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Items: Is Fashion Modern?
October 01, 2017–January 28, 2018
Posted on April 1, 2016
Floor Six, Exhibition Galleries
The Museum of Modern Art will explore the wide range of relationships between clothing and functionality, culture, aesthetics, politics, labor, economy, and technology in the exhibition Items: Is Fashion Modern? In examining the ways in which wearable items are designed, manufactured, distributed, and used, the exhibition will present a selection of 111 examples of garments, footwear, and accessories that have had a strong impact on history and society in the 20th and 21st centuries, and continue to hold currency today. Comprised of examples as well-known, universal, and transformative as Levi’s 501 jeans and the bikini; as coveted as the Prada nylon backpack and the Hermès Birkin bag; and as culturally charged and historically rich as the Pashmina shawl, the dashiki, the kippah, and the keffiyeh, the exhibition will allow viewers to explore the influence of these items and their designers on Western culture over many decades.
Filling the entire sixth floor of the Museum, the exhibition will present items along three tiers: archetype, stereotype, and prototype. In the installation, each item will be presented in the incarnation that made it significant in the last 100 (or so) years—the stereotype—accompanied by contextual material tracing back to its historical archetypes. In some cases, when innovation, opportunity, or necessity call for it, the item will be complemented by a new commission, or prototype. Thus, within the exhibition, designers, artists, scientists, engineers, and manufacturers will be invited to respond to some of these “indispensable items” with pioneering materials, approaches, and design revisions—extending this conversation into the near and distant future, and connecting the history of these garments with their present recombination and use.
An ongoing research archive reflecting on the exhibition’s broader processes is being published at medium.com/items. The live stream from a two-day gathering of key designers, curators, critics, scholars, activists, and entrepreneurs to address the question “Is fashion modern?”, organized by MoMA in May 2016, can be found at mo.ma/items. It includes over 35 presentations by, among others, legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, model Hari Nef, activist DeRay Mckesson, designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, curator Harold Koda, and athlete Aimee Mullins.
Organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Michelle Millar Fisher, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.
The exhibition is supported by the Annual Exhibition Fund.