The ephemeral would seem to be an inevitable constituent of fashion. To celebrate its transiency and communicate its poetry, the exhibition that will be inaugurated on 13 June at Palazzo Pitti, during the 92nd edition of Pitti Uomo, is aptly entitled Il Museo Effimero della Moda – The Ephemeral Museum of Fashion. On show, almost two hundred selected items, clothing and accessories, in 18 exhibition rooms, ranging in ‘age’ from the mid-1800s to the most immediate contemporary. Garments shown for the first time, never before removed from controlled storage: and others, perhaps even more fragile and delicate, exhibited for the last time before returning to the ‘archives’.
The items on show come from the most prestigious of ateliers: Sartoria Worth, Mariano Fortuny Venezia , Sartoria Rosa Genoni, Sartoria Emilio Federico Schubert, Roberto Capucci, Sartoria Madeleine Vionnet, Irene Galitzine Roma , Elsa Schiaparelli, Jole Veneziani, Biki, Maison romana d’alta moda Carosa, Nina Ricci, Gianfranco Ferré and Christian Lacroix. And others from the latest collections by Gucci, Margiela, Bless, Fendi, Armani, Valentino, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, John Galliano and Lanvin.
We spoke briefly with the curator of the exhibition, Olivier Saillard.
What were your criteria for selecting the items for the exhibition? And how many did you pass over?
When selecting our two hundred items from the Palais Galliera and Palazzo Pitti collections we applied what we might call ‘free’ assessment criteria – an approach we strenuously defend. We wanted to avoid choosing on the basis of a single idea or concept; rather, we attempted – insofar as possible – to copy that natural, everyday process that leads us to choose what to wear. And therefore, selection was filled with the joy of discovery, curiosity about how to ‘reanimate’ a garment, pride in showing off our choices to others; and only then did we evaluate our selections from the perspective of the museum, where the order in which works are hung is dictated by time and not free choice.
The concept of the ephemeral is highly appropriate when speaking of fashion; today more than ever before, fashion proposes new things in a continuous cycle. Nevertheless, there seems to be a certain reticence about using this term. Why weren’t you intimidated by it?
The concept of the ephemeral has always been applicable to fashion. Today more than ever, when the turnover in collections, garments, vogues, morts-nés trends is so fast that they all disappear before they are ever established. The fact that these repeated extinctions are programmed is frightening. On the other hand, there is also a poetic aspect to the fugacity of fashion and it emerges as we flip the pages of daily life documented by the garments we wear.
If you could choose one item among the 200 . . . which would it be?
A Madeleine Vionnet déshabillé from the winter of 1933. It belonged to French actress Marcelle Chantal, and it will never again be shown or seen on any other body. I also love the paper gloves – at once a research topic and a memento of another time.
Have you already thought about how you might like to transform the museum once the Palazzo Pitti exhibition has closed?
Palazzo Pitti’s is a museum with a very strong personality, and it will undoubtedly retake its territory once the Ephemeral Museum has retreated.
It is my hope that visitors’ memories will hold the ‘ephemeral’ recollections of an exhibition rather than any permanent trace of its passage.
PH credits: Aka-studio collective