Art of Indigenous Fashion at IAIA

How do Native American designers transform traditional beading, ancient symbols, social commentary, and tribal embroidery into contemporary fashion? 

Answers are on display in the exhibition, Art of Indigenous Fashion at Santa Fe’s IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art (MoCNA) through January 8. It’s a fitting exhibition that opened in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWIA) Indigenous Fashion show.

Take a look at our favorite pieces in our Flickr gallery.

2015 Jamie Okuma wool dress with shells. Courtesy: National Museum of the American Indian
2022 Recon Watchmen costumes by Virgil Otiz (Cochiti Pueblo). Courtesy: the artist.

The show puts the work of 2022 Native American Treasure honoree Virgil Ortiz front and center, with three imposing Recon Watchmen costumes. No, it’s not runway fashion. But these futuristic sci-fi ensembles from the year 2180 are made for a film where protectors travel back in time to help the New Mexico pueblos successfully fight their opressors in the Revolt of 1680.

Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) combines film, fabric, headresses, and history to tell the story of a real-life Native revolution that Pueblo kids never learned in their New Mexican history classes. Look close at the awesome printed silk cloaks, lamé “armor”, and dramatic sculpted masks of these dramatic Native superheroes.

Next, you see how Native artists combined art and fashion from the mid-20th century until now.

Several historic pieces are by the godfather of Native American contemporary fashion (and early leader of IAIA), Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee), who had a successful contemporary line in Scottsdale in the 1940s and1950s.

The clothes in this exhibition feature buttons and clasps made by Charles Loloma, a Hopi innovator in contemporary Native jewelry, who also had a shop in Scottsdale and joined New at IAIA in the Sixties. Lucky that collectors saved these gems for us.

1950s and 1960s ensembles by Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee). Private collection.
2016 ribbon dress by Jamie Okuma ((Luiseño/Shoshone/Bannock)) and 2018 silk dress by Orlando Dugi (Dine’). Courtesy: the artist; IAIA

The rest of the work in the exhibition represents the 2000s, primarily three types – ensembles taking a luxurious haute-couture approach, wearable social commentary, and sly conceptual art-as-fashion installations.

The 2000 embroidered, appliqued wool “Chilkat” cape by Pamela Baker (Tlingit/Haida) is regal enough to wear at any black-tie affair.

The same for Orlando Dugi’s (Dine’) 2018 feathered and beaded evening dress with a subtle golden eagle and touches of sparkling corn pollen. Dugi is a self-taught couturier, who meticulously applies each bead and feather himself.

Two dramatic red-carpet dresses by Lesley Hampton (Anishinaabe) that have appeared at recent Emmy and Golden Globe Award events are reminders of the inroads being made by Native Americans artists in the entertainment sector.

Among the most dramatic social-commentary work, Canadian design team Decontie & Brown (Penobscott Nation) has two attention-grabbers – a “wedding dress” offering the wearer protective spikes from unwanted advances and radiating power-feathers, and the “I Am A Reflection…” mirrored man’s coat. Absorbed in the kaleidoscope of the coat’s reflected light, viewers contemplate Decontie & Brown’s message as they marvel at the visual magic.

Decontie & Brown’s 2017 Armored Beauty wedding dress and 2021 upcycled I Am a Reflection…Mirror Coat. Courtesy: the artists
2018 It’s in Our DNA, It’s Who We Are ensemble by Anita Fields reflecting tribe’s past and present. Courtesy: Minneapolis Museum of Art

The elegant embroidered cashmere shift by Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dena/Cree) has delicate somber black wings fluttering across the back. But these are paired with a front shouting the savage message of 20th-century Indian boarding school government policy. Beautiful but chilling.

Anita Fields (Osage) is represented by a suspended fashion installation in the center of main gallery – a wildly oversized embroidered top hat and wedding coat titled “It’s In Our DNA, It’s Who We Are.” Intertwined strands are emblazoned on the front; images of the unfortunate treaty her tribe signed in 1808 line the inside.

Outside the main gallery, MoCNA has invited Mohawk multimedia artist Skawennati to create a digital mural and installation of her “Activist Avatars,” cyber-protesters modeling a virtual clothing line. Multiple screens of social-justice protesters in power-to-the-people cammo and calico march toward viewers in the MoCNA screening room to an energetic Native hip-hop track.

Skawennati’s (Mohawk) 2022 Calico and Camouflage: Assemble! multichannel video installation.

Many of the artists represented in this show – Patricia Michaels, Jason Baerg, Jamie Okuna, Sho Sho Esquiro, and others – were featured in this year’s Indigenous Fashion show. Watch the 2022 SWIA Fashion Designers runway videos here.

