Bard Resurrects NYC’s Crystal Palace

The domed Crystal Palace depicted on a commemorative window shade

With its exhibition New York Crystal Palace 1853, the Bard Graduate Center gallery is offering an exquisite experience of one of the 19th century marvels of New York – the enigmatic 1,500-paned glass structure that rose on what is now Bryant Park.

In 1853, New York was trying to claim its place as a culture capital. Two years prior, London had mounted its world-class exhibition in its beautiful Crystal Palace, and New York wanted to do Europe one better.

By this time, New York was dominating in global trade, so the City thought it could elevate American taste (and spur consumer appetite for luxury goods) by assembling technology innovations, art, and manufactured items all under one big domed glass roof.

Why not build the world’s largest cast iron and glass exhibition hall on the edge of the city at 42nd Street next to the Croton Reservoir? For 50 cents, visitors could spend the day inside and people watch to their heart’s content.

Showpiece parlor furniture, an 1853 armchair by Julius Dessoir

It would be the largest building that anyone had ever experienced – so big that it had its own police force and you had to buy a guidebook.

The exhibition selects some choice items from New York collections – many which were indeed exhibited under the dome in 1853 – to tell the story of the endeavor, give a feeling of what a wonder it was, and bring you back to a time in New York when parlor furniture was the rage, ladies were just venturing out for ice cream on their own, and oysters were still so plentiful in the harbor that they reigned as the best quick snack for lunch.

Take a look at the galleries exhibition on the Bard website, but see a close-up view on our Flickr album.

Although the physical exhibition ends July 30, the Bard team offers a through-the-looking glass digital site, where you can actually stroll through the interior and examine different items along the way. The journey takes you by evocative sculptures, beautifully crafted musical instruments, spectacular parlor furniture, and vitrines filled with over-the-top ladies’ hats.

High-tech Singer sewing machine for home and business

The technology section features the latest in fire engines, Eli Whitney’s original model of his 1794 cotton gin, Colt’s revolvers, a pyramid made of innovative cotton rope, and the revolutionary iron sewing machine. To show how it worked for industry and the home, Singer had women demonstrate this new labor-saving device.

In-gallery and online interactive walk-through tour of the Crystal Palace

The scope of the exhibition was so massive – the footprint of Bryant Park between 40th and 42nd Streets – that publishers offered guide books so that visitors wouldn’t miss a thing.

Helpfully, Bard provides you with digital access to the free July 23, 1853 Crystal Palace supplement from the Illustrated News, modeled upon a period newspaper.

For a thrilling view, you can go up to the 270-foot tall, 8-foot wide platform of the Latting Observatory (New York’s first authentic skyscraper) and get a bird’s eye view of the city all the way out to Jamaica Bay. Or duck into the saloon below for smash, the cocktail of the day, a shaken-not-stirred icy mix of brandy, lemon, mint, and sugar. (And consult the guidebook to find out which saloons allow ladies to sip alcohol.)

There’s also a digital guide to other 1853 attractions, including how to take an omnibus over to the Hippodrome and where to find Matthew Brady’s studio.

Must-have tophat displayed and available from John Genin’s downtown mega-store

It’s all so lively, that it’s sad to learn that the entire edifice came crashing down in a dramatic fire in 1858, which likely adds to the mystery. The curators have found a tiny, insignificant piece of its melted glass from the Museum of the City of New York’s collection. Treasure it.

If you have three hours, watch Bard’s symposium on how it all came together – the palace, the exhibition, and the digital experience that will provide everyone with hours of 19th century summer fun in the City:

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Curtain Up on Theater’s Best at NYPL

All the Playbills you ever collected

The excitement of Broadway and West End theater is fully on display at the New York Public Library’s show at Lincoln Center, Curtain Up: Celebrating the Last 40 Years of Theatre in New York and London, closing July 30.

It’s a theater-lover’s fantasy journey through four decades of smash hits that cross-pollinated two shores – costumes, stage sets, video clips, lights, sound, and awards. And as the curators point out, the two theatrical epicenters are mirror images of one another.

The Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum in London, the Society of London Theaters, and our own NYPL assembled this extravaganza with the help of producers, costume designers, actors, theaters, and other owners theatrical history.

The foyer is awash in Playbills, hanging from the ceiling and piled up in corners. It feels like home. It’s hard to know where to look or what to process first. Is it Michael Crawford’s Phantom mask (direct from his own collection)? Is it the overscale streetplan of Times Square or Shaftsbury Avenue? Lola’s thigh-high hot pink Kinky Boots?

A Chorus Line finale top hats by Theoni V. Aldridge from TDF’s Costume Collection.

Take a short walk-through of the show on our Flickr album.

Look closely for windows into innovative set designs (An Inspector Calls, War Horse) amid towering costumed mannequins. But the overpowering sound throughout is One. Who can concentrate on anything else once you see a corridor sprinkled with glittery top hats overhead and Broadway-sized media screen showing the multi-mirrored finale of A Chorus Line.

Besides being everyone’s favorite musical (the first to win London’s coveted Olivier award), the show ushered in the digital age of theater. When it debuted at the Public Theater, the lighting was the first musical to depend on an electronic light board, which made the transitions just as precise at the choreography.

There are backstage notes for The History Boys, box office totals from Evita, period costumes from the theater’s grande dames, and a brief video showing one of the all-time great moments of inspiration and awe onstage — the seconds-long flash accompanying the finale appearance of the magnificent angel in Angels in America.

Julie Taymor’s 1997 masks for The Lion King’s Scar, Simba, and Nala

The most dramatic encounter is an area populated with costumes and masks from The Lion King and the swan costume from Matthew Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake.

The “fliers” are aloft, too – Marry Poppins and Elphaba – with a big-finish wall of televisions showing coverage of the Olivier Awards, currently celebrating their 40th anniversary.

The result is a theatrical show together that sings, dances, and reminds everyone of what a life in the theater – either as an actor, technician, or audience member – can be.

To prepare for your next visit to the West End, here’s a short primer on the stats, lingo, and facts about theater culture on both sides of the Atlantic:

Adrian Goes Beyond Hollywood at FIT

1949 Vogue magazine spread with Adrian’s dress of Bianchini-Férier silk taffeta

The FIT graduate students have hit the mark again in their show Adrian: Hollywood and Beyond, running through April 1 at the upstairs museum gallery.

Although there are film clips aplenty showcasing the Hollywood designer’s work, this exhibition explores the connection that Adrian made between his work on the silver screen, his collaboration with American and French fabric designers, and addressing the ready-to-wear market.

After achieving worldwide recognition for his glamorous Hollywood costumes and the iconic Americana gingham dress in The Wizard of Oz, Adrian thought he might go slightly more mass market. Why not capitalize on the ability to channel an American sensibility and Thirties glamour and make it more widely accessible?

Organic piecing in an artistic 1945 ready-to-wear evening ensemble

A lover of art and fan of surrealism, Adrian opened his first salon in Beverly Hills in 1942 and collaborated with American fabric manufacturers to give the added zing to his collections.

Right from the start, Adrian offered customers amazing cuts on sharp suits, intricate construction (go, mitered seams!), fool-the-eye appliques, and exquisite draping of innovative, bold prints.

The curators cleverly present swaths of uncut fabric next to print ads featuring Adrian’s creations using the same bold designs – leopard print, surrealist-inspired fantasy, and even festive chickens from the farm. It’s all flair from start to finish, and a nice focus on a time when fabrics were made in America, Seventh Avenue (and Hollywood) ruled, and consumers craved quality.

Although Adrian continued designing for Hollywood right through his ready-to-wear years, the show ends with Technicolor clips from films that include dramatic fashion shows featuring fantasy clothes for beach, sun, and salons.

1952 fashion-show costume from Lovely to Look At

As always, the FIT student crew has created a beautiful web exhibition for the show, but you can also look closely at the details on some of our favorite Adrian flourishes and fabrics in our Flickr album.

