March 10, 2017 - Belvedere - The Vulgar
March 10, 2017

Belvedere

View of The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined, Winterpalais, Vienna, 2017. Photo: Christian Wind. © Belvedere, Vienna.

The Vulgar
Fashion Redefined
March 3–June 25, 2017

Winterpalais of Prince Eugene of Savoy
Himmelpfortgasse 8
1010 Vienna
Austria

www.belvedere.at
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The Vulgar
Fashion Redefined
March 3–June 25, 2017

Winterpalais of Prince Eugene of Savoy
Himmelpfortgasse 8
1010 Vienna
Austria

www.belvedere.at
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined explores the controversial yet compelling topic of taste in fashion. From March 3 to June 25, 2017, creations by leading designers, on show at Prince Eugene’s Winterpalais, seek to stimulate discussion about the definition of “the vulgar” in an exhibition spanning a period from the Renaissance through to today. Drawing on quotes from famous figures such as Coco Chanel and Jonathan Swift, the underlying theory is that vulgarity and “good taste” are ultimately a matter of perspective.

The word “vulgar” was originally used to characterize a social class and to describe anything that was commonly prevalent. Over time, this neutral description morphed into an insult. Vulgarity became associated with pretension and ambition, with aspirations to special privileges. And it still conjures up negative connotations—words like “pretentious," “provocative," “over the top," and “common” spring to mind.

“The word ‘vulgar’ is used to police the boundaries of taste. Fashion is where good taste and bad taste mix and match,” says psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on how the term relates to fashion.

The exhibition draws on literary sources to conjure new interpretations as well as look at the origins of the vulgar. It questions whether the meaning of “vulgar” can be confined to the realms of the superficial.

Curated and designed by exhibition-maker Judith Clark based on new texts by psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, the show takes the diverse definitions of the vulgar as its interdisciplinary starting-point. Based around ten thematic categories (e.g. Showing Off, Puritan, Extreme Bodies, and The New Baroque), Phillips and Clark enter into a dialogue that accompanies the visitor through the exhibition. Clark’s selection of diverse exhibits is a response to Phillips’ analysis and illustrates the various aspects of the vulgar in fashion. Creations by Walter Van Beirendonck, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, Prada, Vivienne Westwood, and many others are showcased in the exhibition. Displays range from the mantua dresses with their extremely wide skirts and dramatic silhouettes, which were worn at the English court in the mid-18th century, to contemporary works by the designer Pam Hogg, whose creations often play with the extremes of revealing and concealing and allude to the hedonism of the club.

Judith Clark believes “the vulgar and the Baroque have always been inextricable." Stella Rollig, Director General of the Belvedere emphasizes this, stating: “The Baroque Winterpalais is the ideal venue for the presentation of opulent fashion creations through the centuries. In an interdisciplinary discourse between psychoanalysis and fashion, the exhibition-makers invite visitors to question the concept of the vulgar. This thrilling combination makes this project a unique experience.” 

“Adapting the subject to the cultural imprint of Austrian society certainly presented us with some challenges. Here the class mentality, and therefore the classification of people and actions as ‘vulgar,' is not as pronounced as, for example, in Britain. We finally decided on an open exhibition design. The monumental Baroque palace adds a new conceptual level to the presentation,” says curator Alfred Weidinger.

The exhibition combines historical costume, couture, and ready-to-wear fashion with every exhibit reflecting certain aspects of the vulgar, although all the objects are now sanctioned by society. This illustrates the instability of taste: what was once equated with vulgarity is reconjured by designers to become the height of fashion.

Previously shown to great acclaim at the Barbican Centre in London, the exhibition presents loans from important international public and private collections. These include contributions from leading modern and contemporary designers and fashion houses, such as Christian Dior, Madame Gres, Jeanne Lanvin, Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton, and Vivienne Westwood. It challenges visitors to consider the fashion industry from another perspective.

The exhibition catalogue (Verlag Buchhandlung Walther König) includes illustrations and essays by the exhibition-makers as well as interviews with designers featured in the exhibition, such as Walter van Beirendonck, Christian Lacroix, and Zandra Rhodes.

Exhibition curated by Judith Clark. Organised by Barbican, London

#TheVulgar


The exhibition makers

Judith Clark is a curator based in London. She is currently Professor of Fashion and Museology at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London. Clark has curated numerous acclaimed exhibitions including Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back, V&A, 2005.

Adam Phillips is a psychoanalyst and writer. He is author of many celebrated books including Side Effects, 2006, On Kindness, 2009, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, 2012, One Way and Another, 2013, and Unforbidden Pleasures, 2015.

Clark’s practice interrogates the form of the exhibition and challenges conventional modes of display and interpretation of dress. Together with Adam Phillips, she has explored the rich connections between language and objects to striking and provocative effect in the exhibition The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined

Judith Clark with Sam Collins re-designed the installation for the Winterpalais in consultation with Belvedere curator Alfred Weidinger.

Press images are availbale for download under www.belvedere.at/press

Designer interviews here

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