2019 silk and leather Sunset Dress by Jason Baerg (Cree Métis), symbolizing dynamic optimism and referencing trees, sky, and earth. Courtesy: the artist.

Fashion Manifestos by Carla Fernández

What does “slow” fashion look like? A revolutionary Mexican haute couture designer shows how it’s done in Carla Fernandez Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto, on display at the Denver Art Museum through October 16.

As a young woman, Carla met and got to appreciate Mexico’s indigenous communities as she traveled with her father, a renowned anthropologist. She loved collecting hand-made indigenous garments reflecting the distinct local styles she saw. 

As a student of art history and fashion design, the complex indigenous textile techniques in these out-of-the way communities seemed to stand in contrast to the ever-changing, always-disposable cycle of Western fashion.

Carla Fernández 2014 jacket collaboration with Juanez Lopez Santis (San Juan Chamula, Chiapas) over digital-printed silk top and leggings.
2003 wool poncho – a Carla Fernández collaboration San Juan Chamula (Chiapas) artisans ­– over a 2009 pantsuit. From the collection of photographer/model Luisa Sáenz

Why not use these indigenous “haute couture” techniques for a high-fashion collection? Why not create a mix-and-match aesthetic using traditional, geometric shapes? Why not credit the artists?

As presented in her first-ever museum retrospective, the results are dramatic, detailed, intriguing, and one-of-a-kind – a completely different kind of fashion system that incorporates indigenous work, pays and credits community makers, and gives artisans the time to create pieces that collectors cherish.

Carla travels to mountain and desert communities to collaborate with textile artists.

With her fame growing, communities now invite her to drive over, see what they’re doing and brainstorm about potential collaborations. It’s an approach that involves time, dialogue, and mutual respect between the artisans and Carla-as-fashion-facilitator.

In her mobile studio (Taller Flora), they create hand-woven, dyed, and painted works of wearable art that Carla brings to the runway, but always with an eye toward collectors who value innovative, indigenous craft traditions.

The exhibition features runway looks, accessories, and videos of performance art that showcase different facets of her fashion manifesto – that artisan-made is the true “luxury” in a “fast fashion,” throw-away world.

2021 hand-painted coverall and digital-printed jumper and coat with Leonardo Linares (Mexico City); embroidered jumper with Antonia Vasquez (San Pedro Chenalhó, Chiapas).

Fiesta masks, leather caballero fretwork, whimsical basket-purses, and fuzzy handmade pom-poms provide home-grown Mexican flair to the cinched, draped, easy ensembles.

Take a look through our Flickr album, and enjoy this video of the installation at Denver Art Museum:

Every section of the exhibition demonstrates her commitment to stimulating innovation and creativity among indigenous makers.

Inspired by decorative fretwork on rodeo apparel, a 2022 wool poncho and pants done in collaboration with calado master Fidel Martínez (Chimalhuacán, State of Mexico).

As of 2022, Carla’s collaborated with more than 164 artisans in 39 communities in 15 Mexican states, with more to come. The show presents a map and identifies all of her collaborators.

To see and hear more about Carla’s collaborative process, watch the Denver Art Museum’s 2019 seminar on culture, cultural appropriation, and fashion in this YouTube video.

And join in on Carla’s beautiful, expressive fashion revolution by checking out her current and past collections on her website.

Dior Brings Opulent Extravagance to Brooklyn

With lights dancing across dozens of floral dresses and sequined classical gowns in an over-the-top Beaux-Arts setting, visitors to the Brooklyn Museum generally stand speechless in awe of the extravagance before them in, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, closing February 20.

It takes a minimum of two hours to travel through the galleries, and much more time to absorb the wonders of this must-see fashion exhibition, drawn largely from the Dior archives in Paris.

Take a look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Haute couture in Brooklyn’s Beaux Arts court. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
Nevelson’s 1956 sculpture and 1952 Dior dinner dress. Courtesy: Dior.

The exhibition begins in a traditional gallery format, showcasing Dior’s epic haute couture works of the Forties and Fifties.

Print and film media document Dior’s ecstatic reception in America, including custom client fittings and retail showings in New York and San Francisco.

Some of the most spectacular evening and cocktail looks are paired with modern sculpture by Nevelson and design by Eames from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection.

Turning the corner into the photography gallery, visitors encounter the full spectrum of photographers who have documented Dior couture from the Forties until today.

Visitors are ecstatic when they see the dress next to the Avedon photo that is one of the most iconic fashion images of the 20th century – Dovima modeling Dior’s spectacularly sinuous black-and-white gown, caressing massive, animated elephants that surround her.

After Dior’s untimely death, a succession of fashion superstars led the creative side of the house. The show pays tribute to YSL, Bohan, Ferré, Galliano, and Simons with dramatic installations showing their inspirations from French film noir, modern art, opera, and art history. 