Great work, FIT graduates!

Antonio Lopez: When Fashion Danced Off the Page

Antonio's 1986 Vanity illustration of Tina and Mick Jagger

Antonio’s 1986 illustration of Tina and Mick Jagger for Vanity

Music, fashion, and art were never mixed up so deliciously as when Antonio was working in the studio, surrounded by breakdancers, supermodels, street accessories, and couture. Glimpse the pulsing lines and beat at El Museo del Barrio’s celebratory exhibition Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion through this weekend.

With his partner, Juan Ramos, the dynamic duo changed the way the fashion industry thought about drawing, line, color and style, infusing the typically staid haute couture with ethnic twists, flair, and celebrity in a way no one before had dared. Pencil or conte crayon in hand, Antonio broke down barriers and walls, infusing the New York and Parisian fashion worlds with lively banter, music, and beauty that only a savvy, streetwise Puerto Rican New Yorker could.

The show is a tribute to the 360-degree life that produced the America’s greatest fashion illustrator during the Mod- and disco-infused Sixties and Seventies.

Dynamic 1973-74 pencil drawing for Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine

Dynamic 1973-74 pencil drawing for Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine

The early work from the Seventies is tight, controlled, and more-or-less a jigsaw puzzle of drafting mastery. Witness the Gentleman’s Quarterly illustrations mixing menswear, muscle, and motorcycles, which were considered too racy for the day. Futurist angles, pointed pencils, and lavish details will blow you away.

Around the same time, American master Charles James took note of this FIT wunderkind, asking Antonio to document his entire archive of sumptuous gowns and daywear. Although this ten-year collaboration is not featured in the Fifth Avenue show, look here to see the digital library of Antonio’s work for James, now in the collection of the Chicago History Museum.

As the style cauldrons of Fiorucci, Max’s Kansas City, and Studio 54 amped up, Antonio and Juan began curating their entourage of uptown and downtown style divas, which included legends Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall, and Grace Jones.

Photo of Antonio surrounded by "Antonio's girls" in the 1980s Installation views of “Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion” El Museo del Barrio New York, New York June 14 – November 27, 2016

Antonio’s Girls surround him in the 1980s

The message: live and draw large. Subjects for illustrated fashion spreads were styled, posed, and recorded in Antonio’s hand, all to a pulsing beat. To get everyone in the mood, innovative street dance crews were given free rein to spin, pop, and twirl during the sessions.

No wonder that Antonio’s mature work leaps off the page, lines swirling, accessories flying. Publications like Vogue, The New York Times, and Warhol’s Interview just had to have it, and published his drawings over and over.

In the age of Snapchat and Instagram, it’s hard to over-emphasize how revolutionary Antonio’s vision was at the time. His two-dimensional visualizations left fashion photography in the dust. As Ms. Missoni once said, “He transformed the clothes.” Take a look at the Flickr feed.

A 1983 pencil and gouache drawing of totally glorified Maria Snyder

A 1983 pencil and gouache drawing of totally glorified Maria Snyder. Collection: Narciso Rodriquez

El Museo is distributing copies of the Interview magazine issue that Antonio and Juan edited. Pick it up as you peruse the serious sampling of celebrity-infused work in the show – Tina Chow, Karl Lagerfeld, Billy Idol, and Tina, to name a few. To give exhibition goers a feel for the pizzazz in Antonio’s work and life, there are videos of break dancers in his studio and a great video of him working from a live model as part of a drawing demo for students at his alma mater, FIT.

Too bad that Valentin de Boulogne (Caravaggio’s follower, currently on view at the Met, who also styled and staged models) lived 350 years too early to enjoy this joyful, breakneck, vibrant 20th-century beautiful-people scene with subjects jumping out of the picture frame.

It’s hard to underestimate the influence Antonio had on the cultural beat of New York in the Seventies and Eighties. It was all about the mix – high art, pop art, high fashion, street style, and ethnic culture.

