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Collective Inspiration

Start Date 12 December 2020
End Date 02 May 2021
Venue The Ellman Fashion Design Gallery, Phoenix Art Museum
Location Phoenix, USA
Exhibition display of dress and decorative objects on open display

This winter, Phoenix Art Museum will present COLLECTIVE INSPIRATION. Drawing from across the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 objects, the exhibition will showcase eight fashion ensembles and accessories spanning the 20th century that have been paired with paintings, sculptures, and prints to illuminate how formal artistic and design principles can be applied equally across fashion objects and more traditionally recognized forms of arts. Featured object pairings in the exhibition include a suit by American designer Ralph Rucci and a sculpture by contemporary Japanese artist Fujikasa Satoko; a jacket by Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo placed in conversation with a favrile glass vase created in the early 20th century by Tiffany and Co. and drawn from the American art collection; a dress by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons paired with a painting by Flemish artist Jan van Dalen from the European art collection; and the fashion collection’s oldest objects, a pair of metal-lace gloves from the 1640s, set alongside an 18th-century portrait of Doña Maria Moreno y Buenaventura from the Latin American art collection. Collective Inspiration will be on view from December 12, 2020 through May 2, 2021 in the Kelly Ellman Fashion Design Gallery.

“Phoenix Art Museum is excited to present Collective Inspiration to our audiences,” said Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. “Featuring objects drawn from across the Museum’s broad collection, this new exhibition provokes thoughtful and unexpected conversations about art. Our community can expect to see more exhibitions like this in the future that generate and advance ideas about the nature and value of different forms of artistic expression.”

COLLECTIVE INSPIRATION features approximately 15 works drawn from the Museum’s various collection areas, including fashion design and Asian, American, European, Latin American, and contemporary art. These objects are organized into pairs, placing a fashion garment or accessory in conversation with a painting, sculpture, or print to prompt dialogue on how the principles and elements of art and design, including color, line, form, texture, and value, can be applied to fashion objects as well as more traditionally recognized forms of art.

“The idea for Collective Inspiration came from a question I am often asked during interviews and in the galleries: ‘Is fashion art, and why?’” said Helen Jean, the Museum’s Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design, who curated the new exhibition in the Ellman Gallery. “This exhibition is a way for the Museum to address those questions directly and educate our audiences on how to apply the principles of art to fashion as they do to a painting or sculpture. Through Collective Inspiration, I want our visitors to see how the conversations they’re having about art in the Asian or American galleries can carry over as they explore our fashion exhibitions.”

One object grouping in Collective Inspiration features a cream-colored suit by American designer Ralph Rucci and a work of a similar hue by contemporary Japanese sculptor Fujikasa Satoko. Beyond their similar color palette, both works are characterized by exacting technical precision and organic, undulating lines. Another section of the exhibition places a dress by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons’ spring/summer 2018 line in conversation with a still-life painting by 17th-century Flemish artist Jan van Dalen, inviting visitors to explore the form and composition of each work. The exhibition also presents an Op-Art painting by Victor Vasarely alongside a suit by Alexander McQueen, both of which rely on linear, geometric patterns to create optical illusions of movement and vibration. Visitors will additionally have the opportunity to examine the fashion collection’s oldest objects, a pair of gloves from the 1640s that are decorated with handmade metal lace, which are paired with a portrait of Doña Maria Moreno y Buenaventura from 18th-century Mexico to explore the evolution of lacemaking and its detailed rendering in portraiture.

To encourage contemplation on formal aspects of the art featured in Collective Inspiration, each pairing includes interpretive text written by Jean, as well as curators who specialize in other areas of the Museum’s collection, including Janet Baker, PhD, the Museum’s curator of Asian art; Betsy Fahlman, PhD, adjunct curator of American art; and Gilbert Vicario, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and the Selig Family Chief Curator, who provides interpretations of featured modern and contemporary works. Audrey Sands, PhD, the Norton Family Assistant Curator of Photography, who holds a joint curatorial role at both Phoenix Art Museum and the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, also contributes text for the exhibition, exploring the work of Greek fashion designer Mary Katrantzou, which features photographic imagery woven into textiles and formed into a dress.

Collective Inspiration is meant to set the stage for conversations and debate about what makes something art,” Jean said, when reflecting on what she hopes the Phoenix community takes away from the exhibition. “I want debates in the gallery—I want people arguing about why a particular dress and vase make sense together or why they don’t. I am excited to see what kind of ideas and feedback this exhibition elicits from our audiences.”