Fash­ion and art com­bine


Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Jane For­tune

In Florence, the Uf­fizi Gal­leries has opened its doors to Traces: Let­ting Fash­ion Drive You. This unique show for fash­ion lovers and trav­ellers is a stage for the cre­ative vision of mu­seum cu­ra­tors, an ap­peal to re­mem­ber for­got­ten works and an in­ter­na­tional di­a­logue be­tween artists and de­sign­ers who rep­re­sent a multi-faceted cen­tury from var­i­ous van­tage points.

Paint­ings and sculp­tures from 20th-cen­tury artists cre­ate har­mo­nious or provoca­tive con­ver­sa­tion pieces when paired with fash­ion of the same pe­riod. Azze­dine Alaïa lin­ear tube dresses are a suc­cess­ful match for the quasi ob­ses­sive sym­bol-in­spired paint­ing by Ab­strac­tion­ist Giuseppe Ca­pogrossi (that once made his painter-wife Costanza Men­nyey ques­tion his men­tal health due to the fre­quency with which he painted th­ese sym­bols).

Mean­while, those who dream of the grandeur of an­cient Greece will ap­pre­ci­ate the pair­ing up of two in­ter­est­ing pieces: Eter­nal Lan­guage, a dream­like paint­ing with Hel­lenis­tic vestals by Gi­ulio Bargellini, and the for-opera gown de­signed by Roberto Ca­pucci in the 1960s with Maria Cal­las in mind dur­ing her role as a vestal in Norma.

The Pitti Palace’s jour­ney-in­spired show is a good fit for sum­mer, and sev­eral in­stal­la­tions re­mind us of the musts of stylish travel – gloves, hats, glasses and scarves, not to men­tion vin­tage carry-on bags and nec­es­saries for on-the-road man­i­cures and even travel-in­spired toys, such as the tin and wooden cars en­joyed in Elisabeth

Chaplin’s in­tense but play­ful por­trait of her blueeyed nephew Robert.

But the lit­tle boy is not the only Robert worth look­ing for in the ex­hi­bi­tion – there’s Roberto Cavalli, with his usual fond­ness for an­i­mals, whose colour­ful suede gar­ment with mul­ti­tex­tured ap­pli­ca­tions de­picts a par­rot. It’s a happy throw-back to Pasquarosa Mar­celli’s flashy oil-on-can­vas rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the trop­i­cal bird, painted in the 1930s.

Rebel souls who re­call the 1968 rev­o­lu­tions will like vi­sions of Fiorucci, who worked with Warhol and Har­ing on his cre­ations com­ple­mented with a tapestry-like work by painter Anna Sanesi. But nos­tal­gia per­vades Traces in more ways than one - fash­ion­istas will re­mem­ber that the Palace’s Sala Bianca was where the Ital­ian fash­ion ‘in­dus­try’ was born when en­trepreneur Gio­vanni Bat­tista Giorgini or­gan­ised the first fash­ion show there in 1951, fea­tur­ing many of the de­sign­ers on ex­hibit to­day, in­clud­ing Jole Veneziani, Mila Schön and Gian­franco Ferré. Over­all, it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of ‘places to go’ and ‘peo­ple to see’.

Mu­seum means ‘hon­ourable men­tion’

The Pitti’s Fash­ion and Cos­tume Mu­seum is the only civic mu­seum in Italy ded­i­cated to fash­ion. It takes up more than a dozen rooms in the Palazz­ina della Merid­i­ana, one of the pavil­ions of the Pitti Palace, with views of the Boboli Gar­dens. Be­cause the Pitti was orig­i­nally pur­chased with the dowry money of Span­ish-born Grand Duchess Eleonora de Toledo, the much-loved wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici, it seems fit­ting to be­gin a de­scrip­tion of the mu­seum’s im­pres­sive 6,000-piece col­lec­tion with its most prized his­tor­i­cal gar­ment: Eleonora de’ Toledo’s fu­neral dress, made fa­mous from her por­trait by Bronzino.

What was once called the 'Cos­tume Gallery’ (now a quickly ex­pand­ing full-fledged mu­seum) was founded in 1983 and its no­table menagerie of gar­ments and fash­ion ac­ces­sories, un­der­wear and cos­tume jew­ellery span pri­mar­ily from the 17th cen­tury to present. It in­cludes court and gala gowns, cou­ture dresses and ready-to-wear

gar­ments, as well as the­atri­cal and film cos­tumes. In re­cent years, its his­toric col­lec­tion has been boosted by cre­ations by Valentino, Ver­sace, Ar­mani, Mis­soni and St Lau­rent, to name a few. Most pieces are dis­played on man­nequins, whose bod­ies are typ­i­cal of the pe­riod in which the piece was made. Thus some ‘fe­male’ man­nequins are fit­ted with corsets and oth­ers are not, to re­flect the tastes of the times.

Since I am par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in shin­ing a light on mu­se­ums’ hid­den spa­ces and for­got­ten art, no de­scrip­tion of Pitti’s Fash­ion and Cos­tume Mu­seum would be com­plete with­out men­tion­ing its fas­ci­nat­ing new de­posit fa­cil­ity, one of the only cli­mate-con­trolled stor­age venues in the multi­gallery palace. Equally im­por­tant is the mu­seum’s fab­ric lab­o­ra­tory, where the Medici ac­ces­sories are pre­served; its pre­cious tex­tile con­ser­va­tion work­shop is re­spon­si­ble for restor­ing and main­tain­ing the whole of its col­lec­tion.