Take a look at Antonio’s 1983 workshop at Pasedena’s ArtCenter College of Design, and see the master at work creating, staging, and transforming what he sees and feels with gestures as large as Pollack’s:

New York Artists Celebrate Coney Island

Steeplechase Funny Face, the symbol of a famous amusement park.

Steeplechase Funny Face, the symbol of a famous amusement park.

How did a strip of pristine, white-sand beach turn into one of the most fantastical, lurid, menacing, and whimsical destinations in the United States? You won’t find a sociological essay, but you’ll experience a lot of evidence in the Brooklyn Museum’s Coney Island extravaganza.

See Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 through March 13 and visit Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull) on the Fifth Floor through August 21.

The crowds filling the galleries last Saturday night savored the experience of the sky-high towers of contemporary hand-painted, Coney-inspired signs by the collaborative, ICY SIGNS. You could stand for an hour, just taking in all the messages, philosophy, and witty send-ups of contemporary life, curated by TED-talking artist Stephen Powers.

Through the door, however, another world waits. Seeing Coney Island’s gaudy jumble today from the air or Q train, it’s hard to imagine how it looked in the mid-1800s in the post-Civil War era.

Chase’s 1886 oil, Landscape, Near Coney Island

Chase’s 1886 oil, Landscape, Near Coney Island

The show, organized by Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, opens with tranquil landscapes of the aspiring middle-classes enjoying the salt air and low-key entertainments and diversions on the beach – maybe having a photo taken by an itinerant photographer, or sampling some sweet treats. Back in these more genteel times, the sandy shores were open to a mix of races and nations, or so the oils by William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman attest.

How times changed! A giant vintage black-and-white film clip of romance on a roller coaster draws you into a world of more visceral wonder – carousel horses and gambling wheels interspersed with a hundreds of works by famous American artists that explore the magic, mayhem, and malevolence that made Coney such a phenomenon.

Detail of Joseph Stella’s 1913-1914 Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras from Yale University.

Detail of Joseph Stella’s 1913-1914 Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras from Yale University.

Figurative work from Reginald Marsh and others catapult you back to bawdy bathers and burlesque scenes brought to life last year in Broadway’s On the Town. Photographs by Arbus, Weegee, and Walker Evans provide close-up views of what it was like above and under the boardwalk.

Much of the shows’s fun is driven by the jarring injection of super-cool modern abstraction next to the flotsam and jetsam of the actual historic artifacts.

Edwin Porter’s 1905 silent movie Coney Island at Night gave nickelodeon viewers a novel way to see Edison’s incandescent lights in all their glory.

It’s startling to see Joseph Stella’s Futurist-inspired tribute to Coney Island’s Mardis Gras and realize that it’s from the same 1910-1914 era in which Jimmy Durante played honkey tonk piano for newcomer Mae West. It was all happening at the same time as the Armory Show.

1991 acrylic painting featuring iconic Spook-A-Rama Cyclops by Arnold Mesches.

1991 acrylic painting featuring iconic Spook-A-Rama Cyclops by Arnold Mesches.

Frank Stella’s 1950’s abstraction holds its own amidst the sideshow banners and relics that inspired his jarring color bars and mystery portal. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that right around the corner you come face-to-face with the real-life Coney landmark – the Cyclops who lured riders into America’s largest dark ride, Spook-A-Rama. The curators have placed him right next to his menacingly large portrait by Arnold Mesches.

Take a walk on the wild side of history, art, and sideshow performance while you can in person or via our Flickr album.

The Stephen Powers installation runs through the summer. Here he is explaining the allure of Coney Island as a contemporary inspiration:

MoMA Connects Music and Modernism

A decade apart – 1957 Stratocaster and Avendon’s 1967 posters of the Beatles

A decade apart – 1957 Stratocaster and Avendon’s 1967 posters of the Beatles

The MoMA Design Department had a brilliant idea – to tell the history of 20th century music culture by pulling out objects and two-dimensional art from the museum’s rich collection. How did modernism and music influence one another? See Making Music Modern: Design for Eye and Ear, on view through January 18.

