ICP Reveals What’s Been Going On since March 2020

2020 photographs displayed by month

For months, people have noticed that days get blurred, months speed by, and time feels warped. Why is this happening?  The answer is on the walls of the International Center of Photography in a must-see exhibition, #ICPConcerned: Global Images for Global Crisis, on view through December 31.   

You’ll see images contributed from 70 countries between March and October 2020. ICP simply reached out to its network in March and April (when the museum had to close) to request images via the hashtag that showed was happening in their part of the world.

March images by Brooklyn’s Farras Abdelnour and NYC’s Claudine Williams

By April, 10,000 images had been submitted to ICP, mostly dealing with pandemic response, adjustments to routines, the need to quarantine, and at-home isolation pods. By May, the number of submissions had doubled.

But in the coming months, social-justice protests filled the streets, hurricanes swept shores, wildfires turned night skies orange, Beirut exploded, the pandemic kept grinding on, and the photos just kept flowing to the inbox at 79 Essex and onto the Instagram page.

Artists contributed thousands of photographs illustrating the ways COVID has changed life around the world, and images of hospital workers, families cocooning at home, and life in the public space. The exhibition is an affirmation how artists sustain creativity in troubled times and during protest.

Listen to David Campany, managing director of ICP’s programs, explain:

If you visit the museum in person at 79 Essex, you’ll experience why you’ve been feeling a little time-disoriented.  As you walk through the months, you’ll be amazed to see how many disruptive or charming events everyone has been experiencing on an extremely compressed time scale.

April images from Karen Epstein (Kingston, NY), Morfi Jiménez Mercado (Lima, Peru), René Treece Roberts (Ashville, NC), and Lisa Sorgini (Australia)

It’s enormously satisfying to look through the #ICPConcerned images on ICP’s website and Instagram feed, but visiting the exhibit in person is the only way to experience fully the time-compression effect – walking, seeing, reading, reflecting, letting your eyes scan floor to ceiling, noting the places and dates. By the time you hit August and September, you’ll wonder, “Did all of that really happen since May?”

Also, the playlist wafting in from Tyler Mitchell’s nearby show only enhances your journey through the participatory show.

September photo by Janet Sternburg of Los Angeles

See the ICP installation of 1,000 contributed photos in our Flickr album.

#ICPConcerned has such a simple installation, but walking through it has a powerful effect. The only other museum installation that offers this much temporal disassociation is the Met’s About Time, but that’s done with a giant pendulum, hall of mirrors, a Phil Glass score, and intonations by renowned actresses.

It’s quite a credit to the ICP and the thousands of sharing photographers that they’re able show the weight (and whimsey) of the world as we’re living it in such spectacular form with just a hashtag, a free-spirited community deep-dive, and a push-pin budget.

In October  – Teach Peace | Greenwich Village by Eli Haies-Grunwald and Keepers of the Land by Rehab Eldalil of South Sinai, Egypt

See all the captions and images on the exhibition website. Have fun looking at the submissions by country here.

Many photographers contributed stories about their images and experiences. See and hear them here.

Want to be part of it all? Share your own images on Instagram with the tag #ICPConcerned

Virtual NYC Museum Events about Women and Tiffany, Tenements, and Lace

Dragonfly Lamp (1900-1910), by Clara Driscoll of Tiffany’s Women’s Glass Cutting Department (Cooper-Hewitt)

With Thanksgiving festivities this week, the list of virtual live events happening at NYC museums is a bit shorter. Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Some of the highlights we think you’ll enjoy:

Have you heard the story about the women of Tiffany & Co, who were so integral to the success of the design lab in the early 20th century? If not, you owe it to yourself to join the Queens Museum today (November 23) at 12pm to hear the talk by the Queens Public Library on Women at the Tiffany Studios in Queens.

Gather the family around tomorrow (November 24) at 5pm for a special live event at the Tenement Museum. Meet Victoria Confino, a 14-year-old girl living on the Lower East Side in 1916. Hear about her story of immigration in 1913 and take a tour of her apartment on Orchard Street – all based on the story of the actual young woman who grew up there.

