PARIS – The Palais Galliera presents the first exhibition of its permanent fashion collection, with an exhibition of 350 pieces of clothing, accessories and documents from the 18th century to the present day.
“Une Histoire de la Mode” is on display until June 26 in the new permanent exhibition space located in the basement of the museum, known as “Galeries Gabrielle Chanel”, because the French luxury house sponsored the renovation.
At the same time, an exhibition celebrating the centenary of Paris Vogue took over the ground floor of the institution. Both parades opened on Saturday, in the middle of Paris Fashion Week, after being repeatedly delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“For this first presentation, we decided to tell two parallel stories: a history of fashion, but also a history of the museum’s collections,” says Miren Arzalluz, director of the Palais Galliera. “It’s a very Parisian story, because it’s mostly a French collection.
La Galliera is one of the few museums in the world dedicated to fashion, alongside the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Fashion Gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp in Antwerp, Belgium. Yet his fate has been tortuous.
Commissioned by Maria Brignole-Sale, the Duchess of Galliera, to house her vast art collection, the Italian-style building designed by architect Paul-René-Léon Ginain was completed in 1894. Due to legal issues, the Duchess ended up donating the art to her hometown of Genoa in Italy, leaving the palace aimlessly.
In 1977, it was officially designated the city’s fashion museum. But despite having a permanent collection of over 200,000 items of clothing, accessories, photographs, sketches, industrial designs and prints, the institution never had the space to display it.
With its now doubled exhibition space, it will be able to alternate between larger temporary exhibitions and rotating presentations of its archives.
The inaugural exhibition was originally designed to mark the 100th anniversary of the museum’s founding act: the donation in 1920 to the City of Paris of more than 2,000 items of clothing by the Costume History Society. They include a dark man’s coat dated between 1660 and 1675, displayed near the entrance.
While Arzalluz’s predecessor, Olivier Saillard, shot some of the pieces for temporary exhibitions, like “Anatomy of a Collection,” many of them have not been released for some time. In fact, they’re so fragile that some will need to be replaced halfway through the show, which will close for three weeks to allow for change.
The outfits are presented in chronological order, with sections devoted to 18th and 19th century men’s vests; the turmoil of the 19th century; couturier Paul Poiret, and the various decades of the twentieth century, including the period of the Occupation during the Second World War, richly documented in the museum’s archives.
“We focus on specific themes because it is impossible to tell the whole story,” said Arzalluz.
In 1970, Balenciaga became the first house to donate prototypes of its collections to the institution, a tradition that continues today.
Most of the museum’s acquisitions today are contemporary creations, purchased with proceeds from the annual gala of the Vogue Paris Foundation, traditionally organized during Paris Couture Week in July.
“The foundation pays an average of 200,000 euros per year”, specifies Arzalluz. “This is very important, because our own annual budget for acquisitions is much smaller.”
Purchases are made under the supervision of the curator Alexandre Samson, director of contemporary collections at the Palais Galliera. “We’re trying to follow scientific criteria for relevance and impact,” said Arzalluz, acknowledging that history may result in some of those choices being re-evaluated.
While exhibiting clothing poses many challenges, both organizational and logistical, money remains a constant concern.
“We must continue to reconstruct the collection, perhaps faster now in order to be able to renew this exhibition, and also finance the restoration of the pieces so that they can be exhibited. That’s why there aren’t many permanent fashion galleries in the world, ”she said.
“We talk a lot [among fashion museums] because we all face the same problems and challenges. Having said that, it’s a great project that responds to a real demand from our public and the public in general, ”she added.
The exhibition “Vogue Paris 1920-2020” usefully complements the creations of the last 100 years, with a multitude of photographs by Horst P. Horst, Guy Bourdin, William Klein, Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, Mario Testino, and Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.
The show is divided into sections curated by the editor, starting with Michel de Brunhoff and ending with Emmanuelle Alt, whose swan song was the October 2021 issue, celebrating the magazine’s 100 years.
“It’s the end of a story, and it’s a rather unusual coincidence for this exhibition,” said Sylvie Lécallier, head of the photographic collection at Galliera, who organized the exhibition with the help of a contemporary art historian and a researcher in media history.
“The story of the magazine’s history had never been written, as all the exhibitions and publications in the past were organized by the magazine or the [Condé Nast] group itself, telling their own story, ”she noted.
Special sections highlight Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, who have enjoyed special relationships with the publication, and Catherine Deneuve and Kate Moss, who set the record for most covers. The show will run until January 30.
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