There’s still time to catch some demos of the Scopitone, the Stratocaster, and the Mechanical Flux Orchestra inside the gallery this weekend.

Although a lot of the buzz in the gallery is over visitors’ recollections of the turntables, radios, and album covers on display, the curators do everyone a favor by putting the mod, mod world into historical context at the start of the show.

Early Edison sound experiments, films of Loie Fuller and Josephine Baker, and a poster of Yvette Guilbert from the can-can era remind everyone that shocking live performances, revolutionary music trends (go, ragtime!), and print designs that pushed the limits don’t belong exclusively to the mod, punk, or techno eras.

Early pop music innovations: sheet music and Edison wax cylinders

Early pop music innovations: sheet music and Edison wax cylinders

Tucked into side panels and corners are photos of costumed interplanetary performers of the Triadic Ballet at the Bauhaus in 1922 and early Russian avant-garde takes on the advent of radio, the broadcast and communications technology that changed entertainment forever.

These were worlds where artists and designers did it all – fine art, typography, industrial design, textiles, and performance. There are even some snippets of early acoustic-enhancing textiles on display, courtesy of Anni Albers. Design and music mixed, right from the start of the last century.

The sleek, streamlined radios, microphones, and Rural Electrification poster from the 1930s are presented as icons of the earliest era of broadcasting, with reminders from the curators that the designs were made to rescue the radio from its early haywire, spaghetti-city look that first appeared on 1920s garage workbenches across the country. Make it look nice, and you can bring it inside, where we can all enjoy it.

Stylish: 1932 Bakelite radio by Wells Coates and a 1939 Unidyne mic by Benjamin Baker.

Stylish: 1932 Bakelite radio by Wells Coates and a 1939 Unidyne mic by Benjamin Baker.

Throughout the Fifties and Sixties, music and design seemed to go hand in hand. Consider the Sixties revolution in turntable and speaker design – everything fit for a super-modern lifestyle of easy listening with jazz and high-concept percussion album covers nearby.

The invention of the Fender Stratocaster guitar revolutionized the sound and look of early rock and roll with its iconic whammy bar and performances that represented out and out rebellion. Although the Stratocaster was invented in the 1950s, it’s appropriately displayed in front of posters of Bob Dylan, The Yardbirds, and Avedon’s Beatles – an innovation adopted by Buddy Holly that inspired the next generation.

Where pop music and art come together – Sixties album covers, including those by Richard Hamilton and Warhol

Where pop music and art come together – Sixties album covers, including those by Richard Hamilton and Warhol

If you really want to dig into the details, there are dozens of famous album covers and posters on display with tribute paid to their designers. Among the luminaries are pop-god Richard Hamilton’s “White Album” for the Beatles, Warhol’s “Sticky Fingers” cover for the Stones, and Rauchenberg’s design for the vinyl disk inside the Talking Heads’ “Speaking in Tongues” album. The chronicle of the Fillmore East posters is a book unto itself.

And Mr. Jobs’ imprint is never forgotten at MoMA. An early version of his iPod is displayed right next to the Seventies invention from Japan that rocked the music world – the Sony Walkman.

If you can’t make it, take a look at the show through our Flickr views. We’ve grouped the items in chronological order.

And check out the excellent MoMA blog posts about the show on MoMA’s “Inside/Out” platform, where curators go to share enthusiasm about the hunt for the Stratocaster, famous rock posters, and other gems from the Fifties and Sixties. Leave your own comments, reflection on music and design, and memories right there on the MoMA website.

Before Walkmans and iPods

Before Walkmans and iPods

When Folk Music Ruled New York

Washington Square Sunday folk singing, early 1960s. Courtesy: MCNY/Nat Norman

Washington Square Sunday folk singing, early 1960s. Courtesy: MCNY/Nat Norman

The large map inside the exhibition tells the entire story of how a folk music revival germinated on a few blocks in Greenwich Village in the 1950s and exploded into a national mania for twelve-string guitars, songs of protest, and music that paid tribute to deep, deep roots of the American experience.