Actress portraying Victoria Confino in her Orchard Street apartment

If you using the weekend to catch up on hand-craft projects, be sure to take advantage of this special behind-the-scenes tour of the lace collection in the textile department of the Met on Saturday (November 28) at 10am. Their collection spans centuries, and it’s a rare chance to poke through all the drawers with one of the curators. (If you want to see what we’re talking about, check out our Flickr album on a past Met exhibition on Fashion and Virtue that featured this amazing collection.)

1910-15 lace evening pouch by Callot Soeurs (The Met)

Check out this week’s schedule and register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

 This week, we got in to see the Met’s fashion exhibition About Time: Fashion and Duration, which was delayed for months by the citywide museum shut down. Fortunately, it gave Andrew Bolton time to tweak the display, which presents a mesmerizing, time-shifting look at the past and present of fashion. If you want to see this, be sure to get to the Met before 11:30am, since tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Plan to spend your day inside the museum, since your ticket may not grant you access until late in the afternoon.

#ICPConcerned – what photographers were seeing around the world in March 2020

There are two must-see exhibitions at the new Essex Street home of the International Center of Photography. If you are in New York, go down ASAP to experience Tyler Mitchell’s installation, I Can Make You Feel Good, and to look through the global response to #ICPConcerned: Global Images for Global Crisis. The walls of images from around the world is a time-warp experience that is no less affecting than the more elaborate, theatrical About Time galleries at The Met.

We also attended the press briefing at The Whitney this week on its new photography retrospective, originally mounted by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond – Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop, which looks back at the work of its 14 founding members back in the Sixties at the birth of the Black arts movement in New York. Go see it.

Politics and rage all laid out in cartoony form in Peter Saul’s retrospective at New Museum

Congratulations are also in order to the New Museum of its two hit shows – Peter Saul’s first-ever NYC retrospective Crime and Punishment (two floors of off-the-charts social and political commentary) and Jordan Casteel’s first solo museum exhibition in NYC Within Reach, filled with her masterful uptown portraits. Visitors linger in the galleries in an effort to digest the rich experience.

And if you are binge-watching The Crown, we’ll again plug the Brooklyn Museum virtual exhibition with Netflix, where you can examine all the fashion up close in virtual reality.

Virtual NYC Museum Events Far Away and Right At Home

Enhanced image of Pluto’s ice plains from NASA’s New Horizons. Courtesy: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

If you’ve wanted to get far, far away but reckon you’re going not going anywhere for Thanksgiving, New York museums are offering some exciting virtual trips as well as comforting at-home activities:

Do you want to get away? Is Pluto far enough? At 7pm on Wednesday (November 18), join the astro-visualization crew at the Hayden Planetarium for a close-up look (using genuine images from the New Horizons spacecraft) to explore glaciers, mountains, and dunes on the little planet. Just a $15 ticket for a trip you won’t get anywhere else.

Behind the scenes with New York’s most celebrated dim sum restaurant with Poster House Nov 19

If staying near the kitchen is more your thing, this week offers a few different options for cooking and looking:

Want to visit New York to enjoy that amazing dim sum? Here’s your chance to do it virtually.  At 6pm on November 19, step into the world of Chinese cuisine at Poster House with the program, Stories & Recipes From Nom Wah. Get inside one of New York City’s oldest dim sum houses as part of the museum’s programming in honor of its exhibition The Sleeping Giant: Posters and The Chinese Economy.

On November 19 at 8pm, the Old Stone House and Brooklyn Brainery are offering an evening on the history of pies, including pumpkin pie, meat pies and baked “coffins.”

History of pies event on Nov 19, hosted by Brooklyn’s Old Stone House

Maybe you just want to look at kitchens and not cook.  On Tuesday (November 17) at 3:30pm, the Tenement Museum is offering a tour of a 1930s working-class family apartment. Or at 6pm, you can join Merchant’s House Museum to walk with an historian through New York City’s only intact nineteenth-century family home (much more upscale!). Tenement Museum is also offering tours into other eras (1910 and 1870) later in the week. Check out the listing.

