Cristóbal Balenciaga's (1895-1972) legacy transcends the notion of "fashion". Known as the couturier of couturiers, his deep cultural connection to Spain is manifested in a body of work that often recalls mourning dresses, bullfighter costumes, and monastic robes.
On another dimension, Black was his muse. Through his mastery of this non-color color, Balenciaga has opened up an entire realm of intricacies, complexities, enchantment, and glory. Every angle of his pieces is a work of art. And the virtuoso's orchestration of light, shadow, form, and texture continues to awaken memories and emotions linked history, symbols, culture, and nature. In this sense, his work makes us comprehend that dressmaking in its highest form, is an artisanal process, and an artistic process.
Yet what was equally compelling was Palais Galliera's curatorial decision to stage this body of work in Musée Bourdelle which was formerly the studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Balenciaga's pieces were physically in dialogue with the equally-dramatic and non-tonal sculptures of Bourdelle, and co-habiting the space of art. This reminds us that art and artisanship are synonymous.
This is a story of Black. And the countless ways we can experience it through the couturier's masterpieces.
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to distract not
Royalty in black
on that gala night
Night sky in black,
dense with stars
carved in mass
wings of lace
Duality of black,
revealed in light
Alchemy of black
defined in form
Paradox of black
told through texture
collars of the monarchs
Habsburgs of Spain
sewn from tradition
as an architecture
A special thank you to Musée Bourdelle for their kind assistance in making this story possible.
The exhibition "Balenciaga, l'oeuvre au noir" was held at Muséee Bourdelle, in Paris, from March to July 2017
as part of the Palais Galliera's Spanish Season exhibition series.
Mona Kim is the Founder and Curator of Moowon. As the Creative Director of award-winning multidisciplinary design studio, Mona Kim Projects, she has been conceiving public space experiences and large-scale experiential projects for global brands and cultural institutions. Her museum and exhibition design for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, World Expo, Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã), and UNESCO-sponsored projects, gave her the opportunity to document and be exposed to some of the most distinctive examples of social realities and cultural expressions. On these projects, she had co-curated world issues such as endangered languages, cultural diversity and sustainability. The Moowon project is an extension of this background. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, WWD(Women's Wear Daily), The Creative Review, and in publications by Gestalten and The Art Institute of Chicago.
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