Sunday, March 30, 2008

Black in Fashion: Mourning to Night

Black in Fashion: Mourning to Night is definitely a worthwhile duo of fashion exhibitions. There's beautifully detailed Victorian dresses, architectual structures, exploration of shape and cuts, a variety of fabrics and surface contrasts best explored in monotone.

My expectations of it were a little topsy turvy - I found the Australian half of it at The Ian Potter Centre more impressive than the international half. It isn’t because the fashion was any better but because I could see it well. The lighting was extremely dim at NGV International. Why should this be when you’re dealing with pieces of the same age and materials? I respect the need for dim lighting of textiles but the disparity between the two shows baffles me.

One showcase had no lights on at all - most likely the light bulb was blown - when we visited on a Sunday afternoon. The space containing these large showcases is designed to cut out most daylight, and has minimal ambient light, so this rendered whatever was in the case invisible. I could just make out what might have been an embroided collar or perhaps an apron. I find this is unacceptable gallery practice for such a prestigious institution.

Most memorable pieces @ the Ian Potter NGV;
Two exquisitely beaded, Victorian mantles,
1950s dresses.
@ at NGV International;
Neoprene dress.


Anonymous said...

Hey Lady M, i agree with your comments about the lighting of the exhibition. I really enjoyed it but found myself squinting to see the pieces - i'm getting old but not getting THAT old!

Anonymous said...

depending on the age and fragility of the piece, light really needs to be extremely low. Some fabrics may have had deterioration from being previously exhibited in the wrong light, like they were before the 90s. i know, it's a pity you cant see them well, but it is so that they do not fall apart which is a bigger tragedy.

Lady Meerkat said...

So, 2nd Anon. what you're suggesting is that perhaps the international works have not been historically, lit appropriately so the extremely dim lighting is damage control. Whilst the Australian collection - having not been shown as much perhaps - hasn't suffered such ills and so can have a slightly brighter light that is still conducive to its conservation.

I think the international fashion gallery needs an antechamber (or the natural light blocked out on this level) to allow visitors pupils to dilate some more before entering the space.

You have to agree the totally unlit case was not right appropriate. Never have I seen such a thing at such a place! Not even a sign apologising for it.