Roseanne Cash performs with Met Live Arts Nov 17 in a tribute to the eye of the collector

Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Other highlights of the coming week:

Beautiful music from singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash from Met Live Arts tomorrow (November 17) at 7pm in honor of the Met’s exhibition (and gift) Photography’s Last Century. Hear the music and poetry reading streamed live free on the Met’s Facebook and YouTube channels (no advance registration).

Young Hamilton featured on Nov 19 at Fraunces Tavern Museum  (Image: NYPL collection)

Ham fans can get their fix at his old hang-out, Fraunces Tavern on Thursday November 19, with a 6pm program, Hamilton: Man, Myth, Musical…Mensch. The talk will feature facts about his early life and a fun fact-check on the musical.

Or (same date and time), join young New York muralists to hear their reactions Whitney’s blockbuster exhibition, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945. See how the past influences their approach.

Take a look and register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

One of Salman Toor’s narratives at The Whitney

This week, we attended the Whitney’s virtual press conference on Salman Toor’s new exhibition. To get a preview and meet the artist himself, check out his conversation at 6pm tonight (November 16) with another New York/South Asian artist, Chitra Ganesh.

It’s good to see that our Revolutionary friends at Fraunces Tavern Museum are now re-opened in Lower Manhattan. They are hosting several Evacuation Day (outdoors) walking tours and upcoming virtual events depicting how the General said good-bye in the Long Room nine days after the British fled New York.

Cooper-Hewitt hosts Nov 17 working group on transforming museums

Are you a museum professional interested in the future of the visitor experience? Tomorrow (November 17) at 3:00pm, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt is convening a virtual working interactive event for you – Discussions on Transforming the Museum Experience. Small groups will convene to generate ideas and tools (to be published), led by an impressive roster of international museum representatives.

If you’re a student, thinking about going into museum studies, check out the same-day college-night get-together at Poster House at 6:30pm.

Virtual Museum Events on Meditation, Mao, and Met Music

Detail of 2019 watercolor and ink mantra by Charwei Tsai, displayed at the Rubin in last year’s exhibition The Power of Intention

For anyone needing a calm-me-down hour, the Rubin Museum is offering a wonderful service every Monday at 1:00pm, including today’s Mindfulness Meditation with Tracy Cochran. Next Monday (November 2), Lama Aria Drolma will be guiding you through the session.

You should know that the Rubin has lots of Himalayan tranquility available on its YouTube channel. Check out the Rubin Daily Offerings videos – short meditations on art offering lessons on navigating changing and challenging times – and last week’s virtual gala stream, Inside the Mandala.

Tonight, Poster House teams up with the China Institute to take you inside one section of The Sleeping Giant: Posters and The Chinese Economy. At 6:30pm tonight, listen as an expert on Chinese visual culture talks about Posters in the Mao Era, and then get down to 23rd Street to experience the full story on gorgeous posters from the Twenties through the 1990s.

Countertenor John Holiday performs Tuesday in a free program by Met Live Arts

On Tuesday (October 27), the Met Live Arts presents countertenor John Holiday in Hold On! Freedom is Coming!a special program featuring selections from classical Italian opera and Africa American composers of this century to honor the legacy of Jacob Lawrence.  This program will begin at 7:00pm on the Met’s YouTube channel.

Find the links to this and so many other great museum events on our virtual events page here. The schedule is tight, so plan wisely. For your consideration:

  • Tonight, get ready for Dia de Muertos with El Museo del Barrio’s 6:00pm event with Fanny Gerson, who will share her recipe for Pan de Muerto (“Bread of the Dead”) and the story behind it.
  • The preserved 1904 City Hall Station. Photo courtesy: New York Transit Museum

    On Tuesday (October 27) at 6:00pm, get in on a virtual tour of a spot on everyone’s bucket list in New York – the New York City Transit Museum is offering a look at the old, abandoned City Hall Station. It’s always impossible to get a ticket for the live underground tour, so donate $20 and see the treasured 1904 tiles and arches!

