The Man Who Revolutionized US Rock

Bonnie McLean poster for Fillmore Auditorium July 1967. Courtesy: Bahr Gallery

It’s a trip back to the birth of Sixties youth culture, guitar virtuosos, the Fillmore, and multimedia extravaganzas in the New-York Historical Society exhibition, Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution, on display through January 3.

The show, originally organized by LA’s Skirball Cultural Center, tells the story of the man who created the Fillmore, catapulted legendary bands to fame, grew concert audiences to stadium size, and gave back to society by organizing once-in-a-lifetime benefit concerts televised throughout the world.

Photos, show posters, videos, rock and soul music, and even a wall from the legendary Joshua Light Show bring the story of Bill Graham to life.

Bill Graham in 1968 Fillmore Auditorium office. Gene Anthony photo in Graham collection

Graham’s life was saved by Kindertransport during World War II – a dramatic story told inside the entry to the exhibition. He was adopted and grew up in the Bronx, moved to San Francisco, and had the right skills in the right place at the right time to bring bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Hendrix, and Big Brother and the Holding Company to a larger audience.

In preparing the exhibition, the curators did original research into Graham’s early life and pulled artifacts, paraphernalia, and stories related to each decade of his concert-promotion career – leasing the Fillmore Auditorium in a largely African-American neighborhood, creating events that interspersed rock-and-roll acts with poets and new-age philosophers, securing larger venues in the Bay Area, opening the Fillmore East in 1968 in New York inside a former Yiddish vaudeville house on Second Avenue.

Joshua Light Show backs 1968 Mothers of Invention at Fillmore East. Courtesy: Joshua White

The show has plenty of the Fillmore’s promotional posters, and pays tribute to the artists who created them, such as Wes Wilson and Graham’s wife, Bonnie McLean. The curators also provide a few side-by-side displays of the original ink drawings for the psychedelic broadsides with the full-color printed versions. See some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Despite the legendary status of the Graham’s two Fillmore stages, they only lasted until 1971. Although they were highly profitable, the writing was on the wall – the demand (particularly after Woodstock) to see the Stones, The Who, Santana, and other frenzy-inducing performers was too big to be satisfied inside the constraints of traditional theaters.

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Paige in 1977 and 1985 Metallica fans. Photos: Michael Zagaris and Ken Friedman

Through it all, Graham managed some stars, like Santana; created festivals featuring bands like Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, the Eagles in the Seventies; organized Dylan’s historic 1974 tour; and produced The Last Waltz for The Band’s farewell.

The exhibition lets visitors savor these memories and moments through behind-the-scenes stories about Bill’s relationships with the artists, who often said yes to Bill’s ideas because they knew he was a perfectionist who would deliver his promises, understood what made fans happy, and always saw the epic, historic perspective behind that moment in culture.

1986 Live Aid T-shirt with Ken Regan’s photo of US benefit stars. Graham and Regan collections

The exhibition puts special focus on Bill’s willingness to tackle the monumental challenges of producing nationally televised benefit concerts, such as Live Aid, and taking tours and bands to places in the world that had never seen super-sized rock events before – Moscow’s 1987 concert for peace and the 1988 five-continent tour for Amnesty International with Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, and Sting to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Watch the trailer for the show:

If you’re in NYC, go over to hear the music and see the show before it closes January 3.  If not, take this “Curator Confidential” walk through the exhibition with the people behind the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, who talk about the life of Bill Graham and the history they lived with him – a Zoom session produced by NYHS last August while the museum was still closed.

Weekly NYC Virtual Museum Events on What Came Before

Recreation of Manhatta by the Welikea Project, presenting virtually with NYPL

On Tuesday November 10, New York museums and cultural institutions have packed the digital schedule with events that look to the past to inform our understanding of nature, the history of fake news, and the sometimes-forgotten participants in Veteran’s Day – the millions of WWII home-front workers:

At 1pm, the New York Public Library hosts a session with the ground-breaking Welikia Project, which recreates ecosystems that existed in New York City before Henry Hudson sailed into the harbor 400 years ago. The program will explain how the city’s current built environment syncs with the marshes, ponds, rivers, and hills that the Lenape knew so well.

