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'Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations' at the Met

RENEE MINUS WHITE Fashion & Beauty Editor | 5/11/2012, 12:59 p.m.
The brilliant exhibition "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" is on view at the Costume Institute...
'Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations' at the Met

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'Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations' at the Met

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'Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations' at the Met

The brilliant exhibition "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" is on view at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art now through Aug. 19. As witnessed at the press preview on Monday, the exhibit explores fashion at its absolute best.

Throughout the elegant exhibit, the conversations between the two fashion icons are extremely interesting and timely. "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," said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Schiaparelli's collaborations with Dali and Cocteau as well as Prada's Fondazione Prada push art and fashion ever closer in a direct, synergistic and culturally redefining relationship."

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the museum's Costume Institute benefit was held Monday night, attracting Hollywood stars such as Beyonce, who wore a lovely, fitting lace Givenchy gown. For the first time in history, the red-carpet arrivals were streamed live on metmuseum.org, amazon.com/fashion and vogue.com. The exhibition was made possible by Amazon, with additional support provided by Conde Nast.

In the galleries, iconic ensembles by Schiaparelli and Prada are presented alongside short videos of simulated conversations featuring the two designers directed by creative consultant Baz Luhrmann. The main focus is on how the women explore similar themes in their work through very different means. "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 co-curator Harold Koda.

"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, " added co-curator Andrew Bolton.

In the Metropolitan Museum's first-floor special exhibition galleries, the exhibition features approximately 100 designs and 40 accessories by Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) from the late 1920s to the early 1950s, and by Miuccia Prada from the late 1980s to the present. The collections are drawn from the Costume Institute's collection, the Prada Archive and other institutions and private collections.

Schiaparelli, who worked in Paris from the 1920s until her house closed in 1954, was associated closely with the surreal movement. She created such iconic pieces as the "tear dress," the "shoe hat" and the "bug necklace." Prada, who holds a degree in political science, took over her family's Milan-based business in 1978. She focuses on fashion that reflects the eclectic nature of postmodernism.

A book, "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations," by Bolton and Koda, with an introduction by Judith Thurman, accompanies the exhibition. The 300-page catalogue features more that 200 vintage and newly photographed images of the designer's work. Plus, a smaller "book-within-a-book" features more extensive "impossible conversations" between the two women. Published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the $45 book (hardcover only) is distributed worldwide by Yale University Press.

On May 15, the College Group at the Met will host a panel discussion, "Defining Chic: Then & Now." There will also be a discussion on June 17 about "Good Taste/Bad Taste: The Evolution of Contemporary Chic." Visit the Met's website for in-depth features on the exhibition at www.metmuseum.org/impossibleconversations.

Good Show!