Amidst the glamour of the Adelaide Fashion Festival 2014, the Art Gallery of South Australia has secured Adelaide’s stake as a burgeoning fashion capital, with its exclusive exhibition Fashion Icons: Masterpieces from the Collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.
Curated by the indelible Pamela Golbin, a showcase of over 90 hand-picked haute couture pieces flown in from Paris will reside at AGSA throughout the duration of the exhibition, leading into February.
The exhibition opens in 1947 with an aptly selected piece called Adelaide, however it spans over seven decades, featuring hand sewn pieces by such eponymous names as Balenciaga, Dior, Balmain, Galliano, Gaultier, Yves St Laurent, Valentino and more.
The exhibition, segmented chronologically across several galleries, tracks the evolution of Parisian style and couture, from the post-war New Look espoused by Christian Dior, to the excess and extravagance of the 90s high fashion, as embodied in Galliano; importantly, the pieces can also be read as fundamentally reflective of the broader social and political changes impacting upon French culture, which were naturally emblematic of wider social shifts. Just as the 1960s style was inspired by a futuristic and visionary dynamism, the 70s, with its culture of liberation and nihilism, were reflected in the the iconic creations of the designers on show.
As more fashion exhibitions take up residence in art galleries, (see Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, currently showing at the National Gallery of Victoria), the creative fusion of fashion and art can only deepen our understanding of how contemporary fashion, as an art form, is reflective of a certain zeitgeist. It remains a very real challenge to curators however, as to how to present and curate pieces which, by their very nature, are designed for runway i.e. movement and flow.
Fashion Icons does its best to contextualise the garments within the glamorous world of high fashion, with clips and excerpts of runway images, photo shoots and movie stills projected onto the gallery walls. Although not as creative as the Jean Paul Gaultier, which offers animated mannequin faces, automated runways, and virtual gallery sets, replete with graffiti splashed walls, Fashion Icons does go some way in bringing the decadence and opulent ambience of haute couture to life (there are certainly several THAT DRESS moments).
Alongside the exhibition, the gallery is hosting an array of events, including panel discussions, films, workshops and lunchtime presentations, which in itself should prove to be a fascinating insight into the machinations of not only a global powerhouse industry, but in Pamela Golbin’s words, the universality of fashion as ‘a history of art and beauty.’ See the AGSA calendar of events for further details.
Reviewed by Jordana Lennox
Venue: Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
Season: 25 October to 15 February 2015
Bookings: Book online through the Fashion Icons website or tickets available at the door