Homa Taj
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BALENCIAGA: Spanish Master @ the Queen Sofía Institute

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All photos courtesy Homa Nasab/MuseumViews

BALENCIAGA: Spanish Master is an exhibitionary tour de force organized by the Roger Fry of our age, Hamish Bowles. The show is on display at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute from November 19, 2010 until February 19, 2011.

The exhibition celebrates the art of the mid 20th century fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre (1895–1972). The Spanish-born’s pioneering form-defining designs altered the way women have continued to dress since he founded his Paris fashion house, in 1937.

What renders this small exhibition outstanding is not only the selection of exquisite pieces on display but the way in which Bowles has utilized the Institute’s intimate galleries to display Balenciaga’s epic creations. The show’s British curator masterfully (no pun intended) choreographs each iconic garment as if to stage a Noël Coward tragi-comedy populated by a most impressive cast of characters (Balenciaga’s clients) from Pauline de Rothschild and Mona von Bismarck to Marella Agnelli, Bunny Mellon and Gloria Guinness. Somehow, Bowels avoids creating clustered spaces yet manages to create the illusion that the modest sized exhibition rooms are necessarily privileged quarters for these historic icons to inhabit. Fashion exhibition as theatre as magic!

The European Editor at Large for that bible of American fashion, Vogue magazine, Bowles is a dandy in the fin-de-siècle sense of the term – a gentleman aesthete and scholar par excellence. A graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, he has been serving as the Creative Consultant to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for nearly a decade. Among Bowles’ museological coups was the highly acclaimed Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years – Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library Museum, at The Met’s Costume Institute, in 2001. An exhibition which later travelled to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C.

His published books include: Jacqueline Kennedy: The Whitehouse Years (2001); Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens, People (2007); Yves Saint Laurent Style (2008); Balenciaga: Spanish Master (2010 – available only at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute); and Balenciaga & Spain (2011).

Conceived by the Latin-American master couturier, Oscar de la Renta, the exhibition will be expanded as Balenciaga and Spain at the de Young Museum in San Francisco from March 26 until July 4, 2011.

* Later this month, I will be interviewing Hamish Bowles to discuss BALNECIAGA; cultivation of taste and aesthetics; as well as his own enviable collection of couture and historic costumes.

** For more news and engagement, please join Homa Nasab & guest contributors @ MuseumViews on Facebook & Twitter **

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  1. [...] My favourite tidbit of information gleamed from this video is that Oscar de la Renta worked for Cristóbal Balenciaga. Artinfo.com has some great photos of the BALENCIAGA: Spanish Master exhibit. [...]

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