The Museum of the City of New York tells a fascinating tale with its multimedia exhibition, Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival, through this weekend. Take a look at some of the show’s highlights in our Flickr album.

Ledbelly's historic twelve-string guitar

Ledbelly’s historic twelve-string guitar

The show ties together the tale of how Woody Guthrie and Alan Lomax got the ball rolling by shining a spotlight on Appalachian and Southern purveyors of down-home folk singing and inspiring a generation to look back, pay tribute, and carry it forward. MCNY has plenty of listening stations scattered throughout the gallery, offering up rare recordings that speak to the roots of popular music of the Sixties.

It’s a revelation to listen to Lomax’s 1934 recording of Ledbelly singing Good Night Irene and Midnight Special long before Pete Seeger, The Weavers, and Johnny Cash catapulted them to the charts in the Fifties and Sixties.

Flyers, broadsides, and other paraphernalia from Greenwich Village clubs paper the walls and vitrines, as the show steps through the story of how that sleepy NYC neighborhood transformed itself into a destination for the likes of Bob Dylan and other activist-artists who inspired a generation.

Photo of Dylan at Kettle of Fish Bar at 114 MacDougal Street in 1964 above his sheet music

1964 photo Dylan at Kettle of Fish Bar at 114 MacDougal Street above his sheet music

Music studios, clubs, publishing houses, coffee houses, and cold-water flats were all jammed into a few city blocks that functioned like a 24/7 open-mic night. Back in the late Fifties and early Sixties, music was pouring out of nearly every door on Bleecker Street and MacDougal.

The convergence spawned a network of producers and publishers who felt it was their mission to bring folk music to a wider audience – uptown at Town Hall, on alternative radio stations across the country, and executives at the big labels. Some of the highlights at the back of the gallery are Dylan’s handwritten lyrics for Blowin’ In the Wind and Mr. Tambourine Man.

Political battles are found at every turn in the installation, from Seeger’s encounter with McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee to inspirational performances by Pete, Odetta or Peter, Paul & Mary at historic marches and protests. The music was always there, intertwined with the events of the day.

First edition of “Sing Out!” magazine, 1950

First edition of “Sing Out!” magazine, 1950

Although folk and roots music inspired artists like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, the MCNY show notes that after Dylan went electric and the British invaded New York, the folk music juggernaut lost some of its steam. No matter. You can still see it all recreating itself on Bleecker Street at The Bitter End any night of the week, listen to an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, and view lots of those historic posters on the back wall after MCNY’s show closes.

Fashion Never Sleeps at FIT

Show opens with 2014 synthetic knit and nylon jacket and dress by Istanbul designer Arzu Kaprol “Global Fashion Capitals” Museum at FIT June 2 – November 14, 2015 New York, New York

Ensemble by Istanbul designer Arzu Kaprol

Stepping inside Global Fashion Capitals at the Museum at FIT is an around-the-world trip that gives a nod to fashion’s past while presenting style innovators who are thriving in nearly every corner of the world. Right inside the front door of the exhibit is a powerful mannequin duo straight outta Istanbul. Wow!

Turn around and you’ll see a packed International Fashion Week Calendar and an illuminated world map. It’s pretty clear that every hour or so, the sun rises on another hotbed of sartorial creativity. Except for Antarctica, every continent has multiple fashion weeks, fashion bloggers, innovative designers, and fashion followers all their own. Explore through the show’s website, and visit in person before November 14.

Representing London, Alexander McQueen's 2009 dress and corset

Representing London, Alexander McQueen’s 2009 dress and corset

The curators tell the story of the rise of traditional couture centers — Paris, New York, Milan, and London – through selected looks and accessories, dating all the way back to the mid-19th century and the House of Worth, when the fashion system and seasonal cycles were institutionalized. It’s interesting to learn that by 1949, the House of Dior was generating 5% of French export profits.

