Beijing’s The Pace Gallery is celebrating icon Diane von Furstenberg through “Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress,” an exhibition that displays a series of portraits of the famed designer. Created by major contemporary Chinese artists and renown artists of the past four decades – including Francesco Clemente, Chuck Close, Helmut Newton, Julian Opie and Andy Warhol—the portraits are accompanied by a retrospective of von Furstenberg’s life and designs.
“China is the cradle of our civilization and has always inspired me tremendously. I first visited in the 1980s, and subsequent trips left a great impression on me. It is an honor to now engage with the country’s art community,” said von Furstenberg to Art Daily. “China is a major part of our future, and its art is already some of the most exciting being made worldwide.”
By showcasing new portraits of von Furstenberg, one of the goals of the exhibit is to create dialogue and bring the designer’s collaborations with artists into the world of the 21st century. Specifically constructed for this show, the images of Diane represent the first time Chinese artists have created portraits of the star. New works by conceptual artist Zhang Huan, photographer Hai Bo, painter Li Songsong and multimedia artist Yi Zhou are mixed in with worked from famed visual artists around the world.
One of the largest privately-owned galleries around the globe, The Pace Gallery, clocking in 25,000 square feet of exhibition space, was the first main American art gallery to be located in Beijing. The show is also the first display of Western art in the space since 2008’s “Encounters,” which presented works by Western artists hung side by side with pieces by Chinese artists.
Viewers are greeted by an intriguing entrance, designed by Francesco Clemente, which combines maps of New York and Beijing. Beyond the portraiture, the exhibit documents von Furstenberg’s life, from her career to her designs. The show starts with the initial DVF wrap dress, dating from 1973, that started it all by landing the then-young designer on the cover of Newsweek. Proceeding decade by decade, the display of her designs—including 60 dresses from her own archival collection—are mixed in with visual art pieces by well-known artists such as Mario Testino and François-Marie Banier. Letters and photographs give interesting glimpses into the real life of the icon.
For the launch, von Furstenberg’s longtime husband, mogul Barry Diller, personally flew out in his jet celebrities such as Jessica Alba and Natalia Vodianova.
The exhibition taps into the designer’s long-held interest in China. “I was a teenager during the Cultural Revolution, and even though we didn’t understand about Mao or know what the Little Red Book meant, it all seemed terribly romantic,” von Furstenberg said to the Telegraph.
“Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress” is exhibited at The Pace Gallery in Beijing through May 14, 2011. For more information, visit thepacegallery.com.