Monday, April 02, 2012


I'm two weeks behind and still have loads to show from Venice. But it's about time I got to the point.

This year, as it sometimes does, my birthday fell on Mothers' Day. (In the U.K. but not the rest of Europe.) All props to mums but I don't have one and I'm not one - so trying to celebrate your birthday when everyone around you is celebrating mum-ness can be a little... grim?

So this year I took positive action. I'd wanted to try and go to Venice in March to see the Diana Vreeland exhibition at Palazzo Fortuny anyway. Throw in my birthday and some good friends and an escape plan was hatched.
I got on a plane on the morning of my birthday, was met at the airport in Venice by sweet friends and an hour later we were at the DV exhibition.

If you've ever been to Palazzo Fortuny you'll know that the main room is beautiful and atmospheric - hung on all sides with heavy draperies, with low lighting and glimmering pieces of art; even if it was empty it would strike you as special. But this time it had Diana Vreeland's clothes and personal memorabilia displayed in cabinets: all her shoes (always the same style made by Dal Co. in Rome) lined up neatly side by side on a tooo higgghhh shelf, the originals of family photographs and portraits of her I've seen reproduced in books a million times, a huge glass case filled with Harper's Bazaars and Vogues from her time working there. It was almost a shock to see how modern some of the covers from the thirties or fifties looked. The exhibition is intentionally staged not in chronological order but as a narrative, perhaps to place the importance on imagination first and foremost, rather than as a straight up retrospective.

The second floor is more to do with curation than with Diana Vreeland somehow. It was the curators' interpretation of what she represents, is the best way I can describe it. In any case I got the feeling they'd had free reign with this floor, and while it was interesting, sometimes the connection with DV was a little tenuous - though I'm never going to complain about seeing beautiful clothes. Every decade she influenced is represented in some way. Another possibility is that this floor relates to DV's work at the Metropolitan Costume Institute, where she freed up the way exhibitions could be curated and displayed: on entering the room you're greeted by a large white calico covered horse {here} placed with some 1960s Pucci and Missoni - a triple reference by the curators Judith Clark and Maria Luisa Frisa: one, to the infamous Tahiti shoot where DV sent photographer Norman Parkinson in 1965 with strict orders to shoot a picture of a beautiful white horse with a long tail, plaited to the ground using pounds of fake Dynel hair she gave him (DV's favourite prop in the '60s). Upon arriving in Tahiti the crew discovered there wasn't a single white horse on the island. The second reference is to her Costume Institute exhibitions where she would always place a huge prop at the entrance, to set the scene. For her Balenciaga exhibit she used a 17th century white horse, but here the horse is Italian (apparently!). And thirdly, choosing Pucci and Missoni clothes from the sixties to remind us that the exhibition we're seeing is in Italy. (I'm not sure the casual visitor would have picked up on all that!)

At the end of the exhibition (right about the time I overheard two guards discussing 'that girl who keeps snapping away with her cellphone, I've told her time and again not to take pictures' - sorry guards, but you didn't threaten to kick me out!) was the most beautiful display against the stripped, layered, mottled wall of the palazzo: two Fortuny delphos gowns in silvery gold, a Schiaparelli cape from Judith Clark's personal archive and this shimmering soft gold Chanel tailleur from the twenties.

All in all, a fantastic birthday treat!

{Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland is on at Palazzo Fortuny, Venice until 25 June (closed Tuesdays).}


If Jane said...

oh marvelous birthday! very elegant!
oh number...dates...are more often arbitrary...what matters more is feelings and memories. ;)

Anonymous said...

I can't take that Chanel tailleur out of my mind!!

lola is beauty said...

If Jane - indeed!

Mia - Me neither - maybe you could borrow it?? It would look fantastic on you. Get A to distract the guards by taking photos and then "borrow" it! x

Rose said...

when I read the exhibition was happening I thought of you! So glad you got to go- and perfect for your birthday!

lola is beauty said...

Rose - yes it was perfect. Had to be done really! x