Tag: Martin Pel

Stephen Jones Hats at the Royal Pavilion

The exhibition Stephen Jones Hats at the Royal Pavilion, which is in partnership with the department store Harvey Nichols, opened in February 2019 showcasing over 170 examples of Stephen’s work as well as outfits from Stephen’s collaborators Dior, Giles Deacon and Thom Browne across 15 rooms of the former royal palace in Brighton.  The exhibition, which runs until 9 June was co-curated by Jones and Brighton Museum’s Curator of Fashion, CfFC associate member Martin Pel.

Photos by Tessa Hallmann

Words by Martin Pel

A selection of hats mounted on poles surrounded by plates of food shown on the pine table of the historic kitchen in the Pavilion

Stephen Jones hats are here displayed in the Great Kitchen where nearly 50 of his creations are displayed. They include a hat for Matty Bovan S/S 2019, French Onion Soup made for Stephen’s A/W 1985 collection, and Breakfast Stephen’s S/S 2005.

As you might imagine, staging the show brought myriad issues as the Royal Pavilion is not a museum but an historic house filled with loans from the Royal Collection. One of the first issues to overcome was keeping fellow staff members on board; everyone was enthusiastic about the idea of the show but ‘interventions’ in the pavilion are not always met favourably. The interiors are as close to how the former owner, King George IV, would have remembered them with original decorative schemes, furniture and art objects all from the 1820s. When George built the pavilion and furnished its interiors he employed only the best craftsmen, architect (John Nash) and interior decorators. The addition of objects from the 21st century not only influences the way we interpret the original objects but has the potential of making the ‘new additions’ look inferior, if they do not meet the standards set by George’s original scheme. I am pleased to say that as a master craftsman himself Stephen’s work perfectly complemented the interiors and brought new life to the rooms in which they are placed, a sentiment echoed by David Beevers, the keeper of the Royal Pavilion and its collections.

Spanish Catholic crown mounted above golden wreath of leaves

Dior Crown – Spanish Catholic crown shown in the King’s Apartments, made for Dior A/W 2005

Objects are not allowed to touch any royal loan and in the Banqueting Room in which we imagined a dinner party thrown by Stephen with ‘guests’ seated around the table, stands were constructed by the mount maker Mike Penwolf so the guests hats hovered over chair as though in situ. The major issue with this display (and any other) is one of conservation. The banqueting table is laid with an almost priceless dinner service by Cole Port and the hovering hats had to be properly secured to their stands so there was no possibility that one moved and damaged any other object. Hugely heavy base plates were created with the stands screwed in place from which they could not move.

White stylised mannequin head and neck with headdress to resemble a splash of water

Wash ‘n’ Go, S/S 1993, made out of perspex and shown in the Great Kitchen

Each of the 170 hats not only had a bespoke stand by Mike Penwolf but Zenzie Tinker, the textile conservator, handmade internal mounts so each hat sat at the correct angle as though on the wearer’s head. The stands and internal mounts not only took considerable time to create but considerable cost, at over £40,000! The stands were made with longevity in mind as exhibitions can be heavy on resources so each stand can be disassembled and used for future shows in the pavilion or museum.

Mannequin in off white ballgown with twigged headdress reclining on a staircase.

Giles White with full outfit and headdress from his A/W 2012 collection

The Royal Pavilion is a living building in that events are held in many of the rooms over the year. For the Music Room which displays four Dior outfits wearing Stephen’s hats and two 3-D printed busts – one of Stephen and one of King George also wearing hats – the positioning of the objects was subject to events which regularly take place there. The only place where they would not intrude on events was either side of the fireplace. The Great Kitchen, which has nearly 50 of Stephen’s hats, is also used regularly for events and the only way to facilitate both the show and the events is for me to move the hats out of the way whilst the event takes place and replace them afterwards – a pain but the only solution.

White stylised mannequin head with elongated neck wearing gold feather headdress covered in red lillies.

Gold feather hat worn by Kylie Minogue for Mardi Gras in Sydney in 2014 and shown in the Banqueting Room

The show was held in late winter and spring as these are our least busy periods. The show was a vehicle to bring in new visitors as well as new demographics (those interested in fashion) which it succeeded in doing, but it was also scheduled then to avoid bottle necks. Labels were kept to the barest minimum so visitors would not stop and read and clogg up the narrow walkways. We are all familiar with the frustration of visiting busy shows and not seeing anything so again the scheduling gave greater visitor satisfaction.

These are perhaps some of the most salient issues in staging the show and there were plenty of other problems to overcome (storage of boxes while the show is on, the lack of additional lighting, last minute mannequin sourcing) the show succeeded in its aims in bringing new audiences by re-interpreting the stories of the Royal Pavilion.

Four mannequins standing or lying down on stairwell wearing headresses made of spanners, paperclips, porcupine and feather

Four hats Stephen made for Giles’ runway shows; the spanner and paperclip hat are from pre-fall 2010 show and the porcupine and feather headdresses are from A/W 2012.

3-D printed bust in gold colour of Stephen Jones with dragon headdress

The dragon hat was made by Stephen for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show China; Through the Looking Glass (2015) which he based on the Royal Pavilion and it’s shown on a 3-D printed bust of Stephen especially created for this show.

