While putting together last year’s hugely successful Grace Kelly exhibition, curators at Bendigo Art Gallery borrowed two dresses from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. In the process they hit the jackpot.
According to Bendigo Art Gallery’s Senior Curator Leanne Fitzgibbon, the FIDM collection is astonishing. It includes some 15,000 items spanning more than 200 years. And because it’s principally an educational resource for students training to become future fashion leaders, “they only collect the best examples of a designer’s work; the most interesting, the most relevant to fashion at that point in time.”
Thanks to Grace Kelly, the team at Bendigo Art Gallery developed an enduring friendship with the FIDM curators and found the inspiration for Bendigo’s new blockbuster show, Modern Love, which features 60 standout works from the FIDM collection.
But if you were expecting anything like Grace Kelly, you’re in for a very big surprise. Modern Love is a deliberately, unapologetically contemporary exhibition, focusing on the post punk period to today. It opens with a bondage suit by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren (a modern love story if ever there was one) and moves on to works by Issey Miyake, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Louboutin, Comme des Garçons and many others. It’s a roll call of the most successful, most influential, most ostentatious, most ambitious designers of the last 40 years.
Fitzgibbon says the team were interested in exploring a turning point in fashion history and its continued influence. Although there are plenty of points to choose from, the post punk period of the late 1970s and early 1980s is one of the most profound (and surely the one with the best soundtrack).
Bendigo Art Gallery has included textiles in their exhibition program for more than ten years now, spanning a variety of periods and themes, but their biggest shows have been heavy on the frills (wedding gowns, ballerinas, Hollywood glamour pusses). Modern Love, says Fitzgibbon, is not “a light, romantic exhibition. It’s going to be contemporary, there are going to be some challenging pieces in there.” We say, bring it on.