"Fashion is fashionable": How sartorial themes are the next big thing for museums – and it"s all thanks to McQueen

“Fashion is fashionable”: How sartorial themes are the next big thing for museums – and it”s all thanks to McQueen

In 1983, when Costume Institute consultant, Diana Vreeland, conceived of an Yves Saint Laurent exhibition, no one could have foreseen what a hit it would become.

This year the concept of couture collection as gallery exhibit has taken the art world by storm with exhibitions like Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty attracting an audience of 661,509.

The show ranks in The Metropolitan Museum of Art”s top ten most visited shows ever and is only one of several high fashion spectacles to have drawn record crowds to art institutions.

The eighth art: Exhibitions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The eighth art: Exhibitions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art”s McQueen: Savage Beauty, are attracting huge numbers of visitors and will continue to do so in 2012

All over the world, from Paris to Moscow to Beijing, the biggest brands in fashion and oldest fashion houses have been digging out their old runway looks and records.

The reaction to such exhibitions has been one of elation among fashion lovers but has also peaked the curiosity of a public who otherwise may not have considered visiting the museums and galleries.

Pamela Golbin, chief curator at Les Arts Dcoratifs in Paris, explained to WWD: “There’s a loyal following — besides the fact that fashion is fashionable. There’s something very intimate about clothes”

Hussein Chalayan, whose retrospective at the same museum was extended on account of its popularity, noted: “It reemphasizes the fact that fashion is a part of culture, and a lot of us forget this.”

The British designer went on to suggest that being able to share sketches, notes and films as well as actual garments brings value to the fashion world to people who are not normally that interested in it.

McQueen model: An exhibit at the hugely popular Costume Institute showcase of designer Alexander McQueen Russian lover: In homage to Christian Dior

Exhibitionism: Visitors at shows such as Savage Beauty (left) and the Dior retrospective in Moscow benefit from being able to take the time to study the designs closely unlike they would at a runway show

Coats! Max Mara took its retrospective to Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow High art: Dallas

No price tags here! Displaying the archives of a big fashion house helps create a brand identity and introduce the audience to the notion of a label”s history and heritage

Archives are as well a useful tool in creating a visible brand history and promoting a label”s heritage, a useful way of making couture accessible to cultures like China, that place special importance on history and tradition.

Exhibitionist: Designer Hussein Chalayan is no stranger to the idea of fashion as art exhibit and recently showed at Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris

Exhibitionist: Designer Hussein Chalayan is no stranger to the idea of fashion as art exhibit and recently showed at Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris

Also at Les Arts Dcoratifs this year was Ralph Lauren”s show, The Art of the Automobile: Masterpieces of the Ralph Lauren Collection, that brought 152,000 visitors to the Paris museum.

A Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective was inherited by Dallas Museum of Art from Montreal Museum of Fine Arts where it attracted more than 173,000 visitors in its initial run.

Further afield in Moscow, the Pushkin Museum mounted a dazzling display of fashion and priceless art for the Inspiration Dior exhibition that attracted queues of excited visitors numbering 250,000.


Marc Jacobs Louis Vuitton at Les Arts Dcoratifs, Paris, March 9 – September 16

Christian Louboutin Retrospective at Design Museum, London, March 28 – July 1Diana Vreeland at the Fortuny Museum, Venice, March

Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada on Fashion at Costume Institute, New York, May 10 – August 19

Fifty Years of James Bond Style (including pieces from Giorgio Armani, Prada, Oscar de la Renta) at The Barbican, London, exact date tbd

Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 (including pieces by Zandra Rhodes, Norman Hartnell, Catherine Walker, Alexander McQueen) at Victoria & Albert Museum, London, May 19- January 6, 2013

The trend shows no signs of slowing down for the New Year and 2012 holds plenty of exciting fashionable art exhibits in store.

In January, ten minutes away from the Pushkin in Moscow, Max Mara will bringing its Coats! retrospective from Berlin to the State Historical Museum.

Next up at Les Arts Dcoratifs will be the March opening of Marc Jacobs Louis Vuitton which no doubt will draw a huge audience familiar with both the high profile designer”s creations and celebrity persona.

British sartorial savants and fans of the recent fashion conscious exhibitions will be more than pleased to see the shows scheduled for 2012.

Three exhibitions in London, includinga fifty year tribute to James Bond style, are set to be blockbusters next year at the Design Musuem, the Barbican and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

And in Venice, the visionary herself, Diana Vreeland, is to be honoured in March in a show devoted entirely toher at the Fortuny Museum.

New Yorkers will be excited to add theCostume Institute’s upcoming show Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada on Fashion, to their diaries as well.

Visitors to Florence will be able to visit the latest conception in the world of fashion exhibitions: the permanent museum.

The new Gucci Museo, which opened at the end of Milan Fashion Week in September is already a popular destination for the millions of tourists to the city and is often sold out on weekends.

Here”s to a fashionable New Year for all.