European Fashion Heritage Association

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Pour La Galerie: Mode et Portrait

European fashionfashion exhibitionfashion history

Fashion faces art in the exhibition at MAH Genève

Portraits have been a medium for the self-fashioning and also communication to the outer world. Clothes have served not as mere props, but as signals of power, wealth, social position and (imagined) character. The exhibition Pour La Galerie: Mode et Portrait (To play for the Gallery) at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire of Genève brings together portraits from the collections of paintings of the MAH and costumes of the Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation from the 15th century to the present, to take visitors into a vanity fair throughout history.

The history of clothing provides keys to deciphering artworks and read their hidden – or not so hidden! – meanings. Bringing together great names of European and Swiss art as Gustave Courbet, Thomas de Keyser,Auguste Renoir, James Tissot, Alice Bailly, Alexandre Blanchet, Jean-Étienne Liotard, Félix Vallotton and major fashion creators such as Dior, Worth, Paul Poiret, the exhibition provides a panorama of the major trends that have shaped the way people decided to dress for themselves and most importantly for the world to see and remember them.

Curated by Lada Umstätter, chief curator of fine arts at MAH and Alexandre Vassiliev, associated curator, fashion historian and president of the Alexandre Vassiliev foundation, the exhibition is thematically arranged around five themes: Power and its Dress Codes; Exotic Escape; Backstage; At the Seduction Ball; Vanity Fair. Each explores one aspect of the relationship between fashion and portraiture throughout history, highlighting how clothing has always been a central part in the construction of one’s image, and showing how social conventions, global routes and spectacle have been expressed through fashion and also through posing wearing fashion.