“A Warning to Libellers”, an 1804 broadside attacking vice-president Burr. Collection: NYPL

At 6pm, the New-York Historical Society is taking the long look at the relationships between presidents and the press, going back to the time of the Founding Fathers, investigating how their surrogates spread fake news, and comparing then and now.

At 6pm, the Brooklyn Historical Society will take you behind the gates of the Brooklyn Navy Yard to present the stories and voices of everyday New Yorkers who kept up the riveting, launching, and maintenance of the Atlantic fleet during WWII.

1942 Brooklyn Navy Yard worker. Collection: Brooklyn Historical Society

Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Poster House is having all sorts of virtual get-togethers this week centered around its Chinese and Swiss poster shows, so look through our list. On other days of the week:

  • On Wednesday November 11 at 7:00pm, the Museum of the City of New York explores the history of celebrations in the city – parades, marches, and spontaneous outpourings of emotion on the streets.
  • On Thursday November 12, the Museum at FIT presents a conversation on sustainability in fashion at 6pm, and the International Center of Photography will present the five young photographers it commissioned to make work in response to the COVID crisis at 7pm.

    David Hockney, Self Portrait with Red Braces, 2003. © David Hockney. Photography by Richard Schmidt. Courtesy: The Morgan

  • On Friday at 3pm, there’s another chance to go on a virtual tour of the Morgan Library’s David Hockney portrait show.

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

Last week, we dropped into the Metropolitan Museum to see if we could take a quick peek at the “rediscovered” painting in the Jacob Lawrence American Struggle series, but that didn’t happen, since the lines through the 20th-century wing stretched all the way back to the Rockefeller Wing. Anyone needing to get their Lawrence fix can see his historic Migration series on MoMA’s Fifth floor, and his WWII War Series in its own gallery at The Whitney.

Donald Judd installation at MoMA

Anyone needing to chill out in a clean, white space can have the Donald Judd show at MoMA all to themselves weekdays (MoMA is open 7 days a week).  We swung by last Thursday and found a peaceful garden, empty Matisse Swimming Pool room, and acres of space around Persistence of Memory. Get there now!

If you missed the Museum at FIT conversation last week on Native America Fashion with designer Korina Emmerich and Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson, who currently has a three-gallery exhibition in Brooklyn, the conversation is now posted here on the museum’s YouTube channel.

Selfies for the 99%

1800 black-ink portrait of Alexander Hamilton painted by itinerant silhouettist William Bache

Before cameras or iPhones were invented, Americans yearned for a cheap, quick way to record an image of themselves.  Enter the 18th-century physiognotrace invention and masterful cutter, who could produce a likeness in just a few seconds with a flick of the scissors.

It’s the story told by the New-York Historical Society in its exhibition, In Profile: A Look at Silhouettes, on display through November 29.

Drawn from the NYHS collection, the show tells the story of how the mania for classical images (think Greek urns) morphed into a democratic art form practiced by itinerant artists, French Revolution expats, showy raconteurs, and everyday people in the early part of the 18th century.

510-510 B.C. Greek amphora – a classical inspiration for 18th c. artists in a new democracy.

Silhouettes were cheaper than having your portrait painted, so nearly everyone could afford to have one.  In the beginning, 18th-century painters painted black-on-white silhouettes, but later moved toward cutting profiles into white paper and backing the cut-out with black paper. The show’s first gallery presents a who’s who of early America – Alexander Hamilton, Colonel Henry Luddington on horseback (who helped create General Washington’s “secret service”), and memorials of the General himself.

But a close read of the label copy reveals a greater surprise – the artists creating the images, including Robert Fulton (later inventor of the steamship) and Major John André, the popular party-circuit man-about-town in British-occupied New York and Philadelphia who was famously hanged as a spy by the Continentals.

1795 painted portrait by French expats Valdenuit and Saint-Mémin, pioneers in using the physiognotrace

The emphasis here is on inexpensive, everyday art for the 18th and 19th-century home. A contraption invented in France by a court musician, and brought to America by two noblemen-engineers fleeing the revolution in their home country, captivated the attention of the newly democratized land.

