MoMu in Antwerp is by far one of the most extraordinary museums in the world with a focus on fashion. During my most recent trip to Europe I was excited to see as well as speak with Curator, Karen Van Godtsenhoven and Press Director, David Flamée about the current exhibition, MADAME GRÈS – Sculptural Fashion, currently on display through February 2, 2013.
Hallman: Madame Grès Sculptural Fashion is the current exhibition at the museum. How was the exhibition selected?
Curator – Karen Van Godtsenhoven: When the director and I visited the exhibition in Paris in 2011 we were so impressed, we were really moved by the show at the Musée Bourdelle and we thought the exhibition and the work of Mme Grès should reach as many visitors as possible, so we decided to take it over from the Musée Galliera and bring it to MoMu Antwerp. Because our location and exhibition space is so different from the sculpture ateliers and grand halls in the Musée Bourdelle, we had to find another way to present the work of Mme Grès, so we chose to work with a contemporary sculptor, Renato Nicolodi, to give the exhibition a more contemporary, ‘MoMu’ look and feel. Most importantly, was to celebrate the life’s work of Mme Grès here at MoMu.
Hallman: What was the museum’s focus when the exhibition was being curated?
Curator – Karen Van Godtsenhoven: We changed the themes and groups from the Galliera exhibition because a lot of dresses were no longer able to be exposed, so we added new groups like the beach wear and added new dresses in other groups. This was a surprise to the Galliera curators who really enjoyed seeing their work being reinterpreted and shuffled around. What we wanted to show was the timelessness and the beauty and importance of her work. We understood, that Mme Grès would be relatively unknown to our visitors, yet her work is so important to 20th century fashion. Her genius shows itself both in her technique and her sense of proportion, volume, and colour: she ‘s a true artist in every sense of the word. We show many aspects of her work, including a focus on daywear, to show that her work went beyond the perfection of her evening dresses and was not just classical but also very modern. That’s why we also combined her work with contemporary designs, to show her timelessness and enduring influence.
Hallman: The exhibition also included pieces from Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto and Haider Ackermann. What was the idea behind adding these designers to the exhibition?
Curator – Karen Van Godtsenhoven: We added different silhouettes from contemporary designers as a kind of ‘döppelgangers’ or ‘sisters’ of the Mme Grès dresses in between the Grès silhouettes: beautiful evening dresses and pleated gowns by AF Vandevorst, Helmut Lang, Lanvin, just to name a few. Then we also added 3 separate islands consecrated to JPGaultier, YYamamoto and Haider Ackermann, where we asked the designers themselves to make a selection of their work. The result was really nice; as they all have a very different aesthetic that is nevertheless compatible with different elements of Mme Grès’ work. Haider Ackermann’s selection consisted of very minimalistic, sculptural daywear, JPG opted for the full, classic evening gowns and Yohji Yamamoto chose silhouettes from his Mme Grès tribute collection, with a lot of pleated details.
Hallman: The Fashion Museum is part of the ModeNatie, which also accommodates the Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Artesis Hogeschool Antwerpen. Do you work together?)
Press Director – David Flamée: There is a very vibrant link between our museum and the school. For example students in their second and third year need to make a historical and ethnical costume, these costumes form the base of their collection. Our museum’s library is the perfect start for their research. We also include them in the programmation of our MoMu Gallery, where we have various installations with their costumes or the dresses from the first year students. In June, during the graduation show we also give a MoMu Award, http://www.antwerp-fashion.be/SHOW2012/awards.html to a student, who stands out with his/her unique graphic language. It composes the presentation of their work in the MoMu gallery. Furthermore in September 2013 the Antwerp Academy celebrates its 350th birthday, the Fashion department celebrates its 50th anniversary. It will be a big celebration in the city of Antwerp with amongst others an exhibition on the Academy at the MAS http://www.mas.be/min.net?id=3080206 and MoMu will organize an expo on the Fashion Department, exploring the different facets of what makes this Fashion Department so unique. The whole project has the very appropriate title: Happy Birthday Dear Academie! http://www.hbda.be/
Hallman: The next exhibition on the museum schedule is “Silk & Prints From The Abraham Archives: Couture In Colour”. What can guest expect to see when visiting this exhibition?
Press Director – David Flamée: A very rich and colourful collection of printed silks from the Abraham archives, from the Swiss Abraham company who collaborated with many couture houses during the 20th century. Hence, a lot of couture dresses made with Abraham textiles will be on display; original 1950s and 1960s dresses by Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Givenchy are part of the exhibition, next to contemporary designers like Dries Van Noten, Peter Pilotto and Diane von Furstenberg who interpreted the Abraham prints. The figure of the visionary director of Abraham, Jacob Zumsteg, who was close friends with many avant-garde artists and designers, will also get a place in the spotlight. Also, you’ll be able to see how a print is put together from scratch, in the different phases, as well as sample books, fashion photographs and swatches. www.momu.be
MADAME GRÈS – Sculptural Fashion is currently on view at MoMu Antwerp until February 10, 2013. For more information www.momu.be