D.C.’s reputation for tennis shoes with sensible suits and other fashion sadness has lifted a bit as the city has recently achieved the once far-away status of “cool”. But was it a hip place back in 1984? I’d guess not. In the thick of the Reagan years, Fodor’s description of the city noted that sales of women’s white gloves were skyrocketing. But what about the fashion barometer at the Phillips? Well, while processing archival materials from the Board of Trustees, archives assistant Colleen Hennessey stumbled on a real gem: Karl Lagerfeld, the mayor of the world’s beautiful people, presented a fashion show at the Phillips on November 30, 1984. Here’s the description:
On Friday, November 30 Karl Lagerfeld will be at The Phillips Collection to present his spring designs. This is their first showing outside Paris. The evening will include the fashion presentation in the Music Room and a seated dinner on the second floor of the annex. The entire evening is being underwritten by Saks Jandel, Mr. Ernest Marx, President. Tickets are $275 per person. Letter invitation are being mailed now.
Mr. Lagerfeld, anytime you’d like a reunion, we’re here for you.
A selection from the full-page coverage of the event in Washington Dossier magazine, February 1985, shows Laughlin Phillips and his wife Jennifer with Saks Jandel’s Ernie Max and the famous designer. Photo by John Whitman. Clipping from Phillips Collection Archives.
A view on 21st Street, NW, of the 1960 annex. Photo: Phillips Collection Archives
A new wing, known as the annex and designed by the firm Wyeth and King, opens. Joined to the 1907 Music Room addition and the 1920 Main Gallery addition by a glass bridge, the new space is hailed in the Sunday Star and the Washington Post as a successful addition to the architecture of Washington. “What you will see will be a small masterpiece of modern museum design and a rare example of quiet brilliance in the installation of art for public view,” writes Frank Getlein in the Sunday Star. The Post’s Leslie Judd Ahlander writes:
The biggest and best art news in Washington this week is that the Phillips Gallery is open again and the new wing can now be seen. . . . Inside, the Duncan Phillipses have happily followed the most successful feature of the old gallery: comfortable chairs and tables, beautifully decorated rooms (the work of Marjorie Phillips) rugs in the floors and large ashtrays on every table, inviting the visitor to sit down and relax in a home-like atmosphere.
The annex’s first iteration will live a relatively brief life, renovated in 1989 by Arthur Cotton Moore and Associates.
Arthur B. Davies, The Hesitation of Orestes, c.1915-18. Oil on canvas, 26 x 40 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1923.
Art and Archaeology publishes Duncan Phillips’s article, “The American painter, Arthur B. Davies,” a painter about whom Phillips will write many times in the coming years. In the article, Phillips invokes Piero di Cosimo as a painter of related spirit. Around the time Phillips is writing his article, Davies is creating The Hesitation of Orestes, which clearly shares a palette, perspective, and setting with Piero’s A Hunting Scene (c. 1507-08).
. . . However, in spite of the technical distinction of the art of Davies, the originality of the work is mental rather than manual. The paradox of his aggressive attitude as a chef d ecole of modernity is that really he is only a modern edition of that quaint primitive Piero di Cosimo. In every age such dreamers seem unsatisfied, preferring evocations of the past and intimations of the future to sensations of the present hour.
In this year, Phillips acquires at least two works by Davies: Many Waters (c. 1905) and Visions of Glory (1896).