1955 haute couture, worn by Dovima for Avedon. Courtesy: Dior.

The garments are over-the-top, highly embellished, and smartly paired with Egyptian and Gilded Age works from the museum’s extensive permanent collection.

John Galliano haute couture for Christian Dior, inspired by ancient Egypt, the Belle Epoque, and other historical references. From the Dior Legacy gallery. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
Three 2020 ensembles by Maria Grazia Chiuri against Judy Chicago banners. Courtesy: Dior

There’s a special installation reserved for Dior’s current artistic director, Marie Grazie Chiuri, who has long used her platform in the fashion world to ask probing questions about culture, society, and women.

In this gallery, her dramatic haute couture work is surrounded by shimmering banners that she commissioned from Judy Chicago, whose epic The Dinner Party is the centerpiece of Brooklyn’s feminist art center.

A major set of galleries evokes the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles – a source of inspiration for Mr. Dior.

The curators use the space to show off Dior’s Miss Dior perfume product displays and pairings of old and more recent haute couture inspired by 18th century glamour of the French court. If the exhibition ended right there, you’d be satisfied.

Haute couture from House of Dior: John Galiano’s 2000 dress in embroidered antique satin and Christian Dior’s 1952 satin cocktail ensemble. In the 18th-century gallery. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.

But there’s much more – a gallery segmented by color to show off fashions, accessories, shoes, and miniatures; and an Instagram-ready all-white infinity room with dozens of white toilles made by the Dior ateliers from the designer’s sketches.

It’s another unforgettable gallery experience that pays proper tribute to the teams of behind-the-scenes experts who bring these fashion visions to life. 

Although the gallery of celebrity Dior looks is the final stop in the show, it almost feels like an after-thought compared to the magical displays of the Beaux-Arts Court.

Wall of 2007-2020 toiles for haute couture dresses, jackets and coats.

Haute couture is everywhere – clustered in the center, surrounding you on all sides, and artfully displayed on two-story-high walls and balconies.  One area features floral gowns, another shimmering gold ensembles, and another mysterious, dramatic black drama.

Haute couture dresses inspired by the divining arts surrounded by dresses inspired by nature, flowers, and gardens. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
2010 haute couture hand-painted embroidered evening dress by John Galliano for Christian Dior.

The show is a breathtaking array of light, sound, and visual riches – possibly the greatest feast for the fashion eye since the McQueen show at the Met.  Thanks to Dior for letting us see these amazing works from the archive, and to Brooklyn for giving us such an unforgettable fashion experience in its 125-year-old court.

Next up for Brooklyn’s galleries: a tribute to Virgil Abloh, opening July 1.

Jewelry for America Dazzles at The Met

Sparkling, historic, masterful jewels, settings, and stories await intrepid visitors who can find the out-of-the-way mezzanine gallery within the Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing. Jewelry for America, on view through May 8, chronicles the rise of the jewelry making arts through the Met’s own gorgeous collection.

Cases of jewelry from the mid-1700s though today are surrounded by period paintings that show how women (and men!) of different American eras sported, draped, and embellished themselves with the glittery treasures shown nearby.

The curators take five eras and angles, weaving in details of colonial dependency, Westward expansion, global discoveries, luxury consumption, high-end designers, and jewelry art trends.

Robert Fulton’s 1813 wedding portrait of Susan Hayne Simmons, wearing her pearls Empire-style
Rare 1783 Society of the Cincinnati badge by L’Enfant, awarded to Washington’s Continental Army officers

But while looking at the small, finely crafted pieces, you can delight in just looking for looking’s sake.

The first section focuses upon the colonial era through the early 19th century, when toddlers wore coral necklaces and bracelets to keep them “safe” and it was popular to weave the hair of a loved one into a locket, fob, brooch, or little container hanging from a necklace.

But the most historic piece in this first section is the small Society of Cincinnati badge designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, for the group of Continental Army officers who served under Washington.

The next portion of the show introduces the rise of American jewelers in the mid-1800s with brooches and earrings inspired by nature, antiquity, and bygone eras, such as Tiffany’s 1856 transformation of an historic Connecticut oak tree into gold accessories and the artistic 1880 silver necklace by Shleiber & Co inspired by coins unearthed in Pompeii.

Tiffany’s 1889-1896 enameled and jeweled orchid brooch, designed by J. Paulding Farnham

In addition to Tiffany’s renowned, naturalistic orchid brooches and hair ornaments that wowed spectators at turn-of-the-century world’s fairs, the show also includes gorgeous nature-inspired statement pieces from workshops in Newark, New Jersey – high-end suppliers to famous celebrities and socialites in New York.