Cu­ra­tor means cre­ative

Many peo­ple are im­pressed by Florence for the big art names that have made the city great. I am one of them. But my ad­mi­ra­tion for the city goes fur­ther and ‘steps’ into mod­ern times. Florence is of­ten con­sid­ered one of the ‘cra­dles’ of Western art, and the ‘hand that rocks the cra­dle’ be­longs to its fe­male cu­ra­tors. More than 30 women cu­ra­tors sup­port the city’s many mon­u­men­tal mu­se­ums and the show Tracce 2018 is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a meet­ing of the minds.

Si­monella Con­demi, cu­ra­tor of Pitti’s Mod­ern Art Gallery, and Ca­te­rina Chiarelli, cu­ra­tor of the palace’s Mu­seum of Fash­ion and Cos­tume, came to­gether to con­jure one of the most orig­i­nal ex­hi­bi­tions of the sea­son. I caught up with Dr Chiarelli when the ex­hi­bi­tion opened and asked her what mes­sage her new­est show com­mu­ni­cates.

“The show is called Tracce (Traces) be­cause the paint­ings and sculp­tures from Pitti’s Mod­ern Art Gallery leave their mark on our fash­ion mu­seum by be­ing dis­played here. The art ‘min­gles’ with the clothes and ac­ces­sories dis­played in each room, ideally and vis­ually. They cre­ate a har­mo­nious

The real ad­van­tage of a show like this one is that it em­pha­sises points of in­ter­weav­ing and en­tan­gle­ment that can ex­ist be­tween dif­fer­ent artis­tic lan­guages

di­a­logue and be­come at­tuned with each other. Each in­stal­la­tion helps un­cover the affini­ties in the pieces grouped to­gether, and they en­hance each other re­cip­ro­cally. What be­gins as a purely aes­thetic brand of affin­ity or con­trast morphs into a con­cep­tual con­ver­sa­tion, al­low­ing us to have a deeper ex­pe­ri­ence of each me­dia.”

I was also keen to find out if she thought it was im­por­tant to dis­play works nor­mally in stor­age, par­tic­u­larly those au­thored by women. She replied “We are look­ing at two dif­fer­ent re­al­i­ties that are both sim­i­lar and dif­fer­ent. Pitti’s Mu­seum of Fash­ion and Cos­tume gets its life-blood from its stor­age de­posits, be­cause fab­ric-based crafts­man­ship can­not be per­ma­nently ex­hib­ited in the mu­seum for rea­sons of con­ser­va­tion, par­tic­u­larly when not in dis­play cases.

"So, the clothes on show must of­ten be ro­tated and sub­sti­tuted by oth­ers from our store­rooms. With re­gards to the Mod­ern Art Gallery and its par­tic­i­pa­tion in this joint show, we de­cided to com­bine each fash­ion in­stal­la­tion with in-stor­age art­works that oth­er­wise do not have hopes of be­ing de­liv­ered into the mu­seum spot­light due to a lack of ap­pro­pri­ate space. In the case of both mu­se­ums, our tak­ing works out of stor­age is very mean­ing­ful be­cause it also shines a light on cre­ative work done by women for women… and as far as fash­ion in con­cerned, their silent creativ­ity gar­nered no name recog­ni­tion.”

A shared quest

Pitti’s Fash­ion and Cos­tume Mu­seum re­minds us that ap­parel is one of the most ap­proach­able art forms. It’s an in­te­gral part of our life, be­cause what­ever we wear im­me­di­ately be­comes part of our own iden­tity. Stylists, like artists, are very much a sign of the times. ‘A sign of the times’ is ex­actly what I be­lieve Traces to be. ‘Driven by fash­ion’ is en route to 360-de­gree creativ­ity. The words of co-cu­ra­tor Si­monella Con­demi sum up many of my own feel­ings. “Get­ting works out of stor­age is not only im­por­tant but nec­es­sary,” Dr Con­demi ex­plains, “since the Mod­ern Art Gallery, at least at present, does not have the ex­hi­bi­tion space to show th­ese 20th-cen­tury works. Be­cause I am well aware of their unique value, dis­play­ing them has been a true quest for me for many years.

“The real ad­van­tage of a show like this one,” the show’s co-cre­ator con­tin­ues, “is that it em­pha­sises points of in­ter­weav­ing and en­tan­gle­ment that can ex­ist be­tween dif­fer­ent artis­tic lan­guages, tastes and for­mal ex­pres­sion in­side the same cul­tural cli­mate. It’s what you might call ‘reach­ing an un­der­stand­ing in art’.”

Far left: Art and fash­ion to­gether at the Pitti Palace Above: Gi­ulio Bargellini Eter­nal Lan­guage, 1899 Palazzo Pitti’s Gallery of Mod­ern Art Left: Eleanor of Toledo with her son Gio­vanni, painted by Bronzino in 1545. A much re­peated myth says this dress served as her shroud. How­ever, newer re­search has ex­am­ined her fu­neral dress and found it to be an­other, although very sim­i­lar in de­sign

Far left, top: Self Por­trait by Elisabeth Chaplin Far left, bot­tom: Pasquarosa Ber­to­letti Mar­celliPar­rot, c.1930. Palazzo Pitti's Gallery of Mod­ern Art Left: A dis­play as part of the ex­hi­bi­tion, Tracce 18

Below: Images from the 2018 show Tracce cu­rated by Si­monella Con­demi and Ca­te­rina Chiarelli

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