Opening Nights in London

As you may have presumed from my recent posts, there are an unusually large number of exciting fashion related exhibitions taking place in London this autumn.  There are more on the way, and I have been braving transport strikes, snow and frantic holiday shoppers in order to make it to all of them.  This week, I put my notebook aside, donned a statement piece of millinery and attended the opening parties for Birds of Paradise: The 3rd Fashion in Film Festival and AWARE: Art Fashion Identity at the Royal Academy.  Reviews and more information on both the films and exhibition will be forthcoming, but for now, here are some snapshots and notes from the revels.

The Birds of Paradise opening reception took place at Q Forum, a newly inaugurated venue dedicated to the art and culture of the book.  The interior of the room is walled with bottle green shelving units, left empty for the party in order to focus attention on a central projection screen playing dazzling clips from the films to be shown over the course of the festival.  The night was livened up by glittering masks worn by students from Central St Martins BA Fashion History course who staffed the door and bar, serving up delicious whiskey and ginger cocktails courtesy of Auchentoshan.  The festival’s curator Marketa Uhlirova was on hand to welcome guests, as well as academic fashion luminaries such as Christopher Breward, Alistair O’Neill, and Penny Martin.

Salomé, dir Charles Bryant, 1923. Courtesy of BFI. Costumes and sets:Natacha Rambova

For more info on the festival, and full screening times click here.

The 3rd Fashion in Film Festival   BIRDS OF PARADISE

1 – 12 December 2010

The 3rd Fashion in Film Festival is proud to present Birds of Paradise, an intoxicating exploration of costume as a form of cinematic spectacle throughout European and American cinema.

From the exquisitely opulent films of the silent era, to the sybaritic, lavishly stylised underground films of the 1940s -1970s, costume has, for a long time, played a significant role in cinema as a vital medium for showcasing such basic properties of film as movement, change, light and colour. The festival programme explores episodes in film history which most distinctly foreground costume, adornment and styling as vehicles of sensuous pleasure and enchantment.

The opening party and private view of the Royal Academy’s GSK Contemporary AWARE: Art Fashion Identity exhibition was a red-letter date on my calendar, because since August I have been working on co-curating its events program.

As champagne, mint juleps and canapés were passed around the space, the worlds of art and fashion mingled as ever, with guests dressed in festive party wear, understated intellectual designer fashions or a clever fusion of the two.  The young, hip catering staff were clad in a casual and clever uniform of jeans, Converse sneakers, crisp white shirts and large gold sculptural amulets worn at the collar.

Artist's Robe, Grayson Perry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts

I was meeting some of the salon guests for the first time, and wanted to make sure to be remembered, so opted for the mix of unusual and understated, with a vintage Schiaparelli-esque surrealist hat, and a deceptively simple Margiela shift dress.  The hat proved a real conversation piece, and I promised around a dozen people that I would undertake proper research into its origins.  I will be back to the exhibition regularly over the next two months, to moderate the salons and study the works further.  But for opening nights it seems, the best way to take part in the dialogues between art and fashion in museums is by making a sartorial statement!

GSK Contemporary  Aware: Art Fashion Identity

2 December 2010 – 30 January 2011

The third season of contemporary art at 6 Burlington Gardens examines how artists and designers use clothing as a mechanism to communicate and reveal elements of our identity.

New work by Yinka Shonibare and Hussein Chalayan, commissioned especially for Aware by London College of Fashion and the Royal Academy of Arts, is on display. Hussein Chalayan presents a new dress inspired by the 300 year old Japanese tradition of Bunraku puppet theatre while Yinka Shonibare has worked with bespoke tailor Chris Stevens to create 18 designs based on 19th-century children’s dress assembled to form a wall mural.

Yinka Shonibare's new installation

Aware is divided into four sections. Storytelling acknowledges the role of clothing in the representation of personal and cultural history.

Building covers the concept of clothing being used as a form of protection and the notion of carrying one’s own shelter, referencing the nomadic, portable nature of modern life.

Belonging and Confronting examines ideas of nationality as well as displacement and political and social confrontation, recognizing the tensions associated with the assimilation of new cultures and traditions.

The importance of Performance in the presentation of fashion and clothing, and in highlighting the roles that we play in our daily life, is explored in the final section.

For more information, complete list of participating artists, and events click here.

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