1924 silver box with enamel plaques by Eda Lord Dixon and her husband, Laurence

There are dozens of necklaces, pins, and special boxes adorned with diamonds, platinum, artistic enamels, opals, emeralds, and other precious gems.

The final portion of the show portrays the rise of the artist-jeweler, showcasing jazzy, one-of-a-kind pieces by mid-century creators like Art Smith and Calder, and finishing up with Elsa Peretti, Verdura, and cuffs by Kenneth Jay Lane from Lauren Bacall’s collection

1948 and 1946 custom cuffs by Greenwich Village artist Art Smith

Enjoy our favorites in our Flickr album, and read more of the history of American jewelry on the Met’s website.

Early 20th century Pueblo necklaces worn by Navajo leader Henry Chee Dodge

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Broadway, Brooklyn, Karma, Kusama, and McQueen

New York museums are offering a full calendar of virtual events this week, including trips to Broadway history, hipster restaurants of the world, Buddhist virtual reality, and tributes to artistic genius. Take a look at the list here! Here are just a few highlights:

2002 Broadway revival of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song

Do you miss Broadway? Learn about some little-known secrets behind hit shows today, Monday (April 12) at 5:30pm. It’s a rare chance to meet the president of the Rogers & Hammerstein Organization, Ted Chapin, who will be giving a behind-the-scenes look at the Great White Way in his program, From Follies to Flower Drum Song and Beyond. It’s the premiere of a conversation recorded last Fall with Broadway World’s Richard Ridge, courtesy of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

Did this global restaurant trend actually start in Brooklyn? Find out with MOFAD and the creators of Global Brooklyn: Designing Food Experiences in World Cities.

Love restaurants? Especially ones with slightly nostalgic post-industrial interiors decorated with that hand-crafted look? At 7pm, join the Museum of Food and Drink to meet the authors who explored how the Brooklyn aesthetic for How a Restaurant Aesthetic Became a Global Phenomenon. Learn how restaurants around the world adopted the style, and find out if this brand of hip actually started in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday (April 14) at 6pm, join the architecture crowd at the Skyscraper Museum to hear Mark Sarkisian, the structural and seismic engineer who is a partner at SOM in San Francisco. Mark designed one of Shanghai’s first supertalls back in 1999. His talk Pivot to China: How Jin Mao Portended Future Supertalls will explain how this tower’s innovations influenced the generation of supertall skyscrapers that followed.

Shanghai’s Jin Mao tower, 1999
Berman Collection poster part of the Youth Style talk at Poster House.

On Wednesday (April 14) at 6:30pm, take a journey back to early modernist Europe at Poster House, who will be hosting A Tale of Three Cities: Youth Style in Berlin, Munich, & Vienna with the Kaller Research Institute. The evening will focus on how young designers made their mark on design from 1895 to 1910. You’ll see works from the Merrill C. Berman Collection (the collection featured at MoMA in Engineer Agitator Constructor), and works from the Poster House’s current Julius Klinger exhibition.

Also at 6:30pm – an opportunity to understand your karma. Join the Rubin Museum of Art for The Game of Life: An Interactive Virtual Experience. A contemplative psychotherapist will guide participants through a virtual Buddhist Wheel of Life to finding liberation from negative habits and patterns. The virtual game takes you throughout the different floors of the museum, and provides twists and turns. There are “Hell” and “God” Zoom rooms, but the payoff is higher awareness of one’s state of mind.

The Rubin’s reimagined Wheel of Life by eight graphic artists.
Kusama at New York Botanical Garden

On Thursday (April 15) at 11am, it’s what all of New York has been waiting for! Mika Yoshitake, the curator of New York Botanical Garden’s KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will provide a look at how Kusama’s blockbuster installation reflects nature, the earth, the microscopic, and the cosmos. Cosmic Nature: Embracing the Unknown will present Mike’s insights about Kusama’s artistic language and her unrelenting, lifelong journey into new territory.

McQueen models backstage, as photographed by Richard Fairer

Want to go backstage at a McQueen show? At 6pm you can. Join Vogue photographer Robert Fairer at Museum at FIT for a live Q&A about his new book, Alexander McQueen: Unseen. Experience memorable moments of fashion’s greatest, most outrageous showman and see what a genius at work backstage before the show.

There’s a lot more happening this week, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Berlin Neon, Japanese Rap, Master Photographers, and Alice Neel

Commercial neon in Berlin under discussion at Poster House Monday

This week, NYC museums are offering more than 40 on-line events (mostly free) that will take you to Berlin in the Twenties, the music scene in Tokyo, studios of acclaimed photographers, and an opening at the Met.  See the full list on our virtual events page.

