Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Fashion embraced by museums

“Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History” at the Jewish Museum. (Will Ragozzino/SocialShutterbug.com).

Robin Givhan, Fashion may be art, but does it belong in a museum?, The Washington Post, 26 April 2016

NEW YORK — There is a torrent of color. A rainbow of hues. A virtual ode to pink. The most striking aspect of the Isaac Mizrahi exhibition, on view at the Jewish Museum through Aug. 7, is the fashion designer’s effusive embrace of orange, grass green, teal and, of course, pink. Before visitors get to the clothes, the sketches or the videos detailing Mizrahi’s success, which most will recall as a starring role in “Unzipped,” they are introduced to his nearly obsessive desire to collect every possible hue in the rainbow in bits of wool, silk and cotton. Examples of his fabric-swatch collection, which he neatly stores in slim boxes, are tacked to the walls of the exhibition’s opening gallery. The effect is akin to walking into a room-size kaleidoscope, and the inevitable response is emotional rather than intellectual. The color makes you smile.

Is that reason enough for a museum to mount “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History”? Does that make it art?

The Mizrahi show arrives at the same time as a new documentary about a blockbuster fashion exhibition, as well as another new upcoming costume installation in the works, and all three make arguments about why fashion is embraced by museums: It is beautiful. It has cultural significance. It is a hub of creative experimentation.

But is fashion art? The answer is, perhaps: It doesn’t matter.

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