The spring 2012 exhibition organized by The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: On Fashion, it was announced by the Museum today. The exhibition, on view from May 10 through August 19, 2012 (preceded on May 7 by The Costume Institute Gala Benefit), will explore the striking affinities between these two Italian designers from different eras. Inspired by Miguel Covarrubias’s “Impossible Interviews” for Vanity Fair in the 1930s, curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton will originate fictive conversations between these iconic women to suggest new readings of their most innovative work.
“Given the role Surrealism and other art movements play in the designs of both Schiaparelli and Prada, it seems only fitting that their inventive creations be explored here at the Met,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Schiaparelli’s collaborations with Dalí and Cocteau as well as Prada’s current Fondazione Prada push art and fashion ever closer, in a direct, synergistic, and culturally redefining relationship.”
To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Museum’s Costume Institute Benefit will take place on Monday, May 7, 2012. Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, will serve as Honorary Chair. Co-Chairs will be actress Carey Mulligan, designer Miuccia Prada, and Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue. This fundraising event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, acquisitions, and capital improvements.
The exhibition is organized by Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, and Andrew Bolton, Curator, both of the Met’s Costume Institute. Film director, screenwriter, and producer Baz Luhrmann will be the exhibition’s creative consultant, working with film production designer Nathan Crowley, who will serve as production designer (he was creative consultant for the Met’s exhibitions Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy and American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity). The design for the 2012 Costume Institute Gala Benefit will be created by Baz Luhrmann with Nathan Crowley and Raul Avila, who has produced the Benefit décor since 2007.
The title, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: On Fashion, is based on Umberto Eco’s books On Beauty and On Ugliness, which explore the philosophy of aesthetics that have informed our sensibilities from the classical world to modern times. Videos in the galleries of simulated conversations between Schiaparelli and Prada will follow the book’s paradigm, and will be organized by topics such as On Art, On Politics, On Women, On Creativity, and more.
“Juxtaposing the work of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada allows us to explore how the past enlightens the present and how the present enlivens the past,” said Harold
Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute.
“The connection of the historic to the modern highlights the affinities as well as the variances between two women who constantly subverted contemporary notions of taste, beauty, and glamour,” added Andrew Bolton, Curator in The Costume Institute.
The exhibition, in the Metropolitan Museum’s first-floor special exhibition galleries, will feature approximately 80 designs by Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) from the late 1920s to the early 1950s and Miuccia Prada from the late 1980s to the present. Drawn primarily from The Costume Institute’s collection and the Prada Archive, as well as other institutions and private collections, signature objects by both designers will be compared and contrasted to explore the extraordinary impact of their aesthetics and sensibilities on contemporary notions of fashionability. Ms. Schiaparelli, who worked in Paris from the 1920s until her house closed in 1954, was closely associated with the Surrealist movement and created such iconic pieces as the tear dress, the shoe hat, and the insect necklace. Ms. Prada, who holds a Ph.D. in political science, took over her family’s Milan-based business in 1978, and focuses on fashion that reflects the eclectic nature of Postmodernism.
The exhibition will explore how both women employed unconventional textiles, colors, and prints to play with conventional ideas of good and bad taste, and how they exploited whimsical fastenings, fanciful trompe l’oeil details, and deliberately rudimentary embroideries for strange and provocative outcomes. Experimental technologies and modes of presentation will bring together masterworks from the designers in an unexpected series of conversations on the relationship between fashion and culture.
A book by Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton will accompany the exhibition. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.