“Dries Van Noten – Inspirations”

107, rue de rivoli
March 1–August 31

Neither retrospective nor commercial display, “Dries Van Noten – Inspirations” is the rare design exhibition that contextualizes fashion as merely one aspect of visual culture. An interlacing of the Belgian fashion designer’s most recognizable collections with a multitude of his influences fills two levels, from floor to wallpapered ceiling, of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Arranged both chronologically and thematically—and interrupted by a film installation byDavid Michalek that animates several recent designs—the show highlights the Antwerp Six designer’s collections, from pieces marking his graduation show at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts in 1981 to his spring/summer 2014 collections, inspired by the museum’s wares and the making of this exhibition.

The constellation of visual style pairs a grid of David Bowie and Grace Jones album covers that fills a nearby wall with jackets and blazers featuring the bold shoulders that marked the 1980s, sharply cut in dyed leather. Meanwhile, mannequin clusters positioned against backdrops with faraway imagined landscapes, including Mexico and the “Orient,” accumulate as notes of wanderlust and exoticism in the designer’s archive. Moving along obliquely, conceptual groupings such as “Uniforms” are presented, with military-style suits and their inspirations—film stills from Francis Alÿs’s The Guards, 2005, and Michaël Borremans’s oil portrait of a soldier, Lakei, 2010; “Butterflies” introduces a Damien Hirst canvas to a 1937Elsa Schiaparelli gown covered in the titular insects, netting to match; the concept of gold is epitomized exultantly—glamorously—by a 1978 Thierry Mugler lamé dress, a 1967 Chanel suit, and an early twentieth-century Balkan costume, all kept safe in glass vitrines.

The friction between moods is a productive one. Complicating the rich anthropological aspects of the show, the ontology of textures, both tactile and visual, tempers “Inspirations” into a complex, entangled arrangement.




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