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Body Unbound: Contemporary Couture from Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Collection

Start Date 10 April 2010
End Date 30 June 2011
Venue Indianapolis Museum of Art
Location Indianapolis, USA

Body Unbound: Contemporary Couture from the IMA’s Collection, on view from April 10, 2010 to January 30, 2011, will examine the many ways designers have manipulated, transformed and liberated the female figure. The exhibition will feature groundbreaking designs by Rudi Gernreich, Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe, Thierry Mugler, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Gianni Versace and other avant-garde fashion designers. Body Unbound will explore how these designers used modern construction and unexpected materials to contort, conceal, reveal or mock their wearers.

“This exhibition gives us the chance to share the exceptional depth and quality of the IMA’s fashion artscollection from 1960 to the present day with the public,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the IMA. “Body Unbound will be an excellent opportunity to view many of the Museum’s recent acquisitions in the context of the avant-garde fashion movements that shaped our society.”

Fashions by visionaries Rudi Gernreich and Jean-Paul Gaultier illustrate how some designers played with the notions of shape and construction, challenging mid-century ideals of form. Examples by Issey Miyake and Junya Watanabe, based on the theories of androgyny and “universal beauty,” demonstrate how Japanese designers working in Paris in the 1980s and 1990s promoted an alternate way of styling the body, concealing its contours and silhouette. Pieces by Thierry Mugler, Gianni Versace and Franco Moschino display how designers utilized innovative textiles and subversive design elements to toy with the concepts of seduction and femininity.

Featuring a range of works, many of which are recent additions to the IMA’s fashion arts collection, “Body Unbound” will demonstrate how some of the most influential designers of the 20th-century helped shape the direction of avant-garde fashion. Organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, “Body Unbound: Contemporary Couture from the IMA’s Collection” will be on view in the Paul Textile and Fashion Arts galleries. The IMA will be its sole venue.

Fashion and Textile Arts at the IMA
The IMA’s collection of textile and fashion arts began with the acquisition of an Irish embroidery in 1888. Today, the collection comprises approximately 7,000 items and represents virtually all of the world’s traditions in fabric.

Among the objects from Asia are textiles and costumes from China, kimonos and Buddhist robes and furnishings from Japan, Kashmir shawls, ceremonial hangings from India and a large group of textiles from Indonesia. West and Central Asian holdings include rugs and kilims from Iran, Ottoman embroideries from Turkey, and costumes and ceremonial textiles from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In 1996, the late Colonel Jeff W. Boucher’s collection of 65 Baluchi rugs and weavings was donated to the Museum. Later, this collection was augmented by 11 pieces, making it the largest and most comprehensive in the United States.

The IMA also houses a significant African textile arts collection, with a particular concentration in rugs, costumes and embroideries from Morocco.

European holdings feature silks from the late 16th to 19th-centuries, a lace collection spanning 500 years and a large group of 19th-century paisley shawls woven in England. Also represented are European fashions dating from the late 18th to the 20th´-centuries, as well as couture by prominent designers such as Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, Gaultier and Versace.

The North American textile collection features noteworthy Indiana quilts and coverlets, as well as fashions by designers Norman Norell, Bill Blass, Halston and Rudi Gernreich. Central American holdings include Guatemalan textiles and a significant collection of about 360 Panamanian Molas.