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Arts + Lifestyle

Ten Exciting Exhibitions To Visit This March

London to Paris, New York to Shanghai, we’re taking you around the world through art this spring. 

March is proving to be a moving and insightful month for the global art scene. The Bassam Freiha Art Foundation has just opened in Abu Dhabi’s cultural district affording new perspectives in the local and international art world, meanwhile London’s exhibitions take us back to nineteenth-century fashion, painting, and architecture.

From a wonderful Iraqi-Palestinian photographer to Loewe’s new fashion display in Shanghai, these are the most exciting exhibitions to visit this March.

Eva by Barbara C.1971 ©Barbara Hulanicki

The Biba Story, Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Founded in 1964 by Polish-born Barbara Hulanicki, Biba helped raise the hemlines and amplify the prints that characterised the Swinging Sixties’ sartorial statements through her clothing line that spoke to (and dressed) an entire generation of women. And it all started with a mail order business whose high number of sales triggered a boutique store in London’s fashion district of the era, Kensington, before the small space became the Big Biba department store. Boasting seven floors of Art Deco and old Hollywood glamour, each with a different theme – from boudoir to canteen (containing only dog food and Andy Warhol’s Condensed Soup cans in true pop culture style) – plus a million visitors every week, this was the hub of the decade. We’re talking shift dresses, rounded flat collars, trouser suits, feathers, and of course, lots and lots of sequins. For the next six months, Biba is back in London thanks to The Fashion and Textile Museum. The exhibition charts the rise of the eponymous label and each archival detail featured – including the clothing, photographs, film and fabrics – have been personally selected by Barbara herself for a true, authentic snapshot.

©Loewe Shanghai Exhibition, Hero Pieces

Crafted Worlds, Shanghai Exhibition Centre, Shanghai

Time and time again, fashion exhibitions – especially those of the immersive kind – have proven their success across the world. Next up is Spanish-heritage brand Loewe, exploring the progress and cultural influence of the luxury fashion label through the ages, curated by the current creative director Jonathan Anderson. Titled Crafted World, the exhibition will debut at the Shanghai Exhibition centre from 22 March and runs until 5 May before (hopefully) traversing the globe. Within this Loewe ‘world’, 178 years of the brand’s existence and creations are unravelled to compare its legacy with its present atmosphere, discussing Loewe’s appointment as an official supplier to the Spanish Royal Crown as well as its other key moments. Honouring the multi-cultural and globally-spanning heritage of Loewe, the exhibit recalls Madrid through sound installations, tapestry and sewing, to spotlight the importance of handmade crafts for the label. Even better, entrance is free.

Sick Hagemeyer Shop Assistant Posing In Front Of The United Trading Company Headquarters, Accra, 1971

Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Independence, V&A, London

The V&A is exploring new mediums of art this season with their architectural exhibition, Tropical Modernism. Modernism is a contested art movement in the industry, or rather, the time frame that surrounds it is. This is because as countries around the world ‘modernised’ and looked to new forms of technology and new models of society, the art produced as a result of this, and the art produced that contributed to this change, varied in form and in time scale. Tropical Modernism looks directly at this cloudy period of art through architecture in West Africa. Spotlighting two British architects’ work (Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry) the exhibition looks at how Britain used Modernism’s function over aesthetic purpose to build architecture that protected communities from the hot and humid climates of the regions. But this contribution to international modernism was fraught: it was constructed in front of a long history of anti-colonial struggle but was also seen as a symbol of a bright, postcolonial future. As the curator Christopher Turner explains the V&A “deliberately set out to complicate the history of tropical modernism by looking at the architecture against the anti-colonial struggle of the time, and by engaging with and centring South Asian and West African perspectives.” Including a careful selection of models, drawings, letters, and photographs, as well as a half hour film installation displayed across three screens, Tropical Modernism is an informative and interesting deconstruction of this period. 

Emporio Armani FW 1994 Photocredit Aldo Fallai

Aldo Fallai Per Giorgio Armani, Armani Silos, Milan

The 1970s brought ready-to-wear fashion to Milan, where young designers met high-quality materials and craftsmanship allowing the city to overtake both Florence and Rome to become the fashion capital of Italy, and later the world. The 1970s was also when visual artist Aldo Fallai was introduced to fashion designer Giorgio Armani, igniting a career-long partnership. “Everything was new to us, and none of the things we had seen before seemed to be able to express the way we were feeling,” Giorgio Armani explained in April 2014 about the beginning of his work with Aldo Fallai. This innovative way of expressing ‘newness’  is the spirit that characterises the photographs and collections they produced together. Fallai’s unconventional style of photography – who uniquely quotes Tuscan Mannerism, Caravaggio, the Pre-Raphaelites and French Orientalism as his muses rather than traditional fashion photography – complimented and encouraged Giorgio Armani’s relaxed approach to classic tailoring that focussed on liberating the body. The exhibition takes place over two floors in the gallery, where over 150 photographs are hung in a “strictly unsystematic order” spanning eras and collections from over thirty years of uninterrupted collaboration, to look at the creative duo’s body of work as a whole movement.

