Headed down under? Don’t miss Modern Love: Fashion Visionaries from the FIDM Museum LA, an exhibition of visionary late-20th & 21st century fashion from the FIDM Museum collection. Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia, will be the exclusive venue for this show, the first travelling exhibition of its kind from the FIDM Museum, Los Angeles. In today's post, Brenna Barks, contract preparator for the exhibition, describes the origins of this unique collaboration, shares exhibition highlights, and reveals her favorite elements of the exhibition.
The story begins in Australia in early 2012. Kevin Jones, FIDM Museum’s curator, was at the Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria, Australia, installing a gown worn by Grace Kelly for the exhibit Grace Kelly: Style Icon. FIDM Museum's FABULOUS! exhibit had recently closed and the folks at Bendigo were so excited by Kevin's descriptions of the exhibit, they decided to bring some of the pieces to Bendigo. And so Modern Love: Fashion Visionaries from the FIDM Museum LA was born. It is also how I find myself writing for the FIDM Museum blog, having just finished a contract position as a preparator for this exhibit’s shipment to Australia.
Modern Love features 92 objects from the FIDM Museum’s permanent collection, and examines post-punk fashion through the work of the world’s most influential designers over the last 40 years. The exhibit features both garments and ephemera, with haute couture alongside casual and ready-to-wear. The work of Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Gianni Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan and John Galliano for Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld for both Chanel and Chloë, Rei Kawakubo, and a Thom Browne men’s ensemble straight off the Fall/Winter 2013/2014 runway, among others, will be on display in Bendigo, Australia from 26 October 2013 until 2 February 2014. Bendigo Art Gallery will also host a slew of exhibition related programs, including two presentations by Kevin Jones.
Modern Love looks at how fashion has mirrored society and the world since the late 1970s, and highlights the fashion designer as artisan. In addition to the objects from the FIDM Museum collection, the exhibit will feature videos of designer interviews, and large-scale projections of fashion shows within the exhibition space. There has been an increase in the collaborations between famous designers and other visual artists over the past forty years, and Bendigo will demonstrate this through the use of fashion ephemera. Specific garments themselves that will showcase the use of fabrics, or even total looks, such as several Hiroaki Ohya pieces depicting anime characters. These ensembles come with their own “book” cases, or even fold up into book forms.
Some of the museum’s most memorable contemporary pieces are going, including two of my own favourite pieces: the Alexander McQueen peacock dress and a tartan suit from Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania collection. There are also some new acquisitions that will be displayed for the first time at Bendigo: the Thom Browne suit and accessories I mentioned above, and a “cellophane coat” by Issey Miyake.
The international aspect of the exhibit – featuring the work of designers from Britain, Europe, America, Japan, India, and Australia – aims to show that fashion is a visual phenomenon which spills off the runway into our daily lives, connecting the individual, no matter who or where they may be, to the greater world. The exhibit does this through the mixing of haute couture (by Alexander McQueen, Moschino, and others) and street clothes such as Adidas sneakers, with more expressive anti-fashion pieces such as the Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood bondage suit, or Jeremy Scott and Georg Roth’s political t-shirts. These juxtapositions convey the simple fact that whatever your socio-economic status, or whatever message or association you might want to communicate through your clothing, we all get dressed in the morning. The fact that all the clothing is contemporary will make this message more accessible to visitors who may not be accustomed to visiting fashion exhibits.
One thing I always love in fashion and dress exhibits, and which does not happen too often, is when there is ephemera or art in the exhibit which is directly connects to, or depicts, the garments on display. I love this sort of provenance so much that I included such a pairing in my master’s dissertation. My favourite aspect of working with Modern Love was being able to work with not only garments, but also with related ephemera. I worked with a lithograph of Thierry Mugler’s fashion sketches from the same collection as the Spring/Summer 1992 suit that will be on display (pictured above). I also worked with an image of Linda Evangelista wearing the yellow “Scuba” jacket by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel Boutique. These objects help to give context to the garments, and by doing so fulfill the exhibit’s purpose of representing fashion as an artistic part of our everyday lives: something we not only shape, but which shapes us in return.