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November 15, 2012
By Erin Schumaker | Museums

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Hugh Talman, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Opened earlier this week, “Food: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000”—a new permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History—is expected to be a tasty hit, chronicling the evolution of what postwar America eats. “It’s a complicated show, but it’s also very accessible,” says museum curator Paula Johnson. “People are going to see objects that relate to things they know.”

Who better to demonstrate the changing nature of American appetites than Julia Child, America’s most-beloved chef. Child’s kitchen, which she donated to the museum in 2001, served as inspiration for the larger exhibit and features hundreds of items, including her diploma from Le Cordon Bleu and props from her award-winning television show, The French Chef.

The rest of the exhibit, a blend of artifacts, graphics and video, is divided into four sections. “Resetting the Table” highlights the influx of new foods and flavors into America’s culinary fabric—a phenomenon attributed to immigration and the back-to-the-land movements of the ’60s and ’70s that spurred the popularity of local and organic cuisine. “Wine for the Table” examines the rise of American vineyards after 1950, from their origins in California to today, and “New and Improved” covers science and technology, from increased food production and distribution to the modern-day prominence of on-the-go eating.

“Open Table” closes the show. More a forum than an exhibit, visitors are encouraged to engage in spirited discourse around a 22-foot-long communal table. The topic? Food, of course. 1400 Constitution Ave. NW; 202-633-3129; americanhistory.si.edu.

November 06, 2012
By Nell McShane Wulfhart | Museums

Seoul’s Simone Handbag Museum
Courtesy of Simone Handbag Museum

Occupying a prime position in Gangnam, one of the most fashion-forward neighborhoods in Seoul, South Korea, the Simone Handbag Museum is a shrine to the everyday (and often coveted) accessory. The collection, devised by fashion curator Judith Clark, is comprised of more than 300 items dating from the 15th century to today’s trendiest It bags. Most of these are European, including exquisitely crafted reticules and “sweetmeat” bags, gunmetal mesh purses from the late 19th century and recent creations like an Alexander McQueen clutch printed with the Union Jack.

“Handbags are a very interesting subject in both a fashion and women’s sociology context,” says Dawn Jung, senior curator at the museum. “The path of design as it changed through history tells many stories in terms of material, shape and size.”

The museum, which opened its doors in July to great fanfare, is the pet project of Kenny Park, CEO of Simone Acc. Collection Ltd., a producer of handbags for some of the world’s largest fashion houses. The eye-catching building, shaped like a handbag complete with a handle, houses temporary exhibitions and international loans that will rotate through the museum’s top-floor space. “Carosello Italiano,” the current exhibit (through November 18), displays Italian handbags and landmark pieces from the likes of Fendi, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.

A DIY workshop occupies the museum’s basement, allowing visitors to indulge their dreams of becoming the next Kate Spade. For a fee, a master craftsman assists guests in designing and constructing a handbag, from cutting the leather to sewing the creation into its final shape. 17 Dosan-daero 13gil (Sinsa-dong), Gangnam-gu; 82-2/3444-0912; simonehandbagmuseum.co.kr.

May 10, 2012
By Maud Doyle | Arts + Culture, Fashion, Museums

Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations
© Left: Portrait of Elsa Schiaparelli, 1932 / Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hoyningen-Huené/Vogue; Condé Nast. Right: Portrait of Miuccia Prada, 1999 / Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guido Harari/Contrasto/Redux

“Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations,” which opens today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, explores the parallels between groundbreaking Italian designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, whose work bookends a century.

By contrasting garments, ideas and quotes, curators Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda created an imaginary conversation between the two women, framing it all with a stunning video directed by Baz Luhrmann, in which Schiaparelli (played by Judy Davis) and Prada chat over dinner. In each of the exhibit’s four rooms, the women discuss their careers and inspirations, occasionally differing in opinion (Schiaparelli proclaims, “Celebrate the bust!” while Prada insists that more happens from the waist down).

