Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dries Van Noten, Inspirations

Last week I was one of the lucky few who got invited to the press conference and preview of the “Inspirations” exhibition by fashion designer Dries Van Noten in Antwerp, Belgium. It was such a privilege to meet Dries Van Noten and getting a private tour of his collection… I can hardly describe the excitement of seeing all his beautiful clothes put together with all his various sources of inspiration. From Cristóbal Balenciaga to Peter Paul Rubens, from Jimmy Hendrix to Pablo Picasso… the exhibition is an exhilirating mix of masterpieces!

Inspirations was originally created in 2014 by Pamela Golbin, chief curator of fashion and textiles of Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, together with Dries Van Noten and his team. After Paris, the exhibition now has moved to Antwerp, Van Noten’s hometown. However, the content of the exhibition is not exactly the same. The ModeMuseum (MoMu) in Antwerp has adapted the exhibition somewhat, including pieces from their own permanent collection. Very important to know: Inspirations is not a retrospective, rather a peek into Van Noten’s brain. He wants to show people that fashion is not just about expensive clothes, but there’s a lot more behind it!

The paintings, drawings and other pieces of art are on loan from various museums. And as can be expected, it takes a lot of time, energy and power of persuasion to bring them all together at the same time! Dries Van Noten explained that when one painting was not available, they quickly had to find a replacement. Only one day before the exhibition in Antwerp would open, the Plantin-Moretus museum was contacted and kindly loaned a drawing of a nude male by Rubens. So in the end everything fell into place.

The exhibition opens with a piece by Damien Hearst, “Rapture” (2003), showing hundreds of beautiful but dead butterflies, next to a dark butterfly print dress by Elsa Schiapparelli (1937) and a still from Stanley Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange” (1971). This dark theme served as an inspiration for Dries Van Noten’s Spring/Summer 2000 menswear collection. As you can see by the dates, Damien Hearst’s painting was made after Van Noten’s collection. Therefore you should not always take “inspiration” literally. Sometimes it just shows the idea and the atmosphere behind a collection.

A painting by Kees van Dongen of Madame Jasmy Alvin (1925), wearing a typical 1920’s flapper dress, is placed next to a colourful photo by Jackie Nickerson of an African woman (1997) working on the field. Both women are strong and confident. As Van Noten pointed out, you can’t tell which woman is more beautiful!

Military uniforms with gold and red details are shown next to a painting -with a red stripe of course- “Grey, Orange on Maroon” by Mark Rothko (1960). This was the inspiration for Van Noten’s  Fall/winter 1999-00 and 2003-04 menswear collections. Especially the similarity of the navy pants with a red stripe in the painting by James Tissot and the Rothko painting was striking.

African jewelry can be admired next to a video of grand old lady Iris Apfel, wearing her signature style, an eclectic mix of jewelry, clothes and oversized glasses. It all seems so right; it all comes together!

A painting by Picasso, “Taureau” (1945) is exhibited next to a dress (1956-57) and evening coat (1962) by Cristóbal Balenciaga. The two torreador jackets in the same room, designed by Dries Van Noten himself, clearly show his admiration for the traditional Spanish costumes and handicraft.

His passion for Mexico on the other hand can be seen in the Pedro Almodovar movie poster “High Heels” (1991) and the beautifully embroidered red boot by Roger Vivier (1987).

But there is so much more… luxury sportswear, graphic prints, androgyny, coming-of-age, grunge, punk, flowers and gardens, dandies, ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev and the male body, the Flemish masters, Orientalism, Bollywood… all these themes have played a role in Dries Van Noten’s collections and they all can be found here.

My favourite rooms were the Gold room, The Piano and Summer Flower… but it’s hard to choose really. It’s so overwhelming, one could easily become victim of Stendhal’s syndrome (hallucinations due to enormous exposure to immense beauty, especially art)!

Where else can you find ball gowns by Chanel, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Cristóbal Balenciaga; beaded jackets and kimonos by Dries van Noten; paintings by Rothko, Van Dongen and Picasso; drawings by Rubens; music by Jimy Hendrix and Kurt Cobain; movie scenes by Luchino Visconti and Alfred Hitchcock all together in one museum, or even better, in one exhibition? Exactly. Nowhere.

So if you get the chance, take the first plane, train or car to Antwerp and go to this exhibition. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

For more information, please visit:
Dries Van Noten:

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