There is a long history of art being presented along side fashion. These exhibitions have left one with the feeling that the art is being used to lend conceptual weight to the clothes. But the rigorous exhibitions mounted at Antwerp’s Fashion Museum makes it clear that fashion designers can be as conceptually strong as visual artists. Their current exhibition is an overview of fashion designer Veronique Branquinho. She graduated from Flanders Fashion Institute in 1995. Since 1998, she has shown her collections on the world’s fashion runways, but this is the first museum presentation of her creative output.
With this exhibition, Branquinho leads us on an expansive journey. Upon entering the exhibition, the sound of your shoes is amplified, by the gravel on the floor of the darkened forest room where her shoe collections come to light hanging from the trees. Past a moving video installation, the viewer is lead through an empty chamber that functions as a Bruce Nauman Absorbing Chamber, circa 1983. Another room is outfitted with a jukebox playing cool club music. It’s like a Jeff Koons icon to American pop culture. Clearly, Branquinho knows her art history. Dark evening wear is presented, revealing her passion for combining different materials that layer and drape to accentuate the female form. The procession here leads from dark, to the darker, and then there is light.
For this trip, Branquinho provides an overcoat for the discerning man, along with a Porsche outfitted in matching tweed, both inside and out. Presented along with a video of a car racing through the open desert, we’re finally ready to go. The desert provides the metaphor of endless openness as we head forward into our unknown future. At least we can be well dressed for the surprises that await us. Finally, bursting into the light, with the stunning beauty that a clear vision can provide. Visual artists take note; creative thought will lead us, as we head into the excitement of the unknown.
Veronique Branquinho at Modemuseum Provincie Antwerpen, through August 17th.