Governors Island, NEW YORK—The “Tattered and Torn (On the Road to Deaccession)” exhibit on Governors Island features less-than-pristine costumes from museum collections. Although the condition of the garments is too poor for display in museums, Empire Historic Arts Fund believes they remain a resource for those interested in 19th century fashion design.
Fashion presentation benefits from contrast, which is why magazines have a penchant for photographing fabulous couture in the desert or an urban alley. “Tattered and Torn” lacks contrast. Shown in an historic, brick residential building that once housed members of the U.S. Coast Guard in the 1960s, the somewhat worn gowns (draped on what must also be deaccessioned mannequins) appear even more drab against the dilapidated interior. However, the off-white, peeling walls of the apartment provide a much-prefered backdrop to the fake pillars topped with ferns and draped netting and branches installed by the curators. And the installation of a satin costume in the bare kitchen is quite striking compared with the rest of the displays.
While the clothes are indeed tattered, the fund correctly assumes that those interested in fashion and costume history—eager to view not just quality items but also unique examples of vintage garments—will appreciate the exhibit. Yesterday, detailed descriptions to help visitors learn more about each of the costumes hadn’t arrived yet, but with Michael B. Levinson, an interior designer on hand to explain the provenance of each, including the details of the fabrics and French lace, the exhibition copy wasn’t missed.
“Tattered and Torn” is on view from May 26 to Sept. 30, 2012 in Building 315.
All photos by Arts Observer