“Anatomy of the Fashion Museum” Exhibition

The MA Fashion Studies program presented the exhibition and conference Anatomy of the Fashion Museum at the Mona Bismarck American Center from May 17 to 19, developed with the generous support of Palais Galliera – Musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris.
Anatomy of the Fashion Museum is an exhibition exploring issues of fashion museology, curated by MA Fashion Studies students in the course “Curating Fashion: History, Theory & Practice” taught by Laurent Cotta, curator and Head of Graphic Design at Palais Galliera Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris. The exhibition uses the Palais Galliera as a case study to investigate four different museological practices – collecting, inventorying, conserving and exhibiting.
During the Spring semester of 2019, students had unique access to the museum’s departments, studied internal documentation, participated in hands-on workshops on the different techniques and worked with curators and conservators at Palais Galliera. Anatomy of the Fashion Museum presents the results of this work, deliberately quoting and taking inspiration from the exhibition Anatomie d’une Collection (2016) which showcased key pieces from the museum’s archive to present the nature and diversity of the collection at Palais Galliera. Students were asked to select four garments from this show and use them as key entry points to further expand Galliera’s reflection and showcase the museological practices hidden behind these pieces.
Inspired by Aby Warburg’s Atlas Mnemosyne, each of the four metal grids constructs an atlas, a narrative for each museological practice through the presentation of the museum’s documentation, interviews with Galliera’s staff, exhibition catalogues and other secondary sources. Each grid showcases the quotidien and bureaucratic activities of curators and conservators while also contextualizing their work to reveal the mechanics and ideologies governing these fashion museum practices. Anatomy of the Fashion Museum exposes the behind-the-scenes of Palais Galliera and suggests a definition of fashion in museums as more than a matter of staging garments in an exhibition space. The exhibition invites visitors to reflect on the complexity of the actions, negotiations and bureaucratic mediation that construct and mirror the perpetual reformulations of the meanings and values of fashion inside the museum.