October 13, 2013
SUNDAY FROM MY DESK
This week in Paris the evenings were spent at dinner tables with conversations
crossing over each other, often about the nature of art and fashion.
Perhaps because the Alaïa show at the Museum of Modern Art
together with the Matisse paintings had attracted such attention
with artists curious to explore this question, the nights were long
and filled with as much food for thought as great Parisian cuisine.
The best kind of dinners I think. Many were curious to know
if it has always been the case that fashion and art join –
and the answer is of course it has, and actually often seen
through the eyes of the masters of every age in the art we admire.
My curiosity and a pleasant meeting at one of these dinners
with the director of major Russian museum
brought me to get out of the shelves some of my favorite
Russian books seen here. Curiosity is always essential.
For the 1925 Soviet exhibit at “L’exposition Internationale
des Arts Decoratifs” in Paris, the Russian pavilion was designed by
constructive architect Mel’nikov and brought him immediate fame,
but this Rodchenko catalogue was a quiet jewel. Filled with art, ceramics,
theater, design, architecture and fashion, it is a treasure I wish I could often look at…
Sports clothing by Varvara Stepanova, where the influence
of Russian constructivism on fashion is more than evident.
Stepanova introduced for the first time the idea of “ready to wear”
in fashion through mass production. Actually the first concept of modern sportswear.
Designed by Popova in 1921: the practical role of clothing,
and of what the wearer needed as a member of the community came first.
There are no sexual differences – perhaps the first concept of “unisex”?
Here “production clothing for Actor no 3 and no 5 “, a gouache done in india ink
and collage on paper, for the play “The Magnanimous Cuckold”,
a tragic story about a poet in love and fanatically jealous, a masterpiece.
Varvara Stepanova and Liubov Popova were both making designs for the journal LEF.
A magazine for the Arts from 1923 to 1925 where avant garde artists, designers,
and critics participated, for only two years,
but its influence still is felt through the strength of its editorial.
Here designs for a print and a dress by Popova.
In 1996 our Galleria had curated
a show dedicated to the works of Alexander Rodchenko
and exhibited this wonderful collage he had made of Lily Brik, 1924,
who was the muse of Vladimir Mayakovski,
a major figure in the futurist movement in Moscow.
My first trip to Moscow was in ’79 when the Pushkin Museum
was run by the now legendary director Antonova.
Stepping aside this year after 52 years guiding
the Museum through both war and peace,
some of the stories of her triumphs are like a movie script.
Her first years there started in 1945,
at the end of the war, and works of art from Dresden
were arriving in Moscow on troop trains.
They opened crate 100…”there she was,
Raphael’s Sistine Madonna”
Antonova recalles in an article…
The cherubs adoring the Madonna are only
a small detail of Raphael famous painting.
Now t-shirts, posters, postcards, wrapping papers, stamps
and stationary carry their images around the world.
They have become their own legend,
perhaps more known than the painting itself.
Growing up in Milano meant
going with my father to La Scala.
During the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s
we would attend many many times
but the Russian operas –
Prince Igor, Eugene Onegin,
Boris Godunov – especially intrigued me.
The voices of the Bolshoi opera took me away
in time and fantasy and I felt
I understood every word…
Russian to my ear was as musical
as Italian, so I started studying the language.
four beautiful years of cyrillic alphabet to learn –
literature and art to get lost in.
Here, the soprano Elena Obraztsova as Marina Mnishek.