LACMA’s de-accessioning of cocktail dresses hasn’t caused the same scrutiny directed at its sale of paintings. But that might not always be the case. The Wall Street Journal’s Christina Binkley looks at the museum’s move into costume and the popularity it has with the public:
“It wasn’t always fashionable to have costume and textile in a museum,” she explains. “For many years, we were the poor cousin even within our own museum. Many of our colleagues weren’t sure what to do with it — or whether it was really art.”
The ensuing struggle to secure the collection says a great deal about the increasing value that museums are placing on fashion, which is wildly popular with the public yet costs less to collect than painting and sculpture.
Fashion and costume exhibitions have become big draws for museums, bringing new donors and visitors and generating lavish publicity for star-studded opening galas. Last year, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art drew 576,000 visitors to its “Superheroes” exhibit, says a spokeswoman. A 2005 Chanel exhibit there drew 463,000 visitors. Other notable exhibits include the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s exhibition on Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli in 2004; San Francisco’s de Young Museum’s Yves St. Laurent exhibit; and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s 2006 “Skin & Bones” exhibition on fashion and architecture.
Inside the Mania for Fashion as Art (Wall Street Journal)