Monday, November 28, 2016

MASTERWORKS: Unpacking Fashion at The Met: Review by Polly Guerin

Ball Gown, Viktor & Rolf spring/summer 2010
Why does fashion matter? Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of the Anna Wintour Costume Center at The Metropolitan Museum of Art says it all, "Our mission is to present fashion as a living art that interprets history, becomes part of the historical process, and inspires subsequent art. Over the seven decades since The Costume Institute became part of The Met in 1946, our collecting strategy has shifted from creating a collection of Western high fashion that is encyclopedic in breadth to one focused on acquiring a body of masterworks."
    The Costume Institute's fall 2016 exhibition, MASTERWORKS: Unpacking Fashion features significant acquisitions of the past 10 years and explores how the department has honed its collecting strategy to amass masterworks of the highest aesthetic and technical quality, including iconic works by designer who have changed the course of fashion history and advanced fashion as an art form  The exhibition runs through February 5, 2017. Image: Self-proclaimed "fashion artists" Viktor & Rolf celebrates their distinct brand with this blue polyester tulle and black silk-synthetic moire embroidered with white plastic sequins from their "Credit Crunch Couture" collection. The striking sculptural form subverts the tradition of a feminine 1950's-style dress bisecting densely stitched clouds of tulle with a flourish intended to evoke the swipe of a chainsaw.
Maison Margiela ensemble with Red Coat 1787-92  
Some newly acquired objects are paired with pieces already in the collection to illustrate the enduring influence of certain master couturiers and iconic historical silhouettes.  In this Maison Margiela ensemble,  (left) John Galliano reinterprets the eccentric dress of dandified young men in post-revolutionary France. The historical influence is evident in the high collar, oversized lapels, and exaggerated coattails, which have been transformed into trailing lengths of silk chiffon. (right) The red wool broadcloth coat from France (1787-92) was worn by raffish young men known as the Incroyables (Incredibles), whose tightly fitted fashions took on extreme proportions. The high, turned-down collar, narrow sleeves, and sharply curved coat fronts create the impression of an elongated figure.

Heidi Slimane spring/summer 2014

     A selection of Charles James structured ball gowns draws attention as do numerous examples of creations by contemporary designers including Yohji Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen and Comme des Garcons.
     Yves Saint Laurent's scandalous 1971 "Liberation" collection featured signature elements of 1940's fashion. (right)The dress at center with a print of bright red lips against a black background belongs to the ready-to-wear interpretation of the collection. (left) In 2014 Yves Saint Laurent creative director Heidi Slimane revived the iconic motif in a white silk crepe blouse, embroidered with lip motifs in white iridescent and red plastic sequins and black glass beads, trousers black wool gabardine.
      The exhibition is a fascinating  If the holidays prove too hectic for you, take this option. The exhibition is featured om the Museum's website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #FashionMasterworks.
    Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Fan mail is always welcome at  Visit Polly's Blogs at and click in the left hand column to Blogs on visionary men, women determined to succeed, poetry from the heart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

FRAGONARD: Drawing Triumpant at The Met: Review By Polly Guerin

The Swing 1766 Wallace Collection, London 
Whenever I think of Jean Honore Fragonard I recall at best his series on romance,"The Progress of Love," for which he is chiefly known.  It calls to mind his most famous  painting, "The Swing' with its enchanting colorful depiction of an erotic subject that was then in vogue.
    However, the current exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, FRAGONARD: Drawing Triumphant --Works from New York Collections sheds new light on one of the most forward-looking and inventive artists of the 18th century. Now on view through January 8, 2017 at the Met Fifth Avenue, Galleries 691-693,  the exhibition celebrates the artist's achievements as a master draftsman. 
The Armoire (Lover discovered( 1778
    Among the 100 works on paper on view, nearly half are from private collections, some of which will be shown publicly for the first time. Now is your chance to re-discover Fragonard in this rare opportunity to see well-loved masterpieces alongside new discoveries and works that have long been out of the public eye.  The exhibit reveals how Fragonard, one of the most forward-looking and inventive artists of the 18th century was equally skilled in drawing and etching. In this genre, Fragonard explored the potential of chalk, ink and wash to create sheets that were works of art in their own right. As displays of virtuosity and an imaginative spirit, Fragonard's drawings were highly prized from his own day to the present.
     The Armoire was Fragonard's first print and his most accomplished, the culmination of many months immersion in printmaking. A technical tour de force, it would have appealed to contemporary audiences for its entertaining subject.  Furious parents have stormed into their daughter's bedroom, she weeps into her apron while her lover is discovered shame-faced in the armoire.
      The freedom and speed afforded by chalk or wash on paper were particularly suited to Fragonard's improvisational talents and allowed his creative genius to shine.  Among the other subjects for which he is best known are joyful images of daily life, portraits, and landscapes, as well as episodes from the Bible and diverse works of literature from the fantastic to the licentious. The frolicking children, young lovers, and sunlit gardens that spring from his imagination are not weighted down by detail, but rather speak to the viewer's sensitivity and appreciation of the subject.
    The exhibition follows the chronology of the artist's life, from his early training in Paris in 
Fragonard Triumph-Works from New York Collections
the studio of Francois Boucher to his training at the French Academy in Rome, to his return to the French capital, and ultimately to his break with the official arts establishment.  A highlight is the display of all five of the works on paper, three drawings, an etching,  and a gouache, related to the famous composition The Little Park (Le petit parc). Also on view, are many pairs of works whose compositions echo one another, experimental variations on themes, often in different media.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Re-connecting with Fragonard as a master draftsman and printmaker is a challenging experience. Do go with an open mind and find new reverence in Fragonard's genius. Fan mail welcome at  In addition, visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links in the left hand column to subjects that resonate with your interest.