The exhibition is all screens and mirrors, and the dark profundity of last year’s “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” is nowhere to be found. But the reflections and visual effects in “Impossible Conversations” demonstrate its point: Like the femme fatales of film noir, the women who wear Prada’s mirrored skirts or Schiaparelli’s gold-embroidered jackets shine a little too brightly to be seen clearly.

Prada’s ensembles, which comprise the majority of the exhibit, are almost exclusively taken from the last ten years, and Schiaparelli’s nearly all hail from the 1930s. But the similarities are clear. In the first room, called Waist Up, Waist Down, Schiaparelli hats match Prada shoes precisely, and her jackets pair so perfectly with skirts from the early aughts that the temporal discrepancy doesn’t register—at least until a jacket embroidered with golden palms is paired with palm-printed silk short-shorts.

In the final installment, a shadowy hall of mirrors reflects ensembles (bug necklaces, feathered capes) floating in plexiglass boxes and black-and-white digital images of Schiaparelli blinking eerily. It’s a display of intellectual femininity, complete with tricks, puns and allusions. Consider a floor-length black Schiaparelli gown from the 1930s, spotted with pink velvet flowers and lovely in its simplicity. Two of the flowers have extra petals, and their placement highlights breasts beneath. It’s a cheeky nod and shows how these clothes embody the most fascinating aspect of a woman’s allure: Nothing is what it seems. On view May 10–August 19; 1000 Fifth Ave.; 212-535-7710; metmuseum.org.

March 23, 2011
By Marina Cashdan | Arts + Culture, Museums

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Attending TEFAF Maastricht is like going to a museum where everything can be taken home. Collectors, curators, interior designers, creative consultants and art lovers visit the Netherlands city every March for the event, in which MECC (the town's 101,700-square-foot convention center) becomes home to 260 elegantly designed booths for ten days. Each stall brims with paintings, sculpture, furniture and jewelry spanning 7,000 years, including works by Renoir, Rembrandt, Picasso, Dalí, Miró and Klimt. The quality of every piece is guaranteed: The day before the fair opened, 29 vetting committees comprised of 168 international experts assessed each and every item, assuring its authenticity and condition. (And it's not all centuries-old: A Jeff Koons-designed BMW is also on view this year.) Visitors can take a break from gazing at one of the two sit-down restaurants, a casual café, an oyster bar or a sushi spot. TEFAF runs through March 27; tefaf.com.

Photo Loraine Bodewes

February 22, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Arts + Culture, Museums, Exhibitions

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Pablo Picasso is one of the most recognized names in art history, but it wasn't always so. In 1900, the then-unknown 19-year-old Picasso moved to Paris and discovered the works of Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh. He would spend the next seven years there, coming into his own as an artist. That period of his life and work is the focus of "Picasso in Paris, 1900-1907," on view at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam through May 29. Guest-curated by art historian (and Picasso expert) Marilyn McCully and organized jointly with the Museu Picasso in Barcelona—with loans from Paris's Centre Pompidou, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim in New York—the show demonstrates how the artist's style was influenced by his time in the City of Light, from the death of his good friend Carles Casagemas in 1901 (which marked the start of his Blue Period) to his friendship with writers Max Jacobs and Guillaume Apollinaire, who piqued his interest in harlequins. Every Friday evening during the exhibition's run, dancers from the company Dansgroep Amsterdam perform Nomade, a site-specific work that celebrates Picasso's love of the circus, alongside his paintings. Picasso is also the topic of a lecture series taking place the first Sunday of each month. On March 6, literary historian Peter Read will examine the artistic relationship between Picasso and the poets in his circle of friends. At 7 Paulus Potterstraat; 31-20/570-5200; vangoghmuseum.nl.

Photo Self-portrait with a palette, 1906 , Philadelphia Museum of Art. A. E. Gallatin Collection, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2011 Pablo Picasso

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