Tonight (Monday, March 22) at 6:30pm, join Poster House and photographer Thomas Rinaldi for Interwar Neon: Commercial Illumination in Weimar-Era Germany to look back on the electric art that flourished alongside the freewheeling nightlife scene for a brief time between the wars.

Dawoud Bey’s Birmingham series at the New Museum.

On Tuesday (March 23) at 4pm, join the New Museum to meet Dawoud Bey, a photography legend (and MacArthur genius) whose moving 2012 tribute, The Birmingham Project, is featured in the acclaimed exhibition, Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America

At 7pm, join Japan Society for 333 Contemporaries – Looking for the Next Global Rap Star in Japan, the kickoff to its new on-line series which talks about how US rap music adopted and adapted by the next generation of Japanese artists.

Parlor of the Merchant’s House Museum, New York’s only intact 19th c. home

On Wednesday (March 24) at 6pm, if Monday’s session got you curious, Join the Merchant’s House for 19th Century Domestic Lighting: 100 Years of Change. It will be an in-depth look at the technology behind the historic home’s lighting fixtures from 1835 forward, a time when candles and oil lamps gave way to electric lighting.

Anthony Barboza’s 1972 Kamoinge Workshop portrait of Ming Smith

At 7pm, meet Kamoinge Workshop photographer Ming Smith in a live online event, discussing the publication of her recent Aperture monograph and the influence of music upon her work. Ming’s work features prominently in the current exhibition at The Whitney, Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. She is the first African-American female photographer to have her work enter MoMA’s collection.

On Thursday (March 25) at 6pm, get your fashion fix at the Museum at FIT with a special program, From Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie: Jazz and Black Glamour. The pre-recorded program will feature vintage performer Dandy Wellington, a deep-dive into the influence of jazz on 1920s menswear, and a live Q&A with FIT during the YouTube stream.

Alice Neel’s 1978 portrait Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian

At 7pm, join the Met for the online opening of its new exhibition, Alice Neel: People Come First, which features over 100 works by this beloved New York artist, considered one of America’s greatest 20th century portrait painters. You’ll find out all about how an artist who labored for decades in relative obscurity was drawn to document political movements, people, styles, and community in paint.

At 8pm, join MoMA for Virtual Views: Alexander Calder, a Live Q&A in honor if its new exhibition about Calder, MoMA’s founding, and modernism. The event will feature conversation with the artist’s grandson, who leads the Calder Foundation.

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Update

1539 box for crossbow bolts made for the Bavarian duke. Value = 6 cows

We’re glad to report that the Met has extended its exhibition on the value of Renaissance art through the end of the 2021!  See it on the way to the Lehman Wing and the Dutch masters exhibition, and read about it (and the cows) in our February post The Met Asks What the Renaissance Thought It Was Worth.

 

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Jim Dine, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Frida Khalo and New Artists

Jim Dine talking drawings online at The Morgan on Wednesday

This week, NYC museums are offering 35 on-line events (mostly free) on design, art, history, architecture, fashion, and performance.  See the full list on our virtual events page.

But we want to alert you to several events in connection with some of the brand-new exhibitions in town:

On Wednesday (March 10) at Noon, the Morgan Library is sitting down with Jim Dine to talk about classical and contemporary drawing. The program is being held in association with the Morgan’s new exhibition, Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection. Register here for the on-line session (free, but limited seats). Jim will be talking about his own work that’s in the show and how his commitment to drawing relates to work by other artists included, such as Rubens, Ingres, Picasso, and Matisse.

Niki de Saint Phalle arrives at MoMA PS1. Interior view of Empress, Tarot Garden, Italy

On Thursday (March 11) at 1pm, join MoMA PS1 for the launch of the catalogue for its newest exhibition, Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life. Although Niki’s work was everywhere in the latter part of the 20th century, this exhibition marks her first New York retrospective. Curators, admirers, and artists come together at this panel to discuss the exhibition and her daring, provocative installations, ideas, and work.

At 2pm, the Cooper-Hewitt will host another conversation in honor of Willi Smith’s passion for making art outside of the dressmaking atelier – Art, Fashion, Performance: Seeing Through Creative Collaboration.

1939 portrait of Frida by Nickolas Muray. © Nickolas Muray Archives

At 6pm, the Museum at FIT is debuting a pre-recorded video with the curator of the acclaimed exhibitions in Brooklyn in 2019 on Frida Khalo’s style and art. Fashion curators from FIT will be running a live Q&A during the YouTube premiere of Curating Frida Kahlo: Fashion & Prosthetics.

