schiaparelli and prada: impossible conversations at the met
 
schiaparelli and prada: impossible conversations at the met schiaparelli and prada: impossible conversations at the met
may 09, 2012

schiaparelli and prada: impossible conversations at the met

schiaparelli and prada: impossible conversations
the metropolitan museum of art, new york
may 10th – august 19th, 2012

 

opening may 10th, 2012, ‘schiaparelli and prada: impossible conversations’ is new york’s metropolitan museum of art‘s (the met) 2012 spring exhibition which brings forth the striking affinities between elsa schiaparelli and miuccia prada, two italian designers from very different eras. curated by harold koda and andrew bolten, the show is organized by the costume institute and the MET who have envisioned an overall scenography which draws on miguel covarrubia’s ‘impossible interviews’ which were completed for vanity fair in the 1930s. ‘impossible conversations’ presented in such a way that it creates orchestrated discussions between these two fashion icons, through eight short videos created by baz luhrmann (production design executed by luhrmann’s longtime collaborator catherine martin) which depict simulated dialogues; prada talking to schiaparelli, played by judy davis.

 

these verbal exhcanges are immediately evident upon entrance to the gallery which is animated by a film where the two are seated at a dining table in conversation, composed of paraphrased excerpts of the late fashion designer’s autobiography, ‘shocking life’ combined with prada’s filmed remarks. these specially produced projected moving images are shown in relation to iconic ensembles from both fashion designers – approximately 100 designs and 40 accessoriess by schiaparelli (1890 – 1973) from the late 1920s to the early 1950s and by miuccia prada from the late 1980s to the present – the juxtaposition of their garments highlighting the overlapping themes in their work, though approached from very different angles, thus suggesting new readings of their most innovative pieces.

 

apparel drawn from the costume institute’s collection and the prada archive, as well as other institutions and private collections, alongside signature objects by both designers are arranged in seven themed galleries: ‘waist up/waist down’, ‘ugly chic’, ‘hard chic’, ‘naïf chic’, ‘the classical body’, ‘the exotic body’ and ‘the surreal body’. the overall layout of ‘impossible conversations’ is executed by nathan crowley, while mannequin head treatments and masks are created by guido palau. the exhibition is made possible by amazon. additional support is provided by condé nast.


waist up/waist down gallery view
image courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art

 

 

‘waist up/waist down’ investigates schiaparelli’s use of decorative detailing as a response to restaurant dining in the heyday of 1930s café society, while showing prada’s below-the-waist focus as a symbolic expression of modernity and femininity. the accessory subsection is called ‘neck up/knees down’, an overview of schiaparelli’s hats and prada’s footwear.


‘neck up / knees down’
image courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art

 

 

‘ugly chic’ reveals how both women subvert the ideals of beauty and glamour by playing with good and bad taste through color, prints and textiles, while the ‘hard chic’ section references the influence of uniforms and menswear to promote a minimum aesthetic that is intended to both deny and enhance femininity.


‘hard chic’
image courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art

 

 

schiaparelli and prada’s adoption of a girlish sensibility to subvert expectations of age appropriate dressing is evident in ‘naïf chic’. in ‘classical body’, the designers’ engagement with antiquity through the gaze of the late-18th and 19th centuries is expressed, and ‘exotic body’, addresses the influence of eastern cultures through fabrics like lamé, and silhouettes such as a saris and sarongs. the final gallery, ‘surreal body’ illustrates how both women affect contemporary images of the female body through surrealistic practices such as displacement, playing with scale, and blurring the boundaries between reality and illusion, natural and artificial.


the entrance to the gallery is animated by a film where schiaparelli and prada are seated at a dining table ‘in conversation’
image courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art


‘waist up/waist down’
left: wallis simpson in elsa schiaparelli, vogue, june 1, 1937, courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, photograph by cecil beaton, cecil beaton studio archive at sotheby’s
right: miuccia prada, spring/summer 2011, courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, photograph © david sims


‘waist up/waist down’
left: diana vreeland in elsa schiaparelli, harper’s bazaar, april 1937, courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, photograph by louise dahl-wolfe, louise dahl-wolfe archive / © 2012 center for creative photography, arizona board of regents
right: miuccia prada, spring/summer 2005, courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, photograph © toby mcfarlan pond


‘surreal body’
left: elsa schiaparelli, harper’s bazaar, february 1935, courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, photograph by andré durst, harper’s bazaar/hearst communications, inc.
right: miuccia prada, autumn/winter 2002–3, courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, photograph by © david sims


‘classical body’
left: elsa schiaparelli in elsa schiaparelli, autumn 1931, courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, photograph by man ray, © 2012 artists rights society (ARS), new york / ADAGP, paris
right: miuccia prada, autumn/winter 2004–5, courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, photograph by © toby mcfarlan pond


george hoyningen-huené (russian, 1900–1968)
portrait of elsa schiaparelli, 1932
courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, hoyningen-huené/vogue; © condé nast


guido harari (italian, born cairo, 1952)
portrait of miuccia prada, 1999
courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art, guido harari/contrasto/redux

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