Tim Walker- Story teller at Somerset House

Every once in a while you get the opportunity to view an exhibition that takes your breath away. Yesterday I had one of those moments. The exhibition is question? Tim Walker: Storyteller at Somerset house.
I’ve long since been a fan of  Tim Walkers work (I blogged about his work here). I think the image above was one of the first Walker shoots I saw in Vogue (ah the days when I had a Vogue subscription. Sigh). His work with its creative, quirky, playful and dreamlike nature has always appealed greatly to me.
Somehow the exhibition manages to be light and fun yet serious, dramatic and highly emotional. I found myself in tears at one point because Walkers photography seen blown up large scale is just sobeautiful.
In particular there is a photograph of Alexander McQueen with a skull from 2009, blown up large scale. I’m actually not going to share the image here, because I feel you need to see it to appreciate it. But the image, which must have been taken only a year or less before McQueen’s death has a poignancy and a realism and also seems to speak volumes about McQueen’s personality.
This exhibition also captures something of Walkers persona. From interviews I’ve read with him this exhibition simply feels like he must have had a lot of input.  It’s the play with scale that so captures Walkers sensibilities.
The length of the exhibition too was just right. It felt enough to satisfy a fan of Walkers work, yet in the same breath not too long to bore someone who had only a passing interest. I will say at this point the exhibition focuses on Walkers work from the past ten years (possibly less I’m not 100% sure what the earliest photo was) as the Design Museum has previously held an exhibition which focused on his earlier work (2008).
The setting of Somerset house is perfect for Walker’s work. There is some sense of homeliness in the rooms of the East Wing. You feel like you are entering into Walkers own personal space, into his sketch book (with the giant sketches) and into his mind.
Walker’s photography here is able to be viewed as art, as it deserves to be. Taking them away from fashion shoots, as many of these images started off life. Scale here is key and the different sizes of the images help to convey different meaning of each piece of work.
Unlike many other photography exhibitions where the photograph defines the exhibition, here the props are equally important and you feel like each  room is a work of instillation art within itself.
I’d go as far to say that the presentation here made me re-think other photography exhibitions I’ve seen  ahem *Cecil Beaton and the Queen *, because this was done so well.
So, ANY criticism? There was one picture of Kate Moss that I felt was out of place in one of the rooms. Honestly, that is my SOLE fault of the exhibition.
What else can I say? The exhibition is free, so realistically you have no excuse not to go. There is also a simply stunning book that accompanies the exhibition which will definitely be going on my Christmas list.

Cecil Beaton’s Fashion: An anthology 1971


After my mammoth museum visiting session over the past few weeks I want to step back in time to what I believe was one of the most important exhibitions the Victoria and Albert museum ever held. Cecil Beaton’s 1971 exhibition Fashion: An anthology.

1971 (October 1971 to be precise) marked the opening of the Fashion: An Anthology exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This exhibition “put fashion on the map at the V&A” and had a lot to do with the changing perception of fashion’s place within the hallowed walls of the museum.
At the time there was mass publicity about the exhibition with both the Sunday telegraph and Vogue running large features on it Vogue mentioned “there were twenty outfits by Balenciaga, nine by Schiaparelli, eight Poirets, two Vionnets, a Fortuny, and “masses of Chanels” 

One of the many beautiful Balenciaga dresses on display at the exhibition, dating to 1959.

Cecil Beaton’s exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum saw the accession of some of the most iconic pieces of dress that the V and A holds. Here are just a few of my personal favoruites.

1957 Jacques Fath dress (what a princess piece!)

1957 floral by Pierre Balmain

1947 classic early Dior day dress

1909-20 Iconic Fortuny Delphos dress

And who can forget my favourite garment OF ALL TIME. This 1938 circus collection jacket by Schiaparelli. 
Beaton was a fascinating character in that these garments were mostly given by Beatons friends. He had the rare opportunity of being a society figure who was respected and admired which I think meant people were more willing to donate. Beatons aim was to create an exhibition which celebrated “the best of women’s fashion today”

Discussions between Beaton and  John Pope-Hennessy  (then director of the museum) suggest the directors enthusiasm towards the exhibition and that the dresses should be exhibited as works of art, not necessarily fashion (dismissing some of the problems often associated with fashion displays). For this reason the exhibition had an elitist focus, with most pieces being haute couture.  

Not only were the objects on display fantastic but the exhibition display itself was also something to behold and heavily influenced later  exhibition styles (I personally believe that Diana Vreeland must have been inspired at least in part by Beaton’s exhibition).
The exhibition was designed by Michael Hayes and stretched across two floors of the Victoria and Albert Museum held in a prime location, it must have certainly been a sight to behold and so unlike anything the museum had done before. What I really love about it was that historical garments were put in a completely modern and somewhat “alien” setting. These are just a few examples of this futuristic exhibition display, which I think still looks fresh, modern and thoughtful 40 years on.

(you can see here how it stretched across two levels)

Although one thing I would say is that the popularity of this exhibition often means that earlier examples of innovative exhibition display are often ignored. If you are interested In the topic as a whole I highly recommend looking further into the “Britain can make it’ exhibition of 1946 organised by the eponymous Horrockses director James Cleveland-Belle and also Richard Buckles 1954 exhibition of Ballet Ruses costumes at Forbes house. 
Hopefully I’ll get writing about these soon too.

From the “Britain can make it” exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum

 From Richard Buckles exhibition at Forbes House

If you are further interested in the topic I highly recommend reading Amy De La Haye’s enlightening article (which I have  quoted here

Vogue and the V and A vitrine Fashion Theory, Volume 10, Issue 1/2, pp. 127–152 

Or try and pick up the original exhibition guide. I got mine on ebay a few years ago for only a couple of pounds, and it features some truly sensational images of Marisa Berenson in items that appeared in the exhibition.

All images from the Victoria and Albert museum collections website.

Vintage loveliness and a cheeky bit of Beaton

I have a series of post coming up over the next few days (woo) mostly all about my insanely busy weekend last weekend!
On Friday I journeyed up to London for a bit of shopping and research. First off I headed to Salvation Army on Hannover square and bought some of the most sensational garments. I don’t know how much I can really reveal about the person who owned the garments I bought, but all of the pieces I purchased were owned by a famous concert pianist who died recently and had an expensive taste for British couture and bespoke made pieces.

I purchased three of her suits and one dress although I could have bought a ridiculous amount more. For me it was quite sensational. I’m pretty small and I find it difficult to find clothes that REALLY fit (one of the reasons why I initially turned to vintage in the first place). These are the bits I purchased all I believe dating to the 1970s.

They all need a bit of a clean so I apologise for the dirtiness in the pics, I’ve got to take them to the dry cleaners asap! Also sorry for the state of me in all of these pics. I’m suffering with university based stress and haven’t washed my hair in a while!

I then wandered down Oxford street (why is entirely beyond me) and sauntered off to the V and A for a bit of research in the national art library (flicking through old auction catalogues…as you do). And then onto the newly opened Cecil Beaton exhibition.
I really enjoyed it, but I will say it is quite small and perhaps not worth the money (I’m a member so it was free). There are some really fabulous pics of Queen Elizabeth in particular and I adored the few other shots that I feel had been “snuck in” of the Bright young things.  From a fan of photography the text was quite detailed in terms of explaining Beatons set up of the shots. Overall though I would say I would recommend it though.

I then finished off my Friday with a delightful few drinks with my gorgeous friend Eleanor Budd.  Yet again reminding how wonderful my friends at home are. Winner!