With the week winding down, I have two posts to go to on this self-imposed (don’t ask me why!) once-a-month-five-posts-a-week challenge. Today will be a double header Manhattan first and then we will come to rest where we began our trek — at the Westchester home of a dear friend. So, ready? Fasten your seatbelts for our final ride.
When my daughter declared her intention to create her college thesis around fashion, the head of the art department dismissed her idea as insubstantial and sniffed, “Fashion has nothing to do with art.” Tell THAT to Diana Vreeland, curator of the Met’s Costume Institute from 1972 to 1989.
It’s rare that we see an exhibit before it’s even reviewed,but this time we lucked out and snagged entrance to Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations mere days after it opened. The exhibit featured the clothing designed by these two Olympians paired with a filmed, imagined conversation between them. Actress Judy Davis played the part of Schiaparelli, her, with her side of the conversation gleaned from the designer’s autobiography. Prada, alive, kicking and creating, played herself.
The “conversation,” featured on screens that served backdrops to the clothes, was both distracting and enlightening. It was fascinating to see how decades apart, each designer played with similar elements and where they diverged (Prada waist down, Schiap waist up). The clothes were gorgeous (a navy suit its beautifully tailored jacket strewn with a Milky Way of rhinestones), humorous (hats shaped like shoes) and mindboggling (that Prada dress wasn’t really pleated, but you had to look damn close to see that the fabric had been printed that way.) Fashion has nothing to do with art? I think we can tell that teacher to zip it.
Next up was the Stein exhibit: nine (or was it seven that felt like nine) rooms of paintings by Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh and Cezanne collected by Gertrude and Leo Stein. The paintings were incredible as you might well imagine. But the exhibit was clouded by the curators’decision to sidestep Gertrude Stein’s collaboration with the Vichy regime. The literature said only, “remarkably, the two women [Stein and her companion Alice Toklas] survived the war with their possessions intact.” And later, “Bernard Fay, a close friend…and influential Vichy collaborator is thought to have protected them.” By now the exhibit literature has been amended to reflect the truth but it made for some interesting considerations. In the buying and amassing of this collection, Stein sold out her people, sold her soul.
This post has already exceeded my 300 word limit and I’ve not gotten to our seeing The Book of Mormon (outrageous and fodder for another blog or two), or Peter and the Star Catchers (delightful) or a visit to MOMA (still not my favorite museum). So I will close where I began — with the question of whether or not fashion is art. I say it is, and submit as Exhibit Number One this photo of my daughter, who went ahead and did her thesis on fashion as art creating a suite of paintings that proved her point brilliantly.