The physiognotrace machine illuminated the shadow of a sitter’s profile on a wall. Using a pantograph, the artist could quickly scale down the life-size image, trace it, and deftly cut four silhouettes at once from folded paper.  What a performance!

Famed portraitist, naturalist, and museum-creator Charles Wilson Peale, whose natural history museum was located on the second floor of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, just had to have it.  From 1802 on, crowds flocked to the museum, paid 25 cents admission, and created their own selfies amidst the mammoth skeleton, minerals, wax figures, Indian artifacts, and fossils on display.

1802-1815 album from the Peale Museum

Mr. Peale charged one penny for the paper, and if you wanted a professionally cut small silhouette, you paid an additional 6 cents to Moses Williams, one of Peale’s sons, or a visiting silhouette virtuoso. Museum visitors would gather to watch the show and marvel at the furiously fast likenesses. In his first year, Willliams cut about 8,000 silhouettes, providing a really decent income for the former slave.

1824 portrait by famed freehand scissors artist William James Hubard

Since four images were made at each 6-cent sitting, the Peale Museum often asked to keep one of the duplicates. A full album of these is displayed in the second gallery, with names, dates, and likenesses of what could be called America’s first selfies.

Before photography’s invention in the 1840s, silhouettes were considered the way to go for inexpensive likenesses, and several cutting virtuosos received national acclaim, commissions, and fame.

Master Hubard, a renowned child-artist prodigy, built a highly successful gallery business cutting silhouettes and painting portraits, and William Bache, who roamed from Maine to New Orleans, offering a sliding scale of options to patrons from the most basic silhouette portrait to embellished works in gilded frames.

1841 Édouart portrait of congressman Millard Fillmore, later the US president

NYHS devotes an entire gallery to the master silhouettist of all time,  Augustin Édouart, who specialized in cutting full-length silhouette portraits freehand. His artworks placed the figures into painted settings, and the most spectacular works depicted rooms in the grand salons of America, populated with up to a dozen figures, including visiting celebrities.

The illusions and details were celebrated by art critics and the public, and ranked on a par with the most skillful portrait painters of his day. Unfortunately, just as he was concluding his US tour, photography was catching the public’s eye and the mania for black-and-white likenesses began to fade.

1870 machine-cut silhouette created for tourists flocking to Saratoga Springs

The exhibition concludes with a nod to the last wave of silhouette-making in America ­– a revival of interest in European folk-art paper cutting, the introduction of inexpensive black-on-white machine-cut silhouettes for the tourist trade, and work by contemporary artists who use silhouettes.

Enjoy looking through our Flickr album to see some of our favorites, including the epic wall-sized silhouettes of the five NYC boroughs cut by Béatrice Coron.

1870 machine-cut silhouette created for tourists flocking to Saratoga Springs

NYHS is to be congratulated on this fun, revealing presentation of this forgotten art form in the context of country’s growth into a vibrant democracy – likenesses of everyday people that could be had by anyone with either a penny or 25 cents to spare.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events in Music, Fashion, Science, and Dance

Ed Ruscha’s “Our Flag” in Brooklyn Museum. Photo: Jonathan Dorado

Since it’s been serving as one of New York City’s early-voting site, the Brooklyn Museum is kicking the week off (today at noon) with a lively conversation on the role art plays in a democracy with artist Ed Ruscha, music entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine, and music producer/art collector Swizz Beatz.

Find the link on our events page.

On Thursday, Brooklyn follows up with another live power panel to wrap up the final week of its Studio 54 exhibition.

2019 Norma Kamali ensemble in Studio 54 at Brooklyn Museum

At 6pm, meet its creator, Ian Schrager, to look back with fashion innovator/icon Norma Kamali on the music, style, theatrics, and people that made the club an international sensation.

Also on Thursday, the Museum at FIT will host a conversation on Native America Fashion with designer Korina Emmerich and Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson, who currently has a three-gallery exhibition in Brooklyn. Although FIT pre-recorded this panel, YouTube viewers will be able to participate in the live Q&A.

Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Some serious science, history, and discussions are also happening:

2018 “Tribes File Suit to Protect Bears Ears” by artist Jeffrey Gibson at Brooklyn Museum

  • On Wednesday (November 4) at 7:00pm, the American Museum of Natural History hosts its popular monthly SciCafe. This month, a geophysicist will explain what happened when a comet hit the Earth 65 million years ago, weigh in on Cretaceous extinction theories, and explain how life recovers after a ground-zero impact.
  • At 8:00pm, the Tenement Museum will host a program explaining how Lower East Side immigrants dealt with the 1918 flu pandemic.
  • To round out the week on Friday (November 7) at 5:00pm, the Rubin Museum is co-hosting an online Himalayan heritage event in honor of Diwali, the Festival of Lights. At 7:30pm, the Guggenheim team will host a rough-cut viewing of some of the dance projects commissioned and developed during the pandemic in its Works & Process series.

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

Entrance to Making the Met exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

If you missed, the Met’s event last week that previewed its current exhibitions and live events, the YouTube is available here, featuring short tours of Making the Met and About Time: Fashion and Duration.

This week at the Met, there were long lines of people waiting to get into the Jacob Lawrence exhibition on the last day and into the new fashion exhibition in its first week.

Screenshot of The Queen and the Crown online exhibition on the Brooklyn Museum website

If you don’t want to wait in line to see fashion, check out the Brooklyn Museum’s new on-line exhibition – The Queen and The Crown: A Virtual Exhibition of Costumes from “The Queen’s Gambit” and “The Crown”. Take a look at the way you can walk through Brooklyn Museum’s gallery and take a 360-degree view at each of the costumes. It’s really a lot of fun!

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.

Virtual Visits with a Fashion Icon and Rock History

Poster Inspiration with Anna Sui at Poster House

There’s no fashion designer more rock-and-roll than Anna Sui, who will be (virtually) at Poster House tonight (October 19) to show posters from the Sixties and Seventies and explain how they’ve inspired her eye-popping, fun, funny, and magical runway looks.  Take a peek at our Flickr album of her retrospective this year at MAD Museum, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

Poster House, New York’s newest museum, has one of the best line-ups of virtual events in the City, so get in on this special “Poster Inspiration” event with Anna tonight at 6:30pm. Tickets are only $5, so chip in a few dollars extra to keep their programming rolling.  This week, Poster house is also hosting “Lippert & Lowry: Fireside Chats” on Instagram (October 21) and a virtual tour of their fantastic poster archive on October 22.

Anna Sui channels Sixties Fillmore psychedelic in her MAD Museum show this year

Continue the rock-and-roll vibe with Thursday’s morning virtual tour of “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” by the New-York Historical Society (October 22). Revisit the legendary Fillmore East and West. Find the links to this and so many other great museum events on our virtual events page here.  Here’s a few:

  • A double header on Agnes Pelton’s show at the Whitney: On October 20, curator Barbara Haskell will answer your questions live, and she’ll be back on October 22 with the panel that had been postponed, “Seeing Agnes Pelton.”
  • On October 20, makers are invited to a panel at the Cooper-Hewitt on to learn how to launch a design project, which is part of National Design Month.
  • On October 23, the Met will host artist Dred Scott speaking about Jacob Lawrence.
  • On October 24, horticulturalists can get an insider’s look at the medieval gardens as the Fall season begins at the Met Cloisters.

    Gardens at the Met Cloisters

There are also more chances to catch the Morgan Library’s virtual tour of the Hockney show, a full line-up of paranormal goings on at the Merchant’s House Museum, and more tours at the Tenement Museum. Take a look and register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

Most events are free, but an extra thank-you donation helps everyone, big and small.

Reopening Update

Just a reminder to fashion fans that the Met will soon open its much-delayed fashion extravaganza, which should have debuted the first Monday in May.  It’s coming and we’ll keep you posted about a virtual event the Met has planned to give everyone a preview.

NYC Museum Virtual Events on Hockney, Pelton, and Design

David Hockney, Self Portrait with Red Braces, 2003. © David Hockney. Photography by Richard Schmidt. Courtesy: The Morgan

This week has a full line-up of (mostly free) programs featuring new exhibitions and topical issues from the art world and beyond. See the list of everything you can participate in on our virtual events page.