Joseph Stella, Rose and Angel, c.1920 signed Jo Stella (upper right) Oil on canvas

James Ward Presents: Seven Americans, JC Gallery, London

Despite the popularity of Modernist paintings in art galleries across the world, the JC Gallery is spotlighting rarely-seen artworks by seven Americans this spring; the seven Americans who are said to have ignited the Modernist movement in the USA. Curated by the founder of JC Gallery, James Ward, this will be the first time the paintings have been hung alongside one another in Europe. Taking inspiration from the Seven Americans exhibition curated by gallerist and photographer Alfred Stieglitz in New York during 1925, the exhibition celebrates almost a century since the seismic shift in the country’s art scene. With the variety in medium and style of the artists, the exhibition is a lovely way to trace Modernist art through its different forms – from watercolours to oils, canvas to crayons on paper, each of which helped lead to the colourful Fauvist and experimental Cubist movements hinted to in Arthur Dove’s 1941 Landscape – and that were already growing in popularity in Europe. And where better to see them than the Mayfair-based JC Gallery, the first European gallery to specialise in American Modernism.

© Zandra Rhodes archives

Icons of British Fashion, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

In the luscious green planes of Oxfordshire lies the 300-year-old property, Blenheim Palace. A core part of British community and history, the palace is now home to the clothes and designers who represent the same values within Britain’s fashion industry. This includes Lulu Guinness, Stella McCartney, Barbour, Stephen Jones Millinery for Christian Dior and Dame Vivienne Westwood, each of whom have helped to change the course of fashion. As the largest exhibition in the museum’s history, each of the fashion houses takes over one of the significant rooms and the visit starts in the Great Hall, where a large display by the late Dame Vivienne Westwood welcomes you.

Dolorès Marat, La femme aux gants (Woman with gloves), 1987MEP Collection, Paris. Acquired in 2001. © Dolorès Marat

Exteriors, Maison Européennee De La Photographie, Paris

‘Visceral’, ‘dynamic’, and ‘fragmentary’ are all words to describe Annie Ernaux’s writing. The Nobel Prize in Literature-winning French author writes novels and memoirs of fleeting encounters, political affairs, and the uncharacterised moments of the everyday. Maison Européenne De La Photographie (MEP) is replicating Ernaux’s literary ephemera of modern-day life through a series of photographs set in Italy, Japan and Singapore (to name a few) from the museum’s prestigious collection. Born from curator and writer Lou Stoppard’s month-long residency at the Paris gallery in 2022, the exhibition is Ernaux’s flâneur-esque perspective made visual through these compelling and vivacious images.

Hellen van Meene, Untitled #543, 2021. Archival pigment print, 16 x 16 inches

Hellen Van Meene: The Dissolve, Yancey Richardson, New York

The Yancey Richardson gallery lies at the heart of New York’s Chelsea art district (having moved from Soho in the year 2000) and is one of America’s leading 20th century and contemporary photography spaces and fine art dealers. This spring, Dutch artist Hellen van Meene presents the psychological tensions found at the meeting point between female adolescence and adulthood through a series of portraits. Dreamlike gazes and lighting, inspired by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, create unconventional photographs.

Ellen von Unwerth, Suite Haute Couture, Paris, Town & Country, 2023, Late Stage Capitalism Waltz Haute Couture, S/S 2023, © Ellen von Unwerth

Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Statements, Kunsthalle, Munich

Viktor&Rolf by Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren is a Dutch fashion label founded in 1993, known for their avant-garde haute couture – especially the Spring/Summer 2023 collection where ball gowns were worn sideways and upside down on the runway. While today, for many, the brand is better known for their popular fragrance line featuring the likes of Emily Ratakowski and Anya Taylor Joy in commercials, the exhibition Viktor & Rolf: Fashion Statements looks to both the brand’s sartorial roots and the fragrance in tandem, through their influence on popular culture. To commemorate the first ever major retrospective of the brand, over 100 garments from Viktor&Rolf’s archives will be on display in Munich this spring, shown alongside videos, sketches, and works by leading visual artists including Ellen von Unwerth and Inez & Vinoodh to highlight the brand’s interdisciplinary range. Pediophobics be warned: as the fashion industry knows, Viktor&Rolf have a thing for displaying clothes on Victorian-style porcelain dolls; previously shown at London’s Barbican and also on show in Munich.

Sama Alshaibi (Iraq – Palestine, b. 1973) - Water Bearer II, 2019 - Photogravure blind embossing with transparent ink, relief rolled on Stonehenge White 100% rag paper, 63.5 x 50.8 cm, Edition of 8

Reclaiming Visions, Bassam Freiha Art Foundation, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi recently welcomed the brand new Bassam Freiha Art Foundation, by philanthropist and art collector H.E. Bassam Freiha. Located on Saadiyat Island – known for its incredible architecture – the new foundation brings an incredible visual space, and that’s before even stepping inside. Glass structures drown the interiors in light, and walls slope down to calm waters where the building is reflected, creating a welcoming, serene atmosphere. Inside, Reclaiming Visions opens the Foundation’s annex gallery with the photography of US-Based Iraqi-Palestinian artist Sama Alshaibi. The artist’s Carry Over series reclaims the Oriental portraits of women taken by Western photographers in order to explore “the societal impacts of unequal power relations between the West and the Middle East,” according to Alshaibi herself. To complement the photography, poetic sculptures by Emirati artist Azza Al Qubaisi and the 19th-century portrait photography of Alexandre Leroux and Aram Alban will also be on show, solidifying the gallery’s new presence as a space for cultural conversations and moving art. 

Lead image: Biba 3 1973 Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive

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