After the prestigious Met Gala and its stunning night of fashion on May 7, New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has opened its Spring 2012 art exhibition, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.” The exhibition, organized by the Costume Institute of the Met, explores the remarkable affinities between the two Italian designers from different eras. Inspired by Miguel Corvarrubias’s satirical “Impossible Interviews,” curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton have composed conversations between these iconic women to suggest new readings of the designers’ most innovative work. “Impossible Conversations” is on view from May 10 to August 19.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Museum’s Costume Institute Gala Benefit took place on May 7 with red carpet arrivals streaming live for the first time in history. The event’s honorary chair was Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO and the co-chairs were designer Miuccia Prada, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour and actress Carey Mulligan. This fundraising event is the Costume Institute’s main source of funding for exhibitions, acquisitions and capital improvements.
Screenwriter, director and producer Baz Luhrmann collaborated with Koda and Bolton as creative consultant producing a series of filmed elements for the exhibition. The film’s production designer is Catherine Martin and all mannequin head treatments and masks are designed by Guido Palau.
“Given the role Surrealism and other art movements play in the designs of both Schiaparelli and Prada, it seems only fitting that their inventive creations be explored here at the Met,” Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said in a press release. “Schiaparelli’s collaborations with Dalí and Cocteau as well as Prada’s Fondazione Prada push art and fashion ever closer in a direct, synergistic, and culturally redefining relationship.”
In the exhibition galleries, iconic ensembles by Schiaparelli and Prada are presented alongside eight short films of simulated conversations between the two designers. Directed by Luhrmann, the films focus on how the two explore similar themes in their designs through unique approaches. The voices of Prada and Schiaparelli, played by actress Judy Davis, liven up the seven themed sections of the gallery and provide the thread that connects everything together. The films show the two sitting at a dinner table in dialogue created by paraphrasing excerpts from Schiaparelli’s autobiography, Shocking Life, and Prada’s filmed remarks. Exhibition visitors will have the impression of eavesdropping on the meeting of the two fashion designers.
“Juxtaposing the work of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada allows us to explore how the past enlightens the present and how the present enlivens the past,” said Koda.
“Impossible Conversations” features approximately 100 designs and 40 accessories by Elsa Schiaparelli from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. Featured Miuccia Prada pieces are from the late 1980s to the present, and are selected from the Costume Institute’s collection and the Prada Archive as well as other private institutions and collectors. The seven sections of the exhibition are entitled “Waist Up/Waist Down,” “Ugly Chic,” “Hard Chic,” “Naïf Chic,” “Classical Body,” “Exotic Body” and “Surreal Body.”
“The connection of the historic to the modern highlights the affinities as well as the variances between two women who constantly subverted contemporary notions of taste, beauty, and glamour,” said Bolton.
To learn more about the “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” exhibition, visit www.metmuseum.org.