Exhibiting Fashion: exhibition-making and curation as a catalyst for advancing innovative museum practices
- Written byLondon College of Fashion
- Published date 17 May 2023
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has approved a major funding award to Dr. Jeffrey Horsley, Research Fellow from London College of Fashion, UAL’s Centre for Fashion Curation (CfFC) towards a project investigating fashion exhibition-making in UK museums.
Exhibitions of fashion in museums are increasingly popular and enjoyed by visitors because they present familiar, visually appealing objects that reveal intriguing stories about personal identities and social histories, design and manufacture. The UK's important fashion collections, however, are increasingly on limited display
, or not visible at all, due to the objects’ fragility, funding cuts and reductions in specialist curators. The potential of fashion collections in many small and mid-sized regional museums remains untapped. This research will produce an 'exhibiting fashion toolkit' that will enhance the skill sets of non-specialist curators in small and mid-sized museums and equip them to produce resource-effective, engaging and innovative displays. The toolkit will be created through observation and analysis of the development of three fashion exhibitions that respond to the collections, spaces and resources at each partner's venue. The toolkit will be available free, online, as a series of short films covering aspects of exhibiting fashion, illustrated by the exhibitions staged at partners' venues. It will offer visual and spatial-based strategies, such as inventive mannequin solutions and advice for the effective staging of objects, alongside practical solutions for exhibiting fashion.
Curatorial staff at Manchester Art Gallery (Manchester), the Beecroft Art Gallery (Southend) and Bankfield Museum (Halifax) will be collaborating partners on the project. Co-Investigator Angela Piccini from University of Plymouth will work alongside LCF’s Dr. Horsley, using participant-focused film-making techniques, to document live the practices of exhibition-maker and curators. The project will support the production of fashion exhibitions at each partner’s venue and will run from winter 2021 until spring 2024.
The first exhibition opens on 21 July 2023 at Manchester Art Gallery. Part display and part studio space, Unpicking Couture activates ideas around the notion of ‘couture’, sustainability, expression of self, making, and creativity. Innovative display techniques have been developed for this exhibition in conjunction with Dr. Horsley, including dynamic visual and spatial strategies and a focus on the making of the exhibition. These lively modes of presentation provide encounters for fashion as stimulation and immersion, enabling slow-looking and inspiring conversation.
Unpicking Couture includes work by Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli, Azzedine Alaïa, Cristobal Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto, Bruce Oldfield, and Alexander McQueen.
We look forward to sharing updates on this project as the research and toolkit develops.