We welcome the reopening of the Morgan Library with this week’s most-talked-about exhibition on David Hockney’s portrait drawings from the National Gallery in London. This week’s virtual schedule gives you two opportunities (October 6 and 9) to take a virtual tour, but get the free tickets now since they are going fast!

This week on October 8, you’ll also get an opportunity to learn more from the Whitney about Agnes Pelton and her transcendentalist work from the curator herself, Barbara Haskell. Although the show originated in Phoenix and went to Santa Fe before its New York stop, the Whitney’s given over an entire floor to for you to enjoy the tranquility, spiritualism, and meditative power of Ms. Pelton’s works. Although Ms. Pelton participated in the historic 1913 Amory Show, she’s had zero recognition until now.

Agnes Pelton, Day, 1935. Courtesy: Phoenix Art Museum

Although the Cooper-Hewitt still hasn’t opened its doors, you’ll have an opportunity to celebrate the National Design Awards and National Design Month on line. This week features a virtual salon on October 8, but their website has a full roster of design, education, and maker events, too.

We also want to draw your attention to:

  • New-York Historical Society’s evening with Carl Bernstein and Maggie Haberman ($20 on October 8)
  • A live encore presentation from the New York Transit Museum on the cultural history of the 20th Century Limited (free on October 9)
  • October’s Sci Café from AMNH on hive minds and politics (free on October 8)

For Hamilton fans on October 8, Fraunces Tavern Museum will host an author who will dig up all the dirt between General Washington and his nemesis, General Charles Lee.

Last week, we joined ETHEL on the Met’s balcony on Friday night (a weekly digital event), and really enjoyed the digital effects that were added to a beautiful performance. We also dropped into the Brooklyn Book Fair courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

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.

Reopening Update

Dancing dress by Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, as shown in Studio 54: Night Magic

It was great to be back at the Brooklyn Museum this week, where the community was enjoying the sunshine on the front plaza while waiting for timed ticket entry to the fantastic exhibition, Studio 54: Night Magic.  If you plan to go, budget enough time, because the time-capsule exhibition is massive.

For budget and safety reasons, only two floors of the museum are open, but that did not stop any of the art-seekers from checking out many of the special shows, study center, and permanent American gallery works. The first floor features an installation filled with amazing, inspiring photographs by a ground-breaking Parisian artist. Wow! Do not miss JR: Chronicles or Studio 54!!

Welcome back, Brooklyn!!

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.

Resistance and Power via Fashion at FIT

2016 jacket by Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss powerfully protesting racism in the fashion industry

Although the doors to the museum exhibition are shut tight, the Museum at FIT still allows full access to its spring show Power Mode: The Force of Fashion through its online exhibition.

The power of resistance and how clothes convey the message are among the themes explored. Hand-crafted items such as jackets slashed with anti-racist graffiti, T-shirts silkscreened with bold words, and pink pussy hats are shown (and discussed) alongside high-end designer appropriations of messages, causes, or culture.

The exhibition presents actual 19th– and 20th-century uniforms – templates of precision, force, and authority – next to creations in which high-fashion designers channel this concept of “power” through military colors or styling.

Power to resist 2017 – a T-shirt from the Women’s March T-shirt and a feminist statement by Maria Grazie Chiuri in her first collection for Dior

The show explores examples of economic power via “status dressing” over three centuries and shows how the authority of a man’s traditionally tailored suit was adapted to white-suit statements by women showing power – not only by the marching and protesting suffragettes of the last century, but also by the current crop of female politicians in the United States.

Take a close-up look at the details in our Flickr album and read more about individual items on the show’s website.

Curator Emma McClendon gave a lot of thought to the visual cues, economic issues, and shifting societal backdrops for as she selected the items for this show.  Join her on a walkthrough to find out what lies beneath the surface of everyday, extravagant, and elemental clothing choices :

Status dressing – 1991 gold-plated necklace by Karl Lagerfeld criticized for its cultural appropriation of hip-hop street culture

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.