Michael Costiff wearing Comme des Garçons, 2007. Junichiro Tokumasu, photographer. © Junichiro Tokumasu. Courtesy of the artist.

Detail of group of shirts worn by Francis J. Carolan, ca. 1900. T. Hodgkinson, shirtmaker, London. Monogrammed cotton plain weave, cotton novelty weave, and silk novelty weave. Anonymous gift. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.

Sartorialists, Men of Fashion, Artist as Dandy, Rebel as Dandy

Suit jacket worn by Richard Merkin, 1968. F. L. Dunne and Company, tailor, New York and Boston, est. ca. 1910. Wool twill weave. Gift of Richard Merkin. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.

Ahluwalia, 2011. Norman Jean Roy, photographer. © Norman Jean Roy. Courtesy of The House of Waris.

Adèle Romany, A Portrait of Auguste Vestris, half length, wearing a Grey Coat and a Fur Hat, 1793. Purchased with the Edith C. Erlenmeyer Bequest and the Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Man's greatcoat in dark blue facecloth, 1803. Tailored by John Weston of Old Bond Street. Coutts & Co. Museum of London.

Andy Warhol, 1979. Yousuf Karsh, photographer. Gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousef Karsh. © Estate of Yousuf Karsh. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.

Thom Browne, 2008. Circe, photographer. © Circe. Courtesy of Thom Browne.

Detail of dressing gown worn by William Trost Richards, ca. 1850. American. Printed cotton plain weave. Gift of Edith Ballinger Price in memory of her grandmother, Anna Matlack Richards and her mother, Eleanor Richards Price. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.

Ignacio Quiles, 2011. Bill Gentle, photographer. © Backyard Bill. Courtesy of the artist.

Man's greatcoat in dark blue facecloth, 1803. Tailored by John Weston of Old Bond Street. Coutts & Co., Museum of London.

 

Museum of Art
Rhode Island School of Design
224 Benefit Street
401-454-6500
Providence
Artist / Rebel / Dandy: Men of Fashion
April 28-August 18, 2013

The groundbreaking exhibition Artist / Rebel / Dandy: Men of Fashion describes, reconsiders, and celebrates the dandy — tracing the variety of ways in which this personality has blazed through two centuries and investigating where he resides today. Rather than following strict definitions, we embrace myriad manifestations of the dandy’s style and persona, from the discreet sophistication and consummate elegance of Beau Brummell (1778-1840) to the romantics and revolutionaries of today, including Rick Owens, Patti Smith, Ouigi Theodore, and Waris Ahluwalia. In the process, we reveal the dandy as an artistic, rebellious figure who employs profound thought and imagination in his sartorial and personal presentation, forging a unique path to self-discovery and self-expression.

The exhibition is co-curated by Kate Irvin, Curator and Head of the RISD Museum’s Costume + Textiles Department, and Assistant Curator Laurie Brewer; both also contributed to the lavishly illustrated book that accompanies the exhibition. The exhibition features garments and artistic portrayals from the collections of the RISD Museum and many other national and international institutions and private individuals. In both the exhibition and the book (Yale University Press, September 2012), the RISD Museum aims to illuminate the deft workmanship and particular style of a tailor or designer, and also the dandy personalities who wore these garments, by showing associated portraits, caricatures, fashion plates, fashion photography, and media representations. Likewise, both celebratory and stereotyped representations of the featured dandies — from George IV to Oscar Wilde and Iké Udé, from Lord Byron to Sebastian Horsley and Sruli Recht — are grounded in the concrete and tactile nature of the clothing itself. The collection photographs in the exhibition publication — textured, dreamlike color plates inspired by the work of contemporary photographers McDermott & McGough, Tanya Marcuse, and Rosamond Wolff Purcell — revel in the imprint of time and the precious markings of a life lived in a garment.