On Friday (March 12) at 6pm, join the curators at El Museo del Barrio for an on-line tour of their important, new show on emerging artists – Estamos bien – La Trienal 20/21. The pandemic delayed the in-gallery opening of this important survey of new art, so El Museo put the work on line, and is just now welcoming in-person visits to its Fifth Avenue home. Check it out and see what’s new.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s story in Grief and Grievance at the New Museum

At 7pm, join the New Museum to meet with another incredible artist participating in Grief and Grievance, the exhibition that has all of New York buzzing. LaToya Ruby Frazier, who has a compelling, wall-sized autobiographical work in the show, will be talking with Margot Norton – a discussion that you shouldn’t miss.

And in the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, the Tenement Museum will be hosting a special on-line tour of the Moore family’s flat on Saturday (March 13) at 7pm and on Sunday (March 14) at 4pm.  Next week, too!

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

KAWS: WHAT PARTY © KAWS. Photo: Michael Biondo

New York has some exciting new shows coming on line right now! Last week, the Brooklyn Museum opened its big art-commerce-culture exhibition, KAWS: What Party, to celebrate 25 years of audacious work by Brooklyn’s own Brian Donnelly.

On March 11, Japan Society finally reopens its exhibition space with When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan. In honor of the earthquake’s tenth anniversary, the exhibition is a tribute to the resilient spirit of Japanese architecture and craftsmanship.

On March 14, MoMA opens Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. We saw the workmen putting on the finishing touches on the third floor when we swung by MoMA this week to check out the other new show in the design galleries – Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Green Book Trip, Willi Smith, Ice Cores, Revolutionary Design, and Museum Scavenger Hunt

NYC fashion designer Willi Smith, ca. 1981. Courtesy: Kim Steele

Mark your calendars for any (or all) of fifty special on-line events sponsored by NYC museums, including a trip inspired by The Green Book, a tribute to a fashion designer who electrified runways in the Eighties, a look under Greenland’s ice, a Q&A on MoMA’s revolutionary design show, and a game-night trip to 18 American museums (with prizes!).

There are many other Black History Month events, discussions, art tours, and previews, so check the week’s listings on our virtual events page. For starters:

Sights along the road trip Driving the Green Book at MAD Museum Monday.

Today (February 22) at 6pm, hit the road with Alvin Hall, Janée Woods, and MAD Museum to learn about a 2,021-mile road trip that they took, inspired by the historic Green Book, which guided Black American motorists on family road trips for decades. The event will be an extension of their podcast, “Driving the Green Book” and feature lots of photos of what they found along the way.

CITIC Tower talk at the Skyscraper Museum

On Tuesday (February 23) at 12:30pm, join the Cooper-Hewitt in its tribute to Willi Smith, the beloved, exuberant fashion designer who dressed all the fun people in the Eighties. Since the museum has been shuttered nearly a year, few were able to see the Willi’s retrospective inside the Carnegie Mansion. So, our national design museum has declared “Willi Smith Day” so that it can shine a light on this historic Black designer for the world to see.

Get inside a supertall building. At 6pm, jet off to Beijing with the Skyscraper Museum and Robert Whitlock, the architect of the city’s tallest buildings. Hear about the design and construction of the CITIC Tower, whose shape is inspired by an ancient ritual vessel from China’s Bronze Age. This is just one of several upcoming talks at the museum on supertall buildings.

African Burial National Monument program at the Tenement Museum

Want to travel back a few centuries? On Wednesday (February 24) at 1pm, visit the Tenement Museum and the African Burial Ground National Monument for a talk on lifestyles of two African families living in old New Amsterdam. Using original source materials, you’ll get a fresh understanding of everyday life in mid-1600s Manhattan.

NYBG’s edible archway

At 6pm, take a trip around the country with a preview of the latest exhibition at the International Center for Photography. Join photographer-curator Paul Graham to walk through the exhibition But Still, It Turns: Recent Photography from the World. Celebrate unexpected journeys and enjoy the nondocumentary approach (no stories, just looking).

On Thursday (February 25) at 11am, start the morning with the New York Botanical Garden’s program with Leslie Bennett of Pine House Edible Gardens on creating gardens of sanctuary. Learn how she creates inspirational gardens that are organic and yield plenty of food, flowers, and medicinal herbs.

Icebergs now, but what happens if Greenland melts?

Thinking about climate patterns recently? Get a completely different perspective.  At 2pm, join a glacier scientist in Beneath the Ice at the American Museum of Natural History to learn what happens when Greenland’s ice melts. You’ll look at how ice core samples are taken, what they show, and how they are being used to predict what’s next with the climate.

