‘The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined’ curated by Professor Judith Clark for the Barbican Art Gallery is the first exhibition to challenge and reconsider this important area of taste. This provocative exhibition – organised around eleven new definitions of the word ‘Vulgar’ written by psychoanalyst Adam Phillips – combines historic garments, haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion, questioning both the understanding and uses of vulgarity in fashion whilst enjoying its exuberance.
The project is part of Clark’s ongoing research into the history of fashion exhibitions, so the exhibition also acts as a reflection on fashion curation itself and notions of its ‘vulgar’ allegiance to consumer culture. So the ‘too popular’ in the exhibition can be an Andy Warhol inspired dress, but also an 18th century tableau referring to its recurring popularity within departments of costume.
Professor Clark’s research was supported from the start by Laura Thornley, who researched both the literary uses of the word from 16th Century to 20th century and later took on an essential role in the administration and management of the delivery of the project.
The Centre for Fashion Curation, with the Barbican, coordinated the installation of the exhibition, organising for volunteer UAL students (from Year 1 and 2 of MA Fashion Curation) as well as recent graduates to work alongside professional Costume Mounter, Gesa Warner to gain essential experience of exhibition installation.
The exhibition includes garments by contemporary designers including Walter Van Beirendonck, Manolo Blahnik, Hussein Chalayan, Pam Hogg, Stephen Jones, Christian Lacroix, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé and Chanel, Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Prada, Jeremy Scott for Moschino, Philip Treacy, Viktor & Rolf and Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes; as well as key loans from national collections and private lenders.
“The tableaux don’t illustrate the text and the text doesn’t illustrate the fashion, but they run alongside each other to say something about the themes that recur around ideas of the vulgar: about the copy (whether it is an impoverished version of an original); about ideas of excess, about displayed ambition, about the vernacular, etc. to name a few.”
The exhibition is at Barbican Art Gallery 13 October – 5 February 2017
And at the Winter Palace in Vienna 6 March – 20 June 2017