In Artist / Rebel / Dandy, many perspectives meet, and sometimes collide, to illustrate the range of the dandy spectrum. For example, the clothing and caricatures of Max Beerbohm are on display adjacent to the garments of Hamish Bowles and the clothing designs and social messages of Ouigi Theodore and his menswear emporium Brooklyn Circus. Words and images of Charles Baudelaire feature alongside the clothing and style snippets of RISD Painting Professor Richard Merkin and the designs and slogans of impresario Malcolm McLaren. The fabrics and designs of the firms Dashing Tweeds and Barbera are represented by the designers themselves—the fantastically modern dandies Guy Hills and Luciano Barbera.

Four sections introduce the exhibition: Beau Brummell illustrates the style of this dandy forefather; Sketches and Definitions immerses the viewer in the often contradictory definitions and images of the clothes-wearing man; Crafting the Dandy addresses the tangible elements that go into the making of the dandy; and Relics brings together garments and accessories that have come to embody the memory of certain iconic dandies.

While the exhibition stresses the many ways in which the dandy artfully eludes definition, five descriptive themes and categories are offered as a framework for viewers to explore the individual personalities, suggesting kinship across chronological and geographic borders: Historians, Connoisseurs, Revolutionaries, Romantics, and Explorers. Such figures as Thom Browne, Waris Ahluwalia, W. E. B. DuBois, Stephen Tennant, and Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi embody these themes respectively. The exhibition curators recognize these classifications as fluid and porous and the individuals as capable of spanning several, perhaps even all, categories. Just as they are all simultaneously artists, rebels, and dandies, the figures represented in Artist/Rebel/Dandy are historians, connoisseurs, revolutionaries, romantics, and explorers — each living his productive and creative life in enjoyment of the materiality of his clothing.

Artist / Rebel / Dandy: Men of Fashion, the first exhibition of its kind to focus on the persona and history of the distinctively dressed figure of the dandy, features more than 200 objects — including innovative garments, bespoke clothing, works on paper, and paintings—drawn from the Museum’s collections and loans from individuals and national and international institutions. Beginning with the elegant dandy George “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840), the exhibition traces artist-dandies throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The role of exquisite craftsmanship in custom design, the dandy’s role as both fashion icon and caricature, and the contributions of today’s style leaders — such as Thom Browne, Rick Owens, Ouigi Theodore, and Waris Ahluwalia — are explored. An illustrated book accompanies the show.

The exhibition breaks ground by emphasizing the personalities of well-known fashionable men, focusing on the enduring bond between identity, creativity, and self-presentation. “The exhibition and its companion book offer a sumptuous view of the power of clothing and fine craftsmanship. It comes at a time of renewed appreciation for the nuances and attention to detail of traditional tailoring but also innovation and boldness in menswear design. The dandy, a historical figure, is central to this development,” says RISD Museum Director John W. Smith.

Diverging from recent exhibitions that have explored the general topic of menswear or even the 19th-century notion of the dandy, Artist / Rebel / Dandy proposes a new line of inquiry that examines, deconstructs, and expands on popular definitions of the dandy ”from one solely concerned with flamboyance and flash to a figure who is innovative, rebellious and profound in thought,” say exhibition curators Kate Irvin, Curator and Head of the RISD Museum’s Costume + Textiles Department, and Assistant Curator Laurie Brewer.

Unlike chronological approaches to the history of fashion, Artist/Rebel/Dandy mingles personalities and time periods with original materials to present the dandy in his full spectrum. For example, the clothing and caricatures of artist Max Beerbohm are on view adjacent to the garments of Vogue magazine’s Hamish Bowles, while an exquisite imported Indian robe worn by the future King George IV is shown in proximity to Iké Udé’s contemporary photographs that explore the place of the dandy in a cosmopolitan world. Words and images of Charles Baudelaire feature alongside the clothing and style snippets of the late Richard Merkin, noted painter and RISD professor, and the designs and slogans of impresario Malcolm McLaren. The fabrics and designs of the firms Dashing Tweeds and Luciano Barbera are represented by the designers themselves — the contemporary dandies Guy Hills and Luciano Barbera.

