In today's post, Associate Curator Christina Johnson takes us to Bendigo, Australia. As we've described here and here, we spent much of 2013 preparing Modern Love for exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery in Bendigo, Australia. In this post, Christina offers her perspective on this experience, including a chance meeting with a baby kangaroo. Stay tuned for an upcoming post featuring a behind-the-scenes look at deinstalling Modern Love.
In March 2011, Curator Kevin Jones traveled to the Bendigo Art Gallery (BAG) in Bendigo, Australia, to install a costume from the FIDM Museum Collection worn by Grace Kelly in The Swan (1956) for the exhibition Grace Kelly: Style Icon. After chatting with the director and curators there, and sending them a copy of our 2011 publication FABULOUS! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000-2010, they expressed interest in developing an exhibition focused on contemporary fashion derived from the FIDM Museum.
This collaboration between BAG and FIDM Museum curatorial staff resulted in our first international traveling exhibition: Modern Love: Fashion Visionaries from the FIDM Museum LA, which opened on October 26, 2013. It included over sixty mannequins and accessories spanning Punk to the present. Among the designers represented are: Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, Christian Francis Roth, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Yohji Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen, and Thom Browne. Large video projections of corresponding runway shows appear on the walls. A publication filled with runway images from the FIDM Museum’s Michel Arnaud Photography Archive was also published and includes essays by BAG and FIDM Museum curators.
This exciting exhibition was quite an undertaking to plan. After nearly nine months of full-time preparation (which included choosing objects and mannequins, conservation, and packing) as well as hiring additional temporary employees, fifteen art crates were shipped to BAG in September 2013. Kevin, former Collections Manager Danielle Killam, and I followed shortly on a fifteen-hour flight from LAX. We stayed in Bendigo for over three weeks to install the exhibition and enjoyed our time there so much. The BAG staff is amazing, and their exhibition space is impeccable. The opening party was so much fun! Guest-of-honor Toni Maticevski, an Australian designer, graciously donated a white neoprene cocktail dress from his Spring/Summer 2013-14 collection to the FIDM Museum that is included in the exhibition. (Yes, the date is correct—it’s because he’s based in the Southern Hemisphere!)
What a charming town Bendigo is! An hour-and-a-half drive from Melbourne, it’s filled with amazing restaurants and great boutiques—we three had a memorable time together. Our fall season is their spring, and it certainly was a beautiful time to be there. Everywhere we looked, there were street signs and train banners advertising the exhibition. The Bendigo Art Gallery attracts huge numbers of visitors—they’ve found the public is especially intrigued by fashion exhibitions.
Kevin, Dani, and I were lucky to make a few excursions into neighboring Melbourne during our stay. We took the train to attend the opening of Edward Steichen and Art Deco Fashion at the National Gallery of Victoria with BAG staff, and later went back for a wonderful tour of NGV costume storage with Curator Roger Leong and Assistant Curator Paola di Trocchio. We also had an outdoor adventure, and experienced the Australian Bush! I had a personal wish to see a kangaroo, and was so happy when we bumped into a baby at Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve in Central Victoria. We had a lovely hike there with BAG Collections Manager Sandra Bruce, surrounded by beautiful gum trees and marveling at the gorgeous views from the rock formations onto the plains below. Many happy memories were made that day.
Kevin and I traveled on to Sydney after the Modern Love opening to be tourists. We were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Powerhouse Museum, had a personal architectural tour of the city by fashion scholar Peter McNeil, and visited the Sydney Opera House. Then, we hopped on a plane bound for home-sweet-home, where I proceeded to recover from jet lag for a week, and Kevin jumped right back on a plane bound for the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in Bangkok, Thailand, the very next day!