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Expo Reviews > Chanel Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Posted by: PhyllisC

About PhyllisC starstarstarstar
Member since: 8/2/02
Reviews: 202 (expos: 2)
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Posted on: 5/23/05 2:52 PM
Rating: starstar
Review Rating: Helpful by 2 people   Very Helpful by 2 people   
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This show is the Chanel exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Three of us PR members attended together in May 2005: me (PhyllisC), Ann (Gorgeous Things) and Georgene (Georgene.) The exhibit runs through August 7, 2005.

I give it 2 stars because it's really a mixed bag, but still worth seeing, and your final opinion will be determined by how you feel about Karl Lagerfeld’s designs as much as your opinion of Coco Chanel's.

My bias is more towards Mlle. Chanel, and while I liked the exhibit quite a bit I wasn't bowled over by it. Some of the problems are purely in how the show is mounted - the lighting is bad, and the clothes are presented inside room-size boxes. You can't get much closer than about 5 feet to any of the garments and most of them have front views only. Several times we wished we could have a 3-D view. Fortunately, many of the garments are accessorized with Chanel jewelry, which makes for a more comprehensive display. This was, for example, a major flaw in the Jackie Kennedy exhibit - none of her jewelry was displayed with her wardrobe.

There are also not that many garments in the show, which is surprising given the long history of Chanel, which dates back to World War I. I also quibbled with the equal presentation given to Lagerfeld and Chanel herself - the first gown you see when you enter the exhibit is a Lagerfeld design from the early 80's that pretty much copies a vintage Chanel evening gown from the 1930's. I thought it was one of *hers* and I was kinda miffed and felt bit snookered.

There is also no historical context or period photos; the garments are just presented on blank white mannequins with small labels indicating dates and fabric content.

That said - there are still some real gems. In addition to the famous jackets we all know about, there are several examples of lace evening gowns from the 30's that are pure magic. Her garments from the early 20th century through to the late 40's are really interesting. Lagerfeld’s examples run from the sublime - Asian coats and jackets from the 80’s - to the ridiculous - biker chic designs that ape the very worst of Gaultier.

So it wasn't life changing - but it’s still worth seeing I'd like to see it again before it closes. The catalog from the exhibit is pretty good and showcases numerous garments not included in the exhibition.

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Katie47 said... (5/24/05 10:54 AM) Reply
Anybody know if this exhibit is travelling to the West Coast?
GorgeousFabrics said... (5/24/05 7:20 AM) Reply
I saw the Jackie Kennedy exhibit at the JFK Museum. The lighting was much better. I think the thing I found most distracting was that they had those little spots traveling over many of the exhibits. I know that Chanel had a thing about etoiles, and I'm sure it was meant to evoke that, but they could have done a much better job of lighting the exhibit, and still preserved the garments. -Ann
Kathryn said... (5/24/05 6:58 AM) Reply
Phyllis, I already commented on Gorgeous Things' excellent review, and I agree with you both. I probably would give it one more star because I really enjoyed seeing the comparison of Lagerfeld to Chanel. I did wish I had taken a flashlight, though! Apparently the low light conditions are common in vintage garment exhibits--the Jackie Kennedy Exhibit was said to be the same way--to protect the fabrics. The catalog and the article in the May Vogue magazine mentions that there are not that many of Chanel's early garments available, because of the materials she used and the fact that she felt that her garments did not need to be preserved. The Vogue magazine said the clothes from the teens and twenties were worn until they fell apart, and that's why there are not many examples of them in existence. Lagerfeld apparently remade the famous glittering lace dress that Chanel was photographed in as an homage to her, since the original was not in a viewable condition. (I think I read that in a New York Times article). It was stunning. I also loved that blue wrap around chainette fringe dress...amazing construction.
GorgeousFabrics said... (5/23/05 5:20 PM) Reply
I concur with Phyllis, it's a good exhibit, but it's disappointing because it coulda been great. -Ann
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