  • The same night at 7:00pm, NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is hosting the book launch for Red Rooster’s own Marcus Samuelsson, who has written on the rise of Black cooks and American food. Buy the book to donate to NYPL when you sign up.

Lattice Detour by Héctor Zamora on the Met rooftop

  • And with great fanfare on Thursday (October 29) at 6:00pm, the Met will fling open its virtual doors to recap John Holiday’s performance, zoom up to the roof for you to see Héctor Zamora’s installation, and preview About Time: Fashion and Duration with Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquiére. All free.

There are also more chances to catch ghostly goings on at the Merchant’s House Museum. Register for as many of the topics and events that fit into your schedule.

Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates
We want to make sure everyone’s read the news about the recent discovery of one of missing paintings in the series by Jacob Lawrence on display at the Met. A museum visitor saw the show and realized that one of the missing paintings was hanging in her neighbor’s apartment!  Read this lead story in last Friday’s culture section of The New York Times.

We attended both Agnes Pelton presentations by The Whitney this week, and we just want to remind New Yorkers that the last day to see her show is Sunday, November 1. Her beautiful work next travels to her home town of Palm Springs.

Studio 54 Designers Turn Swimsuits into Evening Wear

Studio 54 fashion: Fiorucci blouse by Antonio, Stephen Burrows dress, and Zandra Rhodes gown. Courtesy: Pat Cleveland

The Seventies fashions in Studio 54: Night Magic, on display through November 8 at the Brooklyn Museum, slip, slide, drape, glitter, and sometimes seem like they’re not even there.

The entire point of going to the Studio 54 nightclub – assuming you could get in – was to shimmer, startle, reveal, exude fabulousness, and shine, shine, shine in the crowd and on the dance floor.

The Brooklyn Museum exhibition, a masterful curatorial achievement, pumps the music, flashes the lights, and runs the videotape while showing off the wunderkinds that made the Seventies 54 scene drip with glamour – Halston, Calvin, Kamali, and Burrows.

See our photos in our Flickr album.

Norma Kamali’s swimsuit top and skirt made for dancing

Although Halston and others made custom gowns for clients (and there are plenty for Liza and Liz in the exhibition), the show highlights one of their other fashion innovations that the 99 percent adopted in the Seventies ­– the swimsuit. If you had a great body, fantastic hair, and dramatic make-up, you could just throw on a bathing suit, tie on a net skirt with little sparkle, and you were ready for the club!

Designers like Kamali and Sant’Angelo partnered with fabric companies to innovate body-hugging solutions, and turned out sexy bathing suits that doubled as disco-ready separates.

One of the galleries features the fun, transparent dance skirts Antonio designed for Fiorucci that he featured in the 1977 “Fiorucci Fantasy” event he staged at Rubell and Schrager’s Queens club, The Enchanted Garden, which predated Studio 54. A video shows how Antonio’s supermodels set the New York fashion and nightlife scene ablaze.

Studio 54 coverage in the Daily News, May 4, 1977. Courtesy: Ian Schrager

For all of its influence in pop culture, it’s hard to think that Studio 54 had a lifespan of only 33 months between 1977 and 1979. The exhibition explores all of facets of the phenomenon – paparazzi, the daily tabloid fodder, Grace Jones, Andy Warhol’s goings-on, disco jeans, Interview magazine, fashion shows, and product launches.

It’s surprising to think that Doris Duke, Alan Greenspan, Lillian Carter, and Bella Abzug were just as likely to be in the club as street performance artists, Bianca Jagger, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Halston’s 1979 beaded chiffon ensemble for Liza Minelli.