Of course, after WWII, New York was hot on the heels of Paris. Eleanor Lambert kickstarted New York’s Fashion Week in 1943 and Halston and his designer pals won their place in the pantheon of style by vanquishing the Parisians in the 1973 Battle of Versailles.

Milan took over the mantle from Rome after World War II, and London came into its own in the Sixties and Seventies with the debut of mad Mod, rocker chic, and Westwood’s over-the-top subversions.

Alexander Wang's 2015 dress from Nike's “flyknit” sneaker fabric

Alexander Wang’s 2015 dress from Nike’s “flyknit” sneaker fabric

In each section, the curators are careful to add a look from recent runways – Christopher Kane’s layered silk organza masterpiece and Alexander Wang’s shift made from the same fabric as Nike’s “flyknit” sneakers.

But the remainder of the floor space tells the story of other influential capitals of fashion – the 1981 emergence of the Antwerp 6 in Belgium; Tokyo’s wild ride with Miyake, Yamamoto, and Kawakubo; and what H&M did for Scandinavia as a fashion capital.

Next, the show highlights cities and fashion culture in Kiev, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Lagos, J-burg, Sydney, Seoul and Mumbai. Click through these fashion histories on the FIT exhibition site, and marvel at Lisa Folawiyo’s bead-encrusted dress (Lagos) and Lie Sangbong’s graphic silk ensemble (Seoul).

Take a trip through the gallery on our Flickr site, and watch an interview with curator Ariele Elia below:

And for more on the Battle of Versailles, courtesy of FIT, click here.

Frida Khalo Extravaganza Ending with Colorful Surprises

NYBG’s Haupt Conservatory is transformed into Frida’s Casa Azul

NYBG’s Haupt Conservatory is transformed into Frida’s Casa Azul

Ever since the New York Botanical Garden installed its Frida Khalo: Art, Garden, Life show, it’s been a nonstop party and feast for the eyes, ears, and tastebuds.

Not sufficient to import fourteen of Frida’s rarely seen paintings for the formal gallery upstairs in its library building, the creative NYBG team has made environments, commissioned artists, designed apps, booked acts, hosted special events, transformed the conservatory, made a wall of cactus, redesigned menus, and even brought in a taco truck to give everyone an immersion into her sophisticated Mexican lifestyle.

This blockbuster sensory experience is in its last week, going out with a bang with a Dia de los Muertos theme as this traditional Mexican holiday collides with our own Halloween. Sugar skulls and whimsical skeletons are taking over Frida and Diego’s pyramid that serves as the centerpiece of the garden portion of the show.

Tissue-paper dresses for The Two Fridas by artist Humberto Spindola

Tissue-paper dresses for The Two Fridas by artist Humberto Spindola

It’s an appropriate mix, given Frida’s own proclivity to merge the everyday with the surreal in her own works. The Library has an exquisite collection of her self-portrait and still life paintings, featuring flowers, animals, and deep-rooted Mexican myth and culture.

Downstairs in the Britton Rotunda, there’s a stunning installation of The Two Fridas by artist Humberto Spindola – side-by-side mannequins wearing tissue-paper dresses in colors that Frida sported, but with the surreal outer heart that she painted more than once. Visitors approach as if it were a shrine with special powers.

Frida’s workspace

Frida’s workspace

The Haupt Conservatory serves up a riot of color with floating blue containers of vivid flowers, the dynamic blue of the recreated Casa Azul, where she lived, pops of the types of flowers with which she adorned her table and sills, and the intensely painted Mexican-style pyramid in the center of it all.

The sensations are so bright that it’s easy to miss the recreation of Frida’s studio, tucked away in the trees to the left of the main event – brushes, paints, paint sticks, and other tools.

Outdoors, the curators have succulents jammed into every piece of oversize Mexican pottery near a “wall” of cactus, replicating a natural fence that Diego had outside his studio for decades.

