Balenciaga and Spain, a breathtaking exhibit opening at the de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park tomorrow is not only remarkable for its historical importance, but also for its incubation in the modern day fashion industry. Unlike many other exhibits, which are conceived and curated by heads of museums and their boards, Balenciaga and Spain, was conceived by Spanish-American Designer Oscar de la Renta, who began his own fashion career working in the Madrid house of Balenciaga in the 1950's, and curated by Vogue Magazine's European Editor at Large, Hamish Bowles.
More the embodiment of the spirit and creativity of the designer than a straight chronological retrospective, the exhibit centers around pieces that truly exemplify Balenciaga's life long love of his native Spain, and how its cultural references, be it flamenco dancers, painters, or bull fighters influenced his work throughout his career.
During the press preview event, which took place earlier this morning, Mr. Bowles gave a mini-lecture on Cristobal Balenciaga's background including how the designer being forced to flee Spain during that country's civil war and relocate to Paris shaped his work emotionally and creatively. Mr. Bowles further elaborated on Balenciaga's career by explaining that his passion, as well as his talent for construction won him many admirers among France's fashion elite including Christian Dior who called Balenciaga "The master of us all', Coco Chanel who said "He is the only couturier who knows how to cut in fabric, and mount it, and sew it with his own hands. The others are just draughtsmen" and most famously Hubert de Givenchy who was Cristobal Balenciaga's Protégé.
Walking through the exhibit itself, it was impossible not to be struck by the exquisite form and details of the garments as well as their eternal modernity which made them as wearable for anyone lucky enough to do so now as they were when they were designed over 50 years ago.
Easily one of the most fascinating exhibits in the de Young's history, the Balenciaga show is equally engaging to the long time fan of the designer's work and those not previously familiar with his legacy.
Balenciaga and Spain will be on exhibit at the de Young Museum from March 26th-July 4th 2011. On March 26th the museum will also hold a A symposium that features speakers Hamish Bowles; Pamela Golbin, chief curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre; Miren Arzalluz, curator of the Balenciaga Foundation and author of Cristóbal Balenciaga: La forja del Maestro (1895–1936); and Lourdes Font, associate professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. For more information, including ticket availability please visit the museum's official website.