The fully illustrated book, co-published and distributed by Yale University Press (2013), includes essays by curators Irvin and Brewer, fashion historian Christopher Breward, and Barnard College English professor Monica L. Miller. Menswear designer Thom Browne writes the preface, and 15 additional writers contribute “musings” on the topic of artist-dandies, including Glenn O’Brien, contributor to GQ magazine, past editor of Interview magazine and New York bureau chief of Rolling Stone, who writes on style icon Beau Brummell; musician, author, and photographer Patti Smith writes on Charles Baudelaire; biographer Merlin Holland writes on his grandfather, Oscar Wilde; scholar and RISD Museum educator Horace D. Ballard Jr. writes on W. E. B. Du Bois; and photographer and author Scott Schuman of the Sartorialist blog writes on Luciano Barbera.

Exhibition Themes Organized thematically, gallery sections include a four-part introduction: “Beau Brummell” illustrates the style of this forbearer of “man at his best”; “Sketches and Definitions” introduces the often contradictory definitions and images of the clothes-wearing man; “Crafting the Dandy” addresses the workmanship and detail that makes up an aggressively individual style of male fashion; and “Relics” brings together garments and accessories that epitomize certain iconic dandies.

While the exhibition stresses the many ways in which the dandy eludes exacting definition, five themes offer a framework for viewers to explore the individual personalities, suggesting kinship across chronological and geographic borders: Historians, Connoisseurs, Revolutionaries, Romantics, and Explorers. Such figures as Thom Browne, founder and head of design for American fashion label Thom Browne; Waris Ahluwalia, jewelry designer, actor, and columnist for Style.com; W. E. B. Du Bois, noted scholar, editor, and African American activist; Stephen Tennant, author and member of the "Bright Young People” social set, and Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi, director of the Japanese label United Arrows & Sons, buyer for United Arrows, and previously of the fashion label Liquor, Woman & Tears, embody these themes respectively. The exhibition acknowledges these classifications as fluid and porous and the individuals as capable of spanning several, perhaps even all, categories. Just as they are all simultaneously artists, rebels, and dandies, the figures represented in Artist/Rebel/Dandy are historians, connoisseurs, revolutionaries, romantics, and explorers — each living his productive and creative life in pleasure and enjoyment of his clothing.

“Connecting the actual garments of the creative men who wore them with portrayals of the dandy throughout history offers the viewer fresh insights into the power of fashion and textiles as a male pursuit,” say curators Irvin and Brewer. “This line of inquiry not only brings to light collections of the RISD Museum and other institutions, but it also presents clothing as expressions of individual personality and as art,” adds Museum Director Smith.

 

Replica of Andy Warhol's shoes, Ferragamo's Creations collection, 2010. Ferragamo, design house, Florence, est. 1928. Calf leather with paint. Gift of Museo Salvatore Ferragamo. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.

Guy Hills, 2012. Geordie, photographer. Courtesy of the Dashing Tweeds Archive.

John Waters, 2009. Greg Gorman, photographer. Courtesy of John Waters.

Sebastien Horsley, 2010. Tom Medwell, photographer. © Tom Medwell. Courtesy of Tom Medwell.

The Hon. Stephen Tennant, 1927. Cecil Beaton, photographer. Works of Art Fund. © Cecil Beaton. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Guy Hills, 2012. Geordie, photographer. Courtesy of the Dashing Tweeds Archive.

Pantaloons worn by Edward Carrington, ca. 1820. Wool broadcloth (fulled plain weave) with brass buttons. Buttons stamped Robinsons Attleboro. Gift of Margarethe L. Dwight. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design.

Richard Dighton (1795-1880), Mirror of Fashion, London, William Sams, 1823, hand-colored etchings on wooden spool, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon collection.

Les Manteaux, published in Gazette du Bon Ton (vol. 12), 1913. Bernard Boutet de Monvel, illustrator.