuberant exploration of color and texture.

5. Bard Graduate Center Gallery: “Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones”
Hats. They’re fabulous. And if we all learned something after the Royal Wedding, it’s that there aren’t nearly enough of them bobbing around in the U.S. Although it may not change our hat wearing culture, the Bard Graduate Center Gallery is at least giving us an incredible opportunity to look at them with their exhibit, “Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones.” Opening September 15, Bard marks the exhibition’s first go in a U.S. museum, having been traveling since its initial opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2009. Filled with everything from ancient Egyptian hats, to those of his contemporaries (including Philip Treacy and Bill Cunningham), the exhibition is sure to be a gallant display of some of the world’s most iconic millinery.

In a season of fashion exhibitions that move from century to century, from iterations of a reverent cultural uniform to the avant-garde explosion of Daphne Guinness’ wardrobe — and, of course, the hat — it’s thrilling to see art and fashion merging in such a diverse exploration of fashion. These archival pockets of sartorial history are true gems not to be missed. Fashion is art, after all. It’s good to see the world paying attention.

—Amanda Aldinger

Image Layout: Molly Murphy

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