As fashion and art are my passion, I'm very excited that LACMA's Senior Curator and Department Head of Costume and Textiles, Sharon Takeda, has dropped by Trust Your Style to talk about this incredibly rare costume acquisition.
To give you some quick background: London collector Martin Kamer and Galerie Ruf in Beckenried, Switzerland, both established dealers of fine historic European costume, started out as competitors but merged their holdings a few years ago to create LACMA's newly acquired collection, a deal that was three years in the making. It includes approximately 250 examples of fashionable dress and more than 300 accessories for men, women, and children dating from 1700 to 1915.
mjm: How did you feel and what were your thoughts when you first saw this collection?
sharon takeda: Upon entering the secured clean room within a free-port warehouse in Basel, Switzerland, I was first struck by the sheer quantity of objects that were packed in boxes, hung on racks, and stored in cabinets. The dealers had taken the time to place a few select costume pieces on mannequins in order for us to fully appreciate how impressive the pieces would be on exhibition. Over the course of a week, as we carefully examined each object, we were amazed at the number of rare objects and that the entire collection was in very good condition.
mjm: Could you talk a little about what it is about this collection that separates it and makes it stand-out from other venerable permanent fashion collections such as The Met, The Frick Collection, The V&A and others?
sharon takeda: LACMA's new European costume collection acquisition includes an unusually rare group of complete three-piece men's ensembles--coat, waistcoat, and breeches--from 1750 to 1810; an impressive array of women's ensembles documenting every period of significant stylistic change of eighteenth and nineteenth-century dress; and extremely rare children's fashionable dress from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This collection fills major gaps in LACMA's existing collection and elevates it in these areas. In comparing LACMA's costume collection to The Met and V&A, one must consider the fact that the later two institutions were established in the second half of the nineteenth century, well before LACMA.
mjm: Do you have any particular favorite pieces or personal favorite areas of the collection?
sharon takeda: I have many favorites, however, the 1790s man's waistcoat knitted in colors and motifs sympathetic to the French Revolution is an extremely rare and beautiful piece; an entire dissertation can be written about this historic garment.
mjm: How do you foresee this collection impacting Los Angeles and of course LACMA?
sharon takeda: We cannot wait to share this new collection, along with our existing encyclopedic permanent collection, with the people of Los Angeles and the world. LACMA already has an established reputation for mounting important exhibitions, both scholarly and beautiful. This new acquisition insures that we have a permanent collection that can continue to support such projects for generations to come.
mjm: Sharon, thank you so much for stopping by. Wishing you all the best with this project!
LACMA will present an inaugural exhibition of this new acquisition in 2010: Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915. The exhibit will tell the story of fashion's development from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I and will examine minute details of textile and clothing construction as well as broader cultural themes. Trust Your Style plans to cover the unfolding of this event every step of the way!