Balenciaga - L'Oeuvre au noir, at Musée Bourdelle in Paris
The exhibition resonates with the black tones of an alchemist of haute couture. Balenciaga pieces are displayed alongside the plaster casts in the Great Hall and there are more in Bourdelle’s studios and in the contemporary Portzamparc wing of the museum. Balenciaga’s work sets up a powerful, black-on-white dialogue with the great, late 19th-and early 20th-century sculptor.
March 8 — July 16, 2017
Black – for Balenciaga’s inspiration: the spiritual underpinnings of his work were the folklore and traditions of his Spanish childhood. Black – for the ascetic taste of this extraordinarily skilful tailor who gave us: the barrel line (1947), the balloon (1950), the semi-fitted (1951), the tunic dress (1955), and, of course, the sack dress (1957). Black – for the monastic influence on the master, of whom Dior once said: ‘Clothes were his religion’.
The first part of the exhibition trail, ‘Silhouette & Volumes’, is followed by ‘Noirs & Lumières’ (‘Black & Light’), and then ‘Noirs et Couleurs’ (‘Blacks & Colours’) – because for Balenciaga, black was more than a colour or even a non-colour; he saw it as a vibrant matter, by turns opaque or transparent, matt or shiny – a dazzling interplay of light, which owes as much to the luxurious quality of the fabrics as to the apparent simplicity of his cut. A lace highlight, an embroidered composition, some twisted metallic tape, a thick drape of silk velvet and, hey presto, you have a skirt, a bolero, a mantilla, a cape reinvented as a coat, a coat tailored as a cape… Here we have day clothes, a suit, a jacket… and over there, evening outfits and also cocktail dresses lined in silk taffeta, edged with fringes, decorated with satin ribbons, jet beads, sequins… and accessories – black, of course. Variations of black repeated in over a hundred pieces from the Galliera collections and the archives of Maison Balenciaga.