Rodchenko’s 1923 Russian airline poster at MoMA

At 8pm, visit revolutionary Russia and see what role designers played with Jodi Hauptman, MoMA’s senior drawings and prints curator, and Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt’s senior curator. Angles, fonts, photos, montage, social issues, and politics will be flying fast and furious as Jodi and Ellen answer your questions about the lives and fates of the artists behind the hundreds of 1920s and 1930s ads, posters, brochures, and magazines showcased in Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented­.

Haven’t you been dying to take a vacation? On Saturday (February 27) at 8pm, join the New York Historical Society and Watson Adventures for a live, virtual scavenger hunt that will take you to 18 different museums across America to search for clues among the history, art, and design collections. Get a team! Have fun! Win prizes!! Co-sponsored by the Museum of the American Revolution and Missouri Historical Society.

There’s a lot more art, history, and discussion, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

2020 painting by Henry Taylor at New Museum

We were able to get a ticket to the New Museum’s acclaimed exhibition this opening week, Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, and were happy to attend last week’s on-line curators’ panel (available here).

It’s a beautifully installed show, filled with top-notch painting, sculpture, music, performance art, and films that deliver on so many levels.

Still from Gone Are the Days of Shelter and Martyr, a 2017 video by ©Theaster Gates. Courtesy: White Cube and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

We’ll be reporting on this show soon, but in the meantime, we want to draw your attention to the weekly (and bi-weekly) panels that New Museum is offering on-line with many of the participating artists. This week, New Museum is speaking with South Side Chicago artist Theaster Gates, represented in the show by a performance video recorded in a church in the process of being demolished. Viewers inside the video gallery were mesmerized.

We’ll be featuring New Museum’s upcoming events on our weekly listing, but check out everything coming up over the next six weeks here under Conversations.

About Fashion and Time at The Met

An 1885 American walking dress with 1986 Yamamoto overcoat

What day is it? What year is it? If we’re going forward in time, should we be moving counterclockwise?

As ten months of pandemic disruption sink in, there’s no better exhibition in New York to experience than the Metropolitan’s Costume Institute extravaganza, About Time: Fashion and Duration, on view through February 7.

Curator Andrew Bolton had the task of organizing a show in honor of the Met’s 150th anniversary, but wanted to take an exhibition approach that wasn’t simply a “greatest hits” showcase.  He wondered what would it be like to mount a show that lets visitors see, feel, and experience how fashion sometimes folds back on itself – like time in Virginia Woolf novels.

Queen Alexandra’s 1902 riding jacket with 2018 Vuitton ensemble by Ghesquière

Stepping into the first gallery, sixty black dresses are arranged like minutes on a clock. The exhibition begins with an example from 1870, the year that the Met was founded, and progresses in time from there.  At each point, you see an ensemble from that year, paired with a designer look from a different year that echoes it – bustles, princess lines, gigot sleeves, tailored jackets, flourishes of 18th-century aristocratic opulence.

It’s all in the Met’s gallery guide.

The inspiration for the first room is a grandfather clock – warm wood colors, a constantly swinging pendulum, and the monotonous, even tick. As you slowly work around the room, the time is even, rhythmic, and set – just like the pace of fashion from 1870 to 1950.

1895 dinner dress by Mrs. Arnold with Rei Kawakubo’s deconstructed 2004 ensemble

The 19th century garments are solid black, with masterful tailoring, swags, trims, and embellishments. In a tribute to the home town, two were created in Brooklyn: the 1885 silk satin dinner dress by Mrs. Arnold (paired with Rei Kawakubo’s equally elaborate but deconstructed 2004 ensemble) and an 1897 riding habit from Brooklyn’s acclaimed department store, Frederick Loeser & Co. (paired with a 1968 equestrian-style suit by Victor Joris).

Some of our other favorite pairings in this room are the 1912 artistic dinner dress with its leather pannier clone by Rick Owens, the 1928 alphabet flapper dress paired with Galliano’s 1997 spider-web frock, and the 1947 Christian Dior “New Look” jacket paired with Watanabe’s 2011 experimental motorcycle jacket.

Dior’s 1947 “New Look” with Watanabe’s 2011 motorcycle jacket

The second room is a shocker – mirrors everywhere, blinding white, undulating pathways, a fractured sense of time, and fashions morphing at breakneck speed – minis, maxis, minimalism, glitter, punk, pleats, unconventional materials, technology, and 3-D printing. (And it’s no surprise that so many pairings include visionary works by Charles James!)

The displays follow the same convention – sequential years paired with a “disrupter” dress or ensemble – but the impact is enormously disorienting, since the “twin” piece could be from the past or future and the mirrored walls and ceiling turn the experience into something like Kusama’s “infinity” room.

