On 12 March 2018, the first year MA Fashion Studies students were taken on a private tour of the Margiela/Galliera 1989-2009 exhibition at Palais Galliera guided by the instructor of their Curating Fashion course Laurent Cotta, who is also a curator at Palais Galliera. Martin Margiela was the art director and co-curator, alongside Alexandre Samson.
The exhibition is open from 3 March to 15 July 2018 and follows a chronological unfolding of Martin Margiela’s work from his spring/summer 1989 to spring/summer 2009 collections. Through more than 100 silhouettes, videos, House archives and installations, the exhibition aims to convey Margiela’s influence in questioning not only the structure of garments, but also the structure of the fashion system.
This chronology is important to how Margiela used each of his collections as a study collection for the next. On top of this, he reclaimed vintage garments and objects found in flea markets to transform them into ‘new’ pieces for his collections. This theme is evident in key exhibits such as the vest made out of the catwalk dropcloth stained with footprints of red paint from models’ shoes (reproduced for the exhibition) and the duvet coat. Other key concepts that are highlighted by the exhibition includes the playing with scale through the XXXL garments, and the questioning of how garments are worn through the Stockman dummy cover vest pieces and garments worn sideways.
The scenography of the exhibition, done by Margiela’s long-time friend architect Ania Martchenko, deconstructs the exhibition space and presents it as a work site. The entrance has a dominating overhead sign with the exhibition’s title printed on plastic, much like a construction site. Throughout the exhibition, objects are reused from past catwalk shows– white confetti is strewn on the floor and the cardboard catwalk punctured by models’ heels of his spring/summer 2005 show is placed under the mannequins to immerse the visitor in an environment authentic to Margiela’s initial creative vision for each collection.
The visit is useful to the students as they contemplate the methods of curating, display, and scenography for their upcoming exhibition in May. In a practical sense, the way Margiela’s exhibition brings together various display techniques, such as different mannequins and diverse methods of contextualising objects, including within installations, is inspirational for the planning of the upcoming exhibition. In a conceptual way, the exhibition raises important questions about the study collection. This follows up from the students’ visit to Antwerp’s ModeMuseum (where the study collection is a recent endeavour) to shape their ideas on this significant side of the fashion museum.
Words by Angelene Wong
Photographs by Philippa Nesbitt