To transform the old Twenties theater and TV studio into Studio 54, Schrager and Rubell tapped into the technical and artistic community to figure out how flying disco poles, set changes, and special effects could be orchestrated into a continual surprise for the partygoers. When the musical Chicago closed, designer Tony Walton repurposed his dramatic neon “Roxy” sign as a centerpiece for 54’s stage.

Some of our favorite items are the opening night guest list, Ron Galella’s celebrity photos, Antonio’s costume sketches for opening-night show by the Alvin Ailey dancers, the slideshow of their rehearsal by Juan Ramos, and the giant sapphire that Elizabeth Taylor famously wore to the club in 1979 (it’s in a safe).

Original celebrity photo portraits and Richard Bernstein illustrations for Warhol’s Interview magazine covers

Congratulations to the Brooklyn Museum staff who found and presented this amazing exhibition that lets everyone into Studio 54 to celebrity-watch nearly 40 years after the door closed on the party, and to show us how its influence still reverberates today.

Travel the Sahara Superhighway at The Met

12th – 14th c. terracotta equestrian statue from the Middle Niger civilization (Mali).

As you confront the stone monolith in the entry, get prepared to see art you’ve never before encountered, learn about empires you didn’t know existed, and fill in the blank spot on what you know about African history.

Beauty and cultural discoveries are everywhere in a first-of-its-kind exhibition on Saharan artistic legacies in Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara, on view through October 26 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Large 12th – 13th c. gold pectoral, found at a burial in northwest Senegal, with elaborate filigree. Courtesy: IFAN, Senegal

The shifting sands of the Sahara are echoed in the centuries of shifting artistic traditions, migrations, civilizations, religions, and cultural affinities of the Saharan people. Take a look at our Flickr album.

This gorgeous show is one of the first to tie and unite the threads of the sub-Sahara’s nearly invisible history for Western audiences. Western approaches to art history have traditionally made it appear as if the people on a large content were a monoculture with no beginning, end, or history. The show brings a deeper artistic and historical context to work that has always suffered from just being lumped together as “African art,” or worse, “primitive art.”

Scholars on two continents are starting to piece the story together, reflected in the exhibition’s design. The alcoves are a primer to walk back through time to understand the region’s complex history, which covers deserts, oases, and farming areas that are the size of Europe. For centuries, the region was criss-crossed by trading routes (the “Saharan superhighway”) through which caravans delivered luxury goods, exotic raw materials, news, and new cultural influences.

Pre-1659 royal tunic, a European import from the Ardra kingdom (south Benin) via Mandé trade routes. Courtesy: Museum Ulm

Wooden or fired clay depictions of warrior kings on horseback from the 3rd through 19th centuries line the exhibition’s central path. Settlements, archeological sites, and kings are named, with the vast region’s artifacts, architecture, and traditions of storytelling joyously placed into a proper context.

There are plenty of national treasures, such as the gold pectoral from Senegal and lively terra cotta sculptures (likely made by women) from Mali, made with the highest levels of craftsmen between the 12th  and 14th centuries. Another highlight is the still-vibrant 8th-century woven tunic from Niger, one of Africa’s most ancient textiles.

The exhibition explains how Islam gradually, peacefully became the dominant religion in sub-Saharan Africa, displacing the previous belief systems. As is the case with other world cultures, artists continued to merge and adapt older, more traditional symbols and forms with the new.

Wood sculptures of Mali’s Bamana people, from the 15th to 20th century

An intriguing 15th-century Italian map-painting documents Mansa Musa, a 14th-century emperor from Mali, who achieved global celebrity status for his over-the-top pilgrimage to Mecca via Cairo and was inspired to develop Timbuktu into a center of Islamic scholarship.

The display of Bamana sculptures, dating from the 15th to 20th centuries, in the rear gallery is the show’s dramatic conclusion, although the walls depict incredible resist-dye textiles made by early 20th century women in Mali and couture-level embroidery on pure white status garments of the Timbuktu elite from the Sixties.

Senegalese kora made before 1878, used by griots to perform social narratives.

