Exhibition | Catwalk: Fashion at the Rijksmuseum, 1625–1960

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 21, 2016


Mantua purportedly worn by Helena Slicher for her marriage to Aelbrecht baron van Slingelandt on 4 September 1759
(Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum)

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Now on view at the Rijksmuseum:

Catwalk, 1625–1960
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 20 February — 16 May 2016

Curated by Bianca du Mortier; designed by Erwin Olaf

For the first time, the Rijksmuseum presents a large selection of its diverse fashion collection in an exhibition designed by world-renowned Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf.

From February 20 through May 16 2016, six galleries of the Philips Wing will be dedicated to fashion of the Dutch from 1625 to 1960. Starting with garments worn by members of the Frisian branch of the house of Nassau in the Golden Age, the exhibits will feature vibrantly coloured French silk gowns and luxurious velvet gentlemen’s suits of the eighteenth century, classically-inspired Empire dresses, and bustles of the Fin de Siècle—culminating in twentieth-century French haute couture by Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.

Wedding dress, 1759; photo by Erwin Olaf, model is Ymre Stiekema.

Wedding dress, 1759; photo by Erwin Olaf, model is Ymre Stiekema.

As Rijksmuseum Curator of Costumes Bianca du Mortier explains, “The garments presented in this exhibition reflect the stories of the people who wore them. In fashion, the choices of the wearer count—they make him or her a trendsetter or a follower. Even today the clothes of the very rich and powerful always convey a conscious or unconscious message. In that respect, nothing has changed over the last 330 years. These choices are restricted by such factors as budget, opportunity, age, social status, climate, personal likes and dislikes and so forth. And when presented in a museum, there is a final selection: the selection of the Rijksmuseum.”

The exhibition is designed by world-renowned Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf. He states, “The challenge and honour of designing this exhibition . . . for the most extraordinary museum in the Netherlands came at exactly the right moment for me. For several years now I’ve been exploring alternative ways to present my photographic work and to integrate it in installations, sound, video and films as means to immerse viewers in a world that fires and challenges their personal imaginations and, ultimately, sparks a stimulating dialogue between the viewer and the work on view.

Highlights include
• A pair of underpants belonging to Hendrik Casimir I, Count of Nassau Dietz (1612–1640)
• The widest dress in the Netherlands: Helena Slicher’s (1737–1776) wedding gown or mantua, which she supposedly wore at her marriage to Aelbrecht baron van Slingelandt (1732–1801) on 4 September 1759
• An exceptionally precious and fragile dress of blonde silk bobbin lace (1815–1820)
• A silk taffeta cocktail dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga (1951–1952)

The Rijksmuseum’s fashion collection totals some 10,000 items , with men’s, women’s and children’s attire and accessories spanning the period from 1700 until 1960. In addition, the History Department owns the earliest Dutch costumes, worn in the seventeenth century by the Frisian branch of the Nassau family and by the Stadtholder and King William III. Being the oldest costumes collection in the country, having begun in 1870, acquisitions initially emphasized on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but over time gradually expanded to include the first half of the twentieth century. All of the garments comes from the wardrobes of upper-class Dutch men and women, but they were not necessarily made in the Netherlands. Foreign fashion houses and fabrics from all the leading textile-manufacturing countries around the world are amply represented. Acquisitions for the collection are based on historical significance, such as a post-war dress made of silk RAF pilots maps; design relevance, such as Yves Saint Laurent’s 1965 ‘Mondrian dress’; and costume-historical importance, such as a silk taffeta cocktail gown by Cristóbal Balenciaga (1951–1952). Most items were donated or bequeathed, supplemented with purchases.

To coincide with the exhibition, the Rijksmuseum is publishing a richly illustrated ‘Collection Book’ – Costume & Fashion, authored by Curator of Costumes Bianca du Mortier, with contributions from the museum’s textile restorers, fellow conservators, and a specialized colour analyst. The photography is by Rijksmuseum photographer Carola Van Wijk in collaboration with Frans Pegt. Various activities will be organized in conjunction with the exhibition, including a series of lectures by the catalogue’s authors and external experts.

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Symposium | Fashion in Museums: Past, Present, and Future
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 21–22 April 2016

Not only the curator’s and conservator’s point of view will be presented, but also the administrator’s—who is often unfamiliar with costume and fashion’s different requirements and has to be convinced of the steep costs of a fashion exhibit. Experts from leading national and international institutions will present their insights: a conference not to be missed!

Over the past two decades most of the blockbuster fashion exhibitions around the world have centered around present day fashion designers and were more or less offered to the respective institutions as a complete package including the extensive marketing and publicity apparatus of the fashion brand. This is a far cry from Diana Vreeland’s original concept (1983–84) of a museum celebrating a contemporary designer—in her case Yves Saint Laurent—by presenting a retrospective curated by the museum and presented by them.

In a speech delivered by renowned fashion journalist Suzy Menkes (International Vogue Editor) at the Rijksmuseum in June 2015 she called for a return to museum curated exhibitions based on in-depth research of their own collections which hold so many amazing yet unexplored treasures. With the exhibition Catwalk, Fashion at the Rijksmuseum, the museum puts a renewed step in this direction by presenting a cross-section of its costume collection—the oldest in the country—in a setting designed by renowned Dutch photographer, Erwin Olaf.

• Gieneke Arnolli (Fries Museum, Leeuwarden)
• Ninke Bloemberg (Centraal Museum, Utrecht)
• Bianca du Mortier (Rijksmuseum)
• Johanna Hashagen (Bowes Museum, UK)
• Johannes Pietsch (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich)
• Ellinoor Bergvelt and Christine Delhaye (University of Amsterdam)
• Angelika Riley (Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg)
• Alexandra Bosc (Palais Galliera, Musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris)
• Mila Ernst (Digitaal platform Modemuze)
• Sue-an van der Zijpp (Groninger Museum)

Details are available here»

Installation | Kent Monkman’s ‘Scent of a Beaver’

Posted in exhibitions, today in light of the 18th century by Caitlin Smits on February 21, 2016


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Now on view at the University of Michigan:

Scent of a Beaver: An Installation by Kent Monkman
University of Michigan, Institute for the Humanities, Ann Arbor, 21 January — 26 February 2016

Based on the rococo masterpiece The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Scent of a Beaver is a sculptural installation that features the artist Kent Monkman’s alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle dangling on a swing between a French and English general. With Miss Chief dressed in an opulent silk and fur gown, the work functions as a metaphor for the power relationships between the major players that shaped the social fabric, political structures, and economy of North America. True to Monkman’s modus operandi, Scent of a Beaver takes on white-washed, colonialist notions of history and overturns them, employing kitsch as a path toward self-determination and veering away from painful, misrepresented histories. It is this sort of conversion that is at the crux of Monkman’s powerful work—the transformation from age-old traditional stories which distort and oppress into something a little fantastical, a bit cathartic, and ultimately redeeming.

Kent Monkman is well known for his provocative reinterpretations of romantic North American landscapes. He explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience—the complexities of historic and contemporary Native American experience—in a variety of mediums including painting, film and video, performance, and installation. Monkman’s glamorous diva alter-ego Miss Chief appears in much of his work as an agent provocateur, trickster, and supernatural being who reverses the colonial gaze, upending received notions of history and indigenous people.

More information and installation photos are available from a piece by Sarah Rose Sharp for Hyperallergic (18 February 2016).

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