DRIES VAN NOTEN: INSPIRATIONS…and on the challenges of a fashion exhibition.

“The starting point can be either very literal or abstract, a painting, a certain color, something someone has thought, a gesture, a scent, a flower, anything really. What inspires me is the journey from that first flash of inspiration to the final destination, the individual garments, the collection”.

Dries Van Noten

In his opening statement the museum director Olivier Gabet describes the challenges of exhibiting fashion “in a world saturated with pictures, names, and events, there are a thousand different ways to go…”. Sensory exposure, overexposure, overwhelming…all must be taken into account. He firmly states that the fashion exhibition must be more than a show of objets de mode. I love him for saying this; I love him because it sums up exactly how I feel about the fashion blockbuster hits we have seen take place in museums for the past ten years (Hello Alexander McQueen 2011 at the Met! The same year she got married in his dress! Crazy! Etc etc) – completely overwhelming, completely beyond the point in that they exhibit fashion pieces as if they were art when really fashion deserves its own curatorial context and this could not be more dissimilar. While art pieces are all about the past, fashion pieces are all about the future, the devenir. So how to present the devenir in an institution dedicated to celebrating past accomplishments/high points of high culture as is the visual arts museums?

The Dries Van Noten exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris is just stunning, spectacular, surprising, and any other adjectives that come to mind surely apply. Its title is “Inspirations” and the exhibition proves to be exactly that – a peep into the designer’s mind divided into thematic groups such as butterflies, uniforms, marble, Bollywood, punk, Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko, the movie Death in Venice and gold. Looks from his previous collections, together with pieces by other designers or historic costumes, are set-up within this context, giving us a juxtaposition of clothing, film, art, and exquisitely accurate curatorial design. The first museum exhibition devoted to the artist, it is more than a retrospective but truly a window into Van Noten’s creative processes for the past thirty years.

So the show proposes something new – an angle or glimpse that has not yet been exposed through conventional vitrines and for which there never seems to be enough time to stop and think about anyway.  The Van Noten show reads just like a woven story, a kaleidoscopic platform that allows space and time for reflection; a pleasure to visit, walk through, and then walk through again.





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