The show was an epic undertaking by the Met  – organizing a narrative and objects to tell two thousand years of relatively unknown history; first-time loans of national treasures from the museums in Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania; arranging for an 8,000-lb. monolith to be shipped across the Atlantic to New York.

The epic histories recounted by griots playing traditional instruments over the centuries play a large role in the exhibition. Koras and percussion instruments are on display, and music permeates the galleries.

Here’s a peaceful walk through the exhibition with music by Toumani Diabaté with Ballake Sissoko:

For an in-depth understanding of this ground-breaking show, join in on this conversation with Met curator Alisa LaGamma and scholar and writer Manthia Diawara:

Learn more about the epic history of the Sahara in the Met’s exhibition guide.

Couture Nirvana at The Met

1957-58 satin “Du Barry” evening dress by Christian Dior

Walking through the Costume Institute’s show, In Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection, closing September 27, you can feel the care and attention that Sandy gave to choosing exquisite fabrics and impossibly precise handwork in the pieces she chose for her archive.

The dresses and accessories that Sandy’s chosen to donate to the Met are pristine – a tribute to her true love, appreciation, and care for couture masterworks. She didn’t collect to wear the clothes, but to preserve and admire them as genuine works of art – duchess satins, intricately painted velvets, and incredible beadwork from the best French embroidery houses. Take a look some of the details close-up in our Flickr album.

A transition to ease – a lavish 1913 evening dress by Jean Victorine Margaine-Lacroix for the House of Margaine-Lacroix

The beautiful show opens with an array of postwar couture by superstar designers Dior, Balenciaga, and Saint Laurent alongside creations by less shown couturiers, such as Jean Dessès and Jacques Griffe. It’s a joy to behold Sandy’s reverence for sumptuous fabrics and dramatic silhouettes.

It’s equally exciting to encounter lavish early 20th century gowns and discover new names, such as Madeline & Madeline or Jean Victorine Margaine-Lacroix, who were blazing the trail for a new kind of liberating dress for women at the same time that suffragettes were marching to gain the vote. Sandy’s gift brings these ground-breaking female designers into the Met’s collection for the first time, too.

The show also calls attention to at-home ease and glamour of the Thirties from innovative, sought-after American female designers – a tea gown of simplified perfection by Jessie Franklin Turner (who Poiret called “a genius”) and a virtually sheer dinner dress by Valentina created from layers and layers of netting.

1939 chiffon tea gown by Jessie Franklin Turner and 1940 net dinner dress by Valentina

Both pieces show masterful construction, nearly invisible handwork, and style that enabled an understated hostess to sweep through her own private event like a movie star.

The back of the gallery showcases some of Sandy’s earliest acquisitions – nearly a dozen coats, dresses, and capes from the Twenties by two legends of textile magic – Fortuny and Maria Monaci Gallenga. Each had their own secrets techniques for applying intricate, metallic Renaissance-inspired patterns on lush velvet and silk. The creations are a master class in artistic dressing.

Many couture feats demanding close examination are encountered in the third major portion of the show – delicate flowers on a tulle dress by Vionnet, diaphanous, layered embroidered chemises by Boué Soeurs, and sparkly flapper dresses by Poiret and others that are beaded beyond belief and look as if they were made yesterday.

1925 lame and lace dress by Paul Poiret and 1925-28 evening dress with paillettes, beads, and crystals

There’s a tongue-in-cheek gallery with Sandy’s collection of sartorial puns from the Eighties by Stephen Sprouse and Patrick Kelly, alongside and fool-the-eye hats and accessories by Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy. (Turkey feathers painted to look like butterflies, anyone?)

Alongside a watercolor portrait of Sandy, there’s another hint to what her collecting will add to the Met – a works-on-paper collection from the early 20th century, featuring pen-and-ink illustrations that were how fashion houses showed their clients what each season had to offer. It will be exciting to see more from the print portfolio that Poiret created with star illustrator Georges Lepape for his best clients.

Enjoy this brief glimpse into a space where Ms. Schreier’s gift provides beauty, delight, and reverence for masterful makers around every corner.

