The City Reliquary Museum is a non-profit community museum that tells the history of NYC and its inhabitants through their permanent collection of small objects and ephemera as well as a community collections cabinet in which selected individuals have the opportunity to curate a small exhibition on objects they collect. Past exhibits have varied from an assortment of rock collections, ceramic unicorns, and bones to representations of the Virgin Mary, Coca-Cola products, and vintage roller skates. As a volunteer, I had the chance to be a cabinet curator, choosing a collection inspired by an article about the re-opening of NYC’s Rainbow Room in 2014. During a renovation of the iconic rotating dance floor, confetti from the 1940s was reportedly found. Since reading that article, my collection now includes turn of the century illustrations and postcards of confetti and vintage confetti & confetti branded items from the 1920s to the 1990s.
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Judith Clark has curated Homo Faber: Fashion Inside and Out part of an inaugural event at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice showcasing European craftsmanship. The exhibition, which took place in the spectacular space of the disused Gandini swimming pool, took as its theme how traditional techniques inspire contemporary design and exhibition-making.
The new installation of the galleries comes from an invitation from the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum to respond to the new curatorial route through the archive. The exhibition Cristobal Balenciaga Fashion and Heritage collects together moments in the history of the houses Balenciaga established in Spain and in Paris, and each chapter illuminates different modes of display: the aesthetics and romance of the archive, of conservation, of performed museologies that evolve and revolve around these monuments of dress history. The exhibition format allows us to build up associations and conversations across collections, each adding a new perspective. My own conversations and installation pays homage to the new routes through the archive in the way that a new visitor might, finding one’s own associations to the material. The design therefore quotes remembered past exhibitions that have paid homage to Balenciaga bringing another kind of reference to the project. We see the work through the eyes, for example, of Diana Vreeland, Marie- Andrée Jouve, Pamela Golbin, Kaat Debo, Miren Arzullaz, Hamish Bowles or Olivier Saillard, among the many curators, researchers and fashion historians who have sought new approaches to Balenciaga’s legacy, that are shown along the route as props. The architecture is temporary against the fixed vitrines of the museum: the tension between fashion and heritage underlining the questions the exhibition itself raises.
Judith Clark, March 2018
Fig. 3: Left, Hamish Bowles’s exhibition Balenciaga and Spain looked at his roots in traditional dress. His chapter on Dance is populated with images of the models in the salon wearing white gloves. Right, Naomi Filmer’s gesmonite gestures.
When an exhibition travels from one venue to another, your awareness of the changes that exhibition undergoes is heightened. So often, your thinking around the themes shifts and you see the objects in a completely new way. And in a different light, objects take on different hues of meaning and symbolism.
By Ben Whyman and Laura Thornley
In March 2017, CfFC staff worked with The Barbican Art Gallery and the Belvedere Museum to install The Vulgar: fashion redefined at the Winterpalais in Vienna. Prof Judith Clark and psychoanalyst Adam Phillip’s exhibition, displayed in the Barbican Art Gallery (October 2016 – February 2017) was re-presented in a completely different environment: from the brutalist concrete walls of a London gallery (with all its associations), to a Baroque palace in Vienna (with all its associations).
Even the title of the exhibition changed, becoming Vulgär? Fashion redefined. The question mark is important to note. The word’s cultural significance shifts as it is translated into another language, drawing out its nuanced meanings. The question mark calms some of the word’s violence. It became, in a very real sense, another exhibition, proposing different questions to reflect on.
The number of exhibited objects decreased and some were changed, resulting in a different proposition. Travelling an exhibition into another venue places demands on space and positioning. Groupings of objects separated by walls in London, now shared the same spaces. New conversations emerge between the themes and new angles tell different stories. The elaborate Baroque backdrop presented challenges and clarity. The concepts don’t need to work as hard in this space, the history of the word is written in the walls, proposing new challenges to our notion of taste and assimilation, exclusion and mimicry.
We were working with different light in Vienna. With blinds drawn and reduced lighting (to protect the gold gilt Baroque interiors), pier mirrors and glass chandeliers, we were working with reflected shadows to craft new angles, drawing out alternative silhouettes, different meanings and propositions. It is this reflection of spaces and refraction of light that was so appealing as we installed the exhibition. How do you view a mid-18th century mantua from the Fashion Museum, Bath’s collection, next to a Gucci men’s embroidered suit from spring/summer 2016, within a gold-gilt Baroque interior? When you look into one of the many mirrors, the exhibition reflects back at you – how do you re-view it? As we viewed the mantuas and the Gucci suit, a mirror reflected puritan-inspired Dior and Givenchy gowns looming behind them – another reflection on a reflection.
The Vulgar: fashion redefined is at Winterpalais, Belvedere Museum, Vienna 03 March 2017 to 25 June 2017
In September 2015, Judith Clark’s museum for Louis Vuitton was opened to the public. The installation is a fragmentary account of Louis Vuitton’s history through 400 objects and documents, chosen from the house’s archive of 26,000 objects and 165,000 items of paper ephemera. Among the objects at the new gallery space, which is located just outside Paris are trunks from the 1800s to the present day, clothing accessories and footwear.
Each of the individually cast plaster and wood units frame precious pieces from the archive, creating resonances across the collection that includes not only the company’s idiosyncratically gathered history, but reflecting the family’s own collecting policy – so a medieval trunk might sit next to a mini-malle handbag from 2015.
The route through ‘La Galerie’ is imagined as a game that is impossible to complete. Each theme is built as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle inspired by the shapes of Gaston Louis Vuitton’s game, the Pateki, which he designed in the 1930s
The relationship between craftsman and client is reinvented with every innovation in the company’s history. We find early trunks, morphed for different modes of travel, the first patents logged at early International Expos, as well as the exquisite graphics of calligraphic trials for the inlay for client’s personalized ‘necessaires’ or shop display. The clients, from Hollywood divas to fearless explorers created challenging demands, and modern technology created the means of finding solutions.
The exhibition space is located on the historic Louis Vuitton grounds where, in 1859, the family built a workshop, reserving one floor of the building as their home, and where made-to-order items are still manufactured.
“We wanted it to be perceived very much as a gallery intervention,” Clark said during a preview tour of the venue. “It’s like an installation reflecting on the idea of exhibiting the Vuitton archive. It’s intended to be kind of slightly disruptive in that way.”
Project Assistant Laura Thornley from the Centre for Fashion Curation describes her role working on the exhibition.
What was your role within The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined exhibition?
My role was manifold – beginning with researching the historical definitions and use of the word through literary history, coordinating elements of the exhibition production and culminating in the installation of the show over the course of a month.