Fashion’s Night Out

It’s September. A month that prepares me for my favorite time of the year: autumn. Contrary to the artistic trope for which it’s many times used, autumn for me means a fresh start, a new beginning – with some old favorites for comfort, of course. The sights, sounds, scents, and tastes of the fall bring to me just as big a flood of memories as they do an overwhelming sense of hope for the future.

Duncan Phillips on a transatlantic journey, 1920s. Courtesy of The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

September is an important month not only for eager parents and educators. It’s a major month for the fashion industry – hearing the “thump” of the Vogue September issue hit the floor outside my front door is a glorious sound. Today is Fashion’s Night Out, an initiative started three years ago by everyone’s favorite editor, Anna Wintour. Originally this annual evening of shopping in September was meant to kick off the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York and encourage retail sales for the season. It has since evolved into an amalgamation of charitable events and industry-led celebrity appearances and parties.

What does fashion have to do with the Phillips, you ask? Have you seen pictures of Duncan Phillips? The man knew how to wear a suit. Also (and more importantly), Phillips understood very well how artists’ works can inspire different methods of the creative process.

It’s commonplace  in the world of fashion for designers to credit visual artists for the inspiration behind their collections and for design houses to collaborate with art institutions and foundations. Christian Dior and contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang collaborated for a 2008-09 exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, highlighting periods in the history of fashion. John Galliano included works inspired by the illustrations of french artist René Gruau for Dior’s spring 2011 haute couture collection. Carolina Herrera created a line of wedding gowns as an homage to painters, and later drew upon literary and artistic works.

Most recently, and perhaps most notably, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York collaborated with the design house of Alexander McQueen in a posthumous tribute for Savage Beauty (many argue that Alexander McQueen was one to have blurred the lines between art and fashion).

The Phillips has embraced the impact of art on fashion (and vice versa) in its programming. For our Robert Ryman exhibition last year, we hosted a program in collaboration with Neiman Marcus Mazza Gallerie featuring designer Jason Wu’s Ryman-inspired line for Tse, and during our Philip Guston exhibition we teamed up again to showcase Italian designs (many in Guston’s pink palette) for a Roman Holiday event.

Fashion’s Night Out in Georgetown runs 6-11pm tonight. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week runs September 8-15 in New York’s Bryant Park.

Megan Clark, Manager of Center Initiatives

The Artist Sees Differently: Alec MacKaye

Alec MacKaye, preparator

Photo: Claire Norman

How did you learn about the Phillips?

This is a funny question [for a Washington, D.C. native]! Like asking how did one first hear about the White House or the cherry blossoms or Neil Armstrong. I heard about The Phillips Collection because it holds a place in United States cultural history, in D.C. history, and  in the art world. It may not be among the loudest of voices in the museum-iverse, but some things don’t need a brass band or sky writing to announce their presence.

Not to mention, being a fifth generation Washingtonian, I suppose I learned of the Phillips before I was born – my mother’s next-door neighbor and sometimes painting instructor was a man named Edgar Hewitt Nye. Two of his paintings are held in The Phillips Collection (and many more in the MacKaye Collection!), and his wife, Elizabeth Quackenbush Nye, was my parents’ English teacher at Sidwell Friends. So you see, it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly when I first heard of The Phillips Collection – it was part of me before I knew it.

You’re a musician, a writer, and an artist – do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips art?

Yes – and then more broadly, through it. There are a few certain objects that float before me when I am thinking of something, usually a Alfred Pinkham Ryder or a Philip Guston or a John Marin, and more than that, working here affords me the opportunity to see more than just what we hold. The small Hiroshige show we had a few years back changed the way I dream.

What do you listen to as you’re making art?

Silence, unless I want or need something to force my hand – then its Library of Congress field recordings or punk rock or dub reggae.

Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?

I won’t tell which ones I usually say I like most,  names that most people recognize – instead I will give a couple of names that should send folks to the “search” function on our website, since they likely  haven’t seen them on our walls:  Henry Gershwin, Joseph Solman. I like these two not necessarily for their high finish or classic theme but more for their direct delivery. Continue reading “The Artist Sees Differently: Alec MacKaye” »

Arrivederci, Guston

Bill Berkson (left) with Philip Guston (right) at Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, in 1978. Photo: Courtesy of Bill Berkson

As an educator, to me exhibitions are like friends: we meet, exchange pleasantries, and then become better acquainted over the course of time. I imagine the same could be said about the close friendship between Philip Guston and poet Bill Berkson. They collaborated together to illustrate Berkson’s book of poems The Enigma Variations in 1975; in fact, the images behind Berkson and Guston in the above photo are the ones that appear in the book.  Bill Berkson spoke about Philip Guston’s deep admiration of Italian painter Piero Della Francesca in an evening lecture at the museum on Thursday, May 12. This, our final program for Philip Guston, Roma, was a nice way to bid goodbye to the exhibition, one that fast became a friend of mine.

Amanda Jiron-Murphy, In-Gallery Interpretation and Public Programs Coordinator