Building a Retail Empire on Wearable Art

Vera’s 1950 silk “Fish Scroll” scarf, featured on the cover Harper’s

So many of the great female entrepreneurial success stories begin at the kitchen table, and the story currently being told by the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann, on view through January 26, is no exception.

Fashionistas today may be too young to remember when the American height of chic was to sport a scarf by Vera. Back in the Sixties and Seventies, Vera pretty much had a lock on the retail market for bold, colorful silk scarves through major department-store behemoths.

The exhibition is a tribute to a woman who took her love of painting, travel, nature, and culture to the wardrobe and accessory drawers of all fashionable American households, and ended up partnering with many top manufacturers to push her aesthetic and flare into mid-century modern homes.

Vera’s silk scarves, based upon watercolors, hung as art at MAD

Although her name is not well known by young people today, MAD’s exhibition is a fitting tribute to a woman who virtually invented the concept of “lifestyle” brand. It’s hard to believe that an aspiring artist born in Connecticut in 1907 would grow up and develop her company to pack such a punch in retail.

A graduate of Cooper Union and Traphagen in the 1920s, during the Depression, Vera and her husband set up a silkscreen on their little Manhattan kitchen table and began printing her paintings on surplus parachute silk. Within a few years, her beautiful silks were being retailed at B. Altman, Lord & Taylor, and other nice shops in the city. Her joyous prints were a success!

Vera’s 1960-1965 silk blouses with paintings of blue poppies and woodland images

Building her business through the war years, Vera took her first foray into fashion in the 1950s, creating tops and blouses that she came to market as “wearable art.” Rather than simply printing yards of repeating patterns, she went a step further – engineering prints in panels, so when pattern cutters and sewers assembled her shirts, her beautiful patters would strategically appear in the final product, enhancing cuffs, collars, edges, and hems.

Of course, everything was priced for the widest possible market, so a woman seeking a bit of fashion flair could buy a Vera without blowing her budget. She followed the art-plus-commerce philosophy – a Bauhaus innovation – and maximized accessibility of mid-century modern design by expanding into home textiles, tabletop accessories, and dishes.

1979 “The Birches” china dining set for Mikasa with matching tablecloth

As her business grew, Vera came to rely upon the next generation (Perry Ellis got his start with her) to keep the design development chugging along while she traveled to Asia and other parts of the world to feed the constant demand for new inspiration for her collections.

MAD has assembled a beautiful, loving exhibition of Vera’s output, showing how her original watercolor work made its way into her commercial ventures – scarves, clothes, and home décor. Perhaps most remarkable is that this powerhouse kept traveling, painting, and channeling joy into her textiles well into her eighties – an inspirational lesson in love of life, art, craft, and culture.

1971 “Northwest Coast” silk scarf

Thank you, Vera! Long may your prints wave!

And thank you to MAD for sharing Vera’s lifetime of creations and inspiring story!

See more photos of this wonderful exhibition in our Flickr album.

Cardin Sees the Future Through Fashion

The Brooklyn Museum’s latest blockbuster fashion exhibition Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion, open through January 5, presents the work of a French designer who continues to be inspired by the belief that simplicity, design, and science are essential ingredients for a world that lives in peace, treats men and women equally, and looks to the horizon.

Geometric minidresses and men’s ensembles worn with tights and over bodysuits from the revolutionary 1964 Cosmocorps collection

Cardin came of age as a designer in the 1950s creating luscious swing coats, lasso-backed draped suits, and prim (but red-hot) looks for Jackie Kennedy. But he shot to “influencer” status in the early 1960s with unisex looks, bodysuits, collarless jackets for the Beatles, reliance on a fashion-forward Japanese model, turtlenecks (for men and women), hoods, felt helmets, and body jewelry – in other words, all the basic building blocks that would be used to clothe the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

1957 “lasso back” suit, 1968 bodysuit ensemble, and Cosmocorps photo with video showing the unisex Star Trek costumes it inspired in 1966

The Brooklyn show begins with a chronology of Cardin’s young life – soldier, costumer, and Christian’s first employee at the House of Dior in 1946 – but rapidly gives way to a sensational array of tubular, unisex clothing from his mind-blowing Cosmocorps collection, which had so much impact on Sixties culture. Take a look at our favorites in Flickr album.