“Shattered” gallery – evoking fashion’s accelerated pace

When you enter, it takes a few minutes to figure out where to go, how to move through the sequence, and find the continuing storyline of the exhibition. Is there another room in the exhibition that you missed? Did you just jump to the Seventies and Eighties and miss the Sixties? Is the “next garment” to the right or the left? What year are you in?

[The gallery security guards confirmed that this occurs all day long with visitors!]

To sort it out, take a look at this video – a sequential walk through fashion time punctuated by some out-of-time disrupters (or peruse some pairings on the web):

Some of our favorite pairings in the second room are the zipper twins from Gernreich (1968) and Alaia (2003), the red-edged jersey pairing of Stephen Burrows (1975) and Xuly.bet (1993), and Patrick Kelly’s simple pearl heart dress (1988) with Olivier Rousteing’s Versailles-inspired dress for Balmain lavished with pearls, crystals, and beads (2012).

2012 Iris van Herpen PVC dress with 1951 ball gown by Charles James

Check out more of our favorites in our Flickr album.

And congratulations for including an unexpected (and deserving) multi-part display – Donna Karen’s “Five Easy Pieces” mix-and-match knit separates (1985) with the totally chic, revolutionary, coordinated wool knit separates invented by the ready-to-wear sportswear founder herself, Claire McCardell (1934). Wow!

When you finish walking through this gallery, you’re left wondering if fashion ever truly changes ­– the last pair features a 2018 coat with a 3-D printed understructure alongside a strangely similar coat from 1889.  What just happened?

Sustainability – 2020 Viktor & Rolf’s dress of leftover samples

The exhibition finale is fitting – a small chapel where visitors can meditate on “slow fashion,” sustainability, and a return to basics before they exit to the gift shop.  It features a suspended (or ascending) figure clad in one of Viktor & Rolf’s sweet dresses made of leftover off-white fabric swatches.

When the Met chose the theme for the show and designed it to debut with the celebrity-filled First Monday in May event, no one envisioned that the doors would be sealed shut until August. Or that the exhibition would so perfectly mirror the sensation of endless time, interruption of cycles, and fashion disruption/rethinking happening right now.

Join the Met’s fashion collection curator, Andrew Bolton, for a tour:

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Art, Activism, and Fun

Andre Leon Talley and Darren Walker at MAD on Tuesday

Nearly all of this week’s virtual museum events in New York are packed into Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday to make way for Martin Luther King’s birthday and the inauguration. So, check the daily listings on our virtual events page and dive into interesting sessions on African-American innovators and artists, art with a conscience, and flat-out fun.

1969 anti-Nixon poster from the Poster House archive

On Tuesday (January 19), it will be hard to choose: At 5pm, you can join MAD Museum at 5pm to hear a conversation on equity and design between author and style guru Andre Leon Talley and Ford Foundation president Darren Walker.

At 5:30pm, you can join Poster House and NY Adventure Club for Democracy on Paper to review political posters from the Sixties and Seventies from the museum archives.

At 6pm, New-York Historical Society hosts an in-depth look at Harriet Tubman’s life with biographer Erica Armstrong Dunbar, and the Whitney offers a program on art and social change, illustrated with works from its collection.

Book discussion on Tuesday at the Schomburg Center

At 6:30pm, join author Catherine E. McKinley at NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to see and hear about 100 years of African women’s style and looks, as featured in The African Lookbook.

At 8pm, join the Museum of the City of New York for a special trivia contest with the MCNY curators.

On Thursday (January 21), several programs begin at noon – a lunch hour session at the Staten Island Museum on the work of famed social realist artist Raphael Soyer; a tour of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, courtesy of the Newark Museum of Art; and a tour of the Whitney’s amazing photography exhibition, Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop.

Take a tour of the Whitney’s Kamoinge Workshop show on Thursday

At 2pm, meet the New York Transit museum for Underground Heroesa look at how transit was portrayed in satirical cartoons, comic strips, and comic books.

At 6pm, join the American Folk Art Museum for a fun “drink and draw” session on New York landmarks.

There’s a lot more, so check our complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

We joined the marathon on-line session with Neil deGrasse Tyson this week to hear his year-in-review on astronomical and planetary science. The AMNH chose to produce this via Zoom, so everyone was able to see who was asking the fascinating questions and allowed Neil to have some fun interactions, just as he does at his sold-out events.  Lots of geeky questions and answers for over two hours!

Diego Rivera’s 1931 fresco “The Uprising” in the Whitney’s Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945

We also joined the weekend crowds at The Whitney to see the epic work again in Vida Americana and see the beautiful photographs of the Kamoinge Workshop.

To end the week, we watched Andrew Bolton describe the work behind creating the Met’s unusually prescient fashion exhibition, About Time: Fashion and Duration. Check out the YouTube (already posted!) on what it took to design this unforgettable exhibition.