Soloist from Capulli Danza Mexicana channels her inner Frida for the crowd

Soloist from Capulli Danza Mexicana channels her inner Frida for the crowd

The “Life” portion of the show’s title is represented by the generous schedule of music, performances, films, and events that the NYBG has featured throughout the show’s six-month run. Dance companies, all-female mariachi bands, chefs, and authors provide sensuous infusions of movement, wit, gaiety, and sophistication that Frida embodied her entire life. Flashing red skirts, exciting beats, fast footwork, dramatic flourishes, and meaty conversation all contribute to the experience of who Frida was, how she lived, and what she loved.

Download the exhibition panel to see all the parts of Mexico City that meant so much to Frida and Diego – images of parks, gardens, markets, and historic sites, including photos of Casa Azul.

Download the app for your visit, and go to our Flickr site to see the photos and a few videos of the dancers in action.

Take a look at what the NYBG team achieved:

If you have time, check out the YouTube of the all-star kick-off symposium dedicated to Frida last May.

 

Sneaker Culture Wows Brooklyn

Nike’s original Air Jordan I (1985) and the 25th anniversary Run-DMC Adidas brings joy to Brooklyn fans

Nike’s original Air Jordan I (1985) and the 25th anniversary Run-DMC Adidas bring joy to Brooklyn fans

Crowds in Brooklyn are levitating with excitement as they explore their own sartorial history in The Rise of Sneaker Culture, an exhibition running at the Brooklyn Museum through this weekend. Finally, a fashion history and technology show that really resonates with the men in the room!

The hundreds of historic sneakers, mostly from the Bata Shoe Museum collection in Toronto, tell the story of how casual sports footwear came to be so dominant in today’s high-fashion landscape.

Although there are a few examples of women’s footwear – early Keds from 1916 and iconic Reeboks from the Jane Fonda-fitness era – the focus is squarely on the men, their sports, and their athletic-inspired designer footwear.

The history section of the show shows some of the earliest rubberized sports shoes from UK collections, but quickly moves into familiar New York City territory when colorful creations began appearing at pick-up games on basketball courts around the city in the 1970s, and when the tide really turned through sports and music licensing.

No one forgets the first time they saw Reebok’s Shaqnosis in 1995 (reissue)

No one forgets the first time they saw Reebok’s Shaqnosis in 1995 (reissue)

Crowds and docents jockey for space to worship at the altar of Nike’s 1985 Air Jordan I alongside the autographed reissue of Run-DMC’s 1986 Adidas. After Michael Jordan inked that deal and hip-hop video was distributed worldwide on MTV, sneaker fashion went viral. Electrifying images of loosely laced footwear were seen and copied by fans from the Bronx to Kathmandu. The right shoes and lacing style could wordlessly convey to others in the know, “I know what’s going down.”

Beautifully installed, Brooklyn crowds could work their way through men’s footwear history down one side and up the other – the original P.F. Flyers, original Chuck Taylors, streamlined European designs from the 1970s, Adidas’s early fitness shoes with built-in microprocessors, Nike’s Air Force 1, and Magic Johnson’s Weapons for Converse.

Nike’s 2009 limited edition for LeBron

Nike’s 2009 limited edition for LeBron

After the awesome case with the entire evolution of Air Jordans, the curators lined up a riot of color, technology, status, and design with evidence of so many subsequent licensing deals. Kanye’s new Yeezy Boot for Adidas was interesting, but the Reebock’s Shaqnosis and Nike’s limited edition for LeBron really stopped people in their tracks.

High-fashion sneakers by design and art luminaries Damien Hirst, Jeremy Scott, Chanel, Pierre Hardy, Raf Simons, Giuseppi Zanotti, and Rick Owens brought visitors right into the present day – when guys wear sneakers and tuxes to the Emmys, just as Michael Jordan predicted they would three decades ago.

A great touch at the show’s exit was the opportunity for visitors to leave a note about their own personal “sneaker story” and draw their favorite one.

Take a look at our favorite footwear from the show on our Flickr feed, all presented in chronological order. And enjoy this brief presentation on men’s contemporary footwear in this behind-the-scenes peek into the collections of the Bata Shoe Museum with senior curator Elizabeth Semmelhack: