If Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was any indication, fashion design as art is being enthusiastically embraced by the masses as it becomes part of the popular culture. The splendid exhibit, which opened last year on May 4 and closed on August 11, attracted over 661,500 visitors and was among the museum’s 10 most-visited shows. Whether curated by the museum or commissioned by a brand, fashion exhibits in major cities around the world are becoming a must-see on the travel itinerary.
As Harold Koda, curator in charge of the Costume Institute at the Met said, “What is endlessly fascinating about fashion is that it can be approached and interpreted from so many different angles. In the end, it is about the object: its transformational originality, its details of unequaled technical virtuosity and its incomparably compelling aesthetic.”
Other splashy exhibits in 2011 with long lines: “Inspiration Dior” at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow; “Culture Chanel” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai, which later moved to Beijing’s National Art Museum of China; the Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective, first at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and then at the Dallas Museum of Art; and Hussein Chalayan at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, which extended its run through mid-December.
This year, Les Arts Décoratifs will kick off a “Louis Vuitton – Marc Jacobs” exhibit (March 9–Sept. 16), which is billed as a story of two personalities. The Italians are also getting in on the act: From March 10 through June 25, the Museo Fortuny in Venice will present “Diana Vreeland after Diana Vreeland,” a celebration of the former Vogue editor, who was a rule-bending arbiter of style. Also in March, the Design Museum in London unveils its Christian Louboutin show celebrating the shoe maestro’s 20 years in the business.
London is also embracing fashion as art: On May 19, the Victoria and Albert Museum launches “Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950,” in the newly renovated Fashion Gallery. The lavish show will feature 60 gowns from 60 years of British design, including dresses from the museum’s own collection as well as styles fresh off the runway. Following the record-breaking success of the McQueen exhibit, the Met will launch “Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: On Fashion” on May 20 through August 19. The creative exhibit explores the striking affinities of the two designers by posing fictive conversations between them and showcasing 80 spectacular designs. You may want to bring your credit cards: These fashion exhibits have been known to spark a shopping frenzy.