1968 wool and vinyl minidress, 1966 aluminum statement jewelry, a 1970 wool crepe “Kinetic” dress, and Avedon photo of Penelope Tree wearing a 1968 evening dress and collar

Although several other European designers could be credited with the evolution of the miniskirt, no one channeled the Space Age like Pierre Cardin when it came to shape, form, and use of new fabrics and materials – lenticular plexiglass, vinyl, Dynel pressed into 3D forms and shaped for the body, and parabolic structures that underpinned evening gowns, men’s jackets, and skirts. Pierre even went so far as to visit Houston and slip on an Apollo 11 astronaut’s suit.

1969 lenticular plexiglass and vinyl “armor” dress, 1968 heat-molded Dynel dress, 2007 jersey coat and suit with rubber, and 1991 jersey evening ensemble with parabolic shoulders and hat

It’s clear that the Sixties and Seventies fashions in the show reflect what was going on in the art world at the time – bright, bold colors of Pop Art, pared-down minimalism, an embrace of non-traditional materials, and kinetic art. (Carwash dresses, anyone?)

Even Cardin’s forays into furniture design reflect his belief that his hand-made contemporary works genuinely functioned as art first and utilitarian additions to the home second.

1968 circle coat and hat, next to 1979 Junior Unit, and 1977 Serge Manzon lamp

The final gallery in the Brooklyn show is a darkened room populated with mannequins in shimmering gowns and suits, electrified dresses and sportswear, and pieces embellished with parabolic hoops and flourishes – sheer Space Age magic. Slight swoops across the space, framing the last 20 years of Cardin’s output with an other-worldly, visionary feel.

2008 evening dress with parabolic hem, 2003 evening gown with plastic tubes, 1994/2000 velvet evening dress with Swarovski crystals on the orbital sleeves, and 2013 silk/lame evening dress with Swarovski crystals

A surprise inspiration is the revelation that Cardin at 97 is still designing and looking toward the future.  His predictions? That people will be on the Moon in 2069 wearing his Cosmocorps look, women will be sporting tube clothing and Plexiglass cloche hats, and that men will be wearing kinetic tunics and elliptical trousers.  Why not?

Watch as the curator explains how Cardin envisioned the future…

…and why this retrospective of his work is just right right now:

MoMA Activates Sensory Landscape Daily

Large moveable sculpture covered in tiny bells

MoMA’s open again, and as the sun comes down daily, a sparkling, tinkling, gleaming landscape created by Korean multimedia artist Haegue Yang comes alive in the Museum of Modern Art’s multistory atrium.

Giant, stylized animalistic sculptures glide across the space, carefully guided by a black-clad dozen performers who appear every day at 4 p.m. for the one-hour activation.

Handles is a dreamscape world, where six large sculptural pieces inhabit an atrium enlivened by reflective biomorphic shapes climbing playfully up the walls.

When the performers move them, the giant sculptures, sheathed in a neat layer of bells, subtly chime to a soundtrack of tweeting birds and a tranquil symphony. Magic that soothes museum goers into a contemplative state.

A team of performers activate the installation daily

The piece reflects Haegue’s growing interest in using choreography and sound to build a sensory experience for art viewers. Gradually, she’s incorporated performers moving in geometric patterns, pulling oversized sculptures across and around the space, in a modern take on utopian Triadic Ballet-style movement.

Environmental phenomenon, geopolitical stresses, and modern art pioneers all factor into her work. Read MoMA’s interview with her here.

There’s plenty of time to see Handles, which will be activated for MoMA visitors through April 12, 2020.

See more photos of the installation on Flickr and watch a few moments of the performance here.