Read more about the exhibition

Royal Pavilion, 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton BN1 1EE

Until 9 June 2019

Find out about CfFC’s collaborations with Brighton Museum

 

Installing Gluck

Gluck: Art and Identity opens on the 18th November at Brighton Museum and is a celebration and investigation into the world of Gluck, both artistically and personally. The exhibition is part of the ‘Wear it Out’ project between the Centre for Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion, UAL and Brighton Museum. The three exhibition creators – Amy de la Haye and Jeffrey Horsley of the Centre for Fashion Curation, and Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Museum – have created this exhibition in a truly collaborative way. Their statement of intent was to ‘create’ an exhibition – they do not differentiate between curator and exhibition-maker.

Paintings by Gluck. Oil on canvas. (Clockwise from right 1. Lords and Ladies, 1936, 2. Snowdrops, 1924, 3. Still Life With Scallop Shell and Blossom, 1972, 4. Orchestra, 1967, 5. Convolvulous, 1940 6. The Pleidaes, 1940-43)

The concept for the exhibition originated from a collection review of the Fashion and textiles at Brighton Museum, conducted by Amy and Martin, where they found a store of beautiful dresses somewhat surprisingly attributed to Gluck, who was renowned for her masculine dress and androgynous look.

Gluck portrait, Angus McBean, 1937

Born Hannah Gluckstein in 1895 to a very wealthy family who founded the UK-wide chain of Lyons tea houses, Gluck rejected traditional expectations of a woman of her social standing by running away to join an artists’ colony in Lamorna, Cornwall, wearing masculine clothing and engaging in relationships with women. She became well known for her paintings of subjects such as the theatre, portraits of society figures and floral arrangements. She showed her uniqueness in the three-stepped frames she developed and patented, as well as her refusal to subscribe to other artistic schools or movements of the time or indeed show alongside other artists.

Artist Smock worn by Gluck. Natural coloured linen, c.1920’s-1950’s. Brighton Museum Collection.

Gluck Collarbox.  Brighton Museum Collection,  November, 2017

However Gluck received just as many column inches for her ‘look’ which incorporated men’s plus-fours and barber-cut cropped hair. She demanded to be known as just Gluck with no prefix, and was singular in both name and artist path.

The collection of clothes Gluck donated to the Museum just before her death are conspicuously lacking in any menswear or masculine ephemera. Whatever items of menswear Gluck had were lost to a large jumble sale held after her death. The collection’s only indicators of Gluck’s gender fluidity are two painters’ smocks and a round leather box used to store stiffened collars.

This absence led the creators to conceive three different curatorial perspectives, as exhibition-maker Jeffrey Horsley explains: ‘the exhibition is a series of biographic fragments viewed from different perspectives – a conventional museum perspective, interventions inspired by Gluck’s own words, and installations that give a sense of an investigative process.’ Owing perhaps to the lack of scholarship on Gluck, this investigative perspective becomes almost forensic and can be seen through the use of maps, images, drawings and text.

The absent aspects of the collection Gluck donated led the creators to assume curatorial suppositions. These ideas are differentiated from the factual museum labels through their presentation on violet panels throughout the exhibition.

These violet accents act in order to queer the space through the colour’s association with the Sapphic violet, and history as a lesbian symbol. This queering of the space is acknowledged from the first instance. The moment the visitor steps into the exhibition they view a pin board on which portraits of Gluck’s female lovers are displayed; on the reverse panel are maps of locations and spaces she occupied, socially and professionally.

By using the colour violet and avoiding fixed pronouns to describe Gluck, the creators negotiate the difficulties in projecting labels such as transgender and lesbian backward to a time when such terms didn’t exist in the public consciousness, whilst celebrating Gluck’s identity and acknowledging how the artist has been claimed as an important historical figure by both the lesbian and trans community. This elegant refusal to pigeon hole or label fits with the artist’s demand to be referred to as just Gluck, without gender specificity. The colour also works effectively against the dark grey walls and helps to make the paintings in Gluck’s famous three-stepped frames stand out.

One of the only pieces of masculine ephemera, the collar box, will be shown suspended over a beautiful example of a 1920’s evening dress.  This display has been devised to deal with the absences of masculine items in the collection. The juxtaposition of these opposing items show what Gluck’s contemporaries would have been wearing, and therefore what she rejected.

Viewing the installation phase of the exhibition offered a great opportunity to see how the space is used, and how the clothes are to be shown. In the second room visitors will see a display of the floral day dresses that sparked the beginning of the exhibition.

They will also see a rather striking display of three black evening gowns that will be shown inside the metal-framed boxes developed for the recent exhibition Present Imperfect at the Fashion Space Gallery, LCF. The boxes were made with re-use in mind and here they are turned upright to frame the evening dresses.

Co-curator Martin Pel working on evening dressses. (Back: Floor-length evening dress with black lace bodice and long sleeves. Black rayon and black lace skirt over black underskirt. Made by Cresta Silks, Herts, 1930s. Front: Black silk georgette deeply pleated culotte dress with sleeveless bodice and V-shaped neckline, 1930s. Brighton Museum Collection.)

In the same room there will be a Legacy section including author Radclyffe Hall’s novel ‘The Well of Loneliness’ which was re-issued in the 1980s by Virago with Gluck’s Medallion (You and Me) 1937 as the cover image. Medallion features the striking profiles of both Gluck and her lover Nesta Obermer, who many of the dresses in Gluck’s collection are believed to have belonged to. This Virago edition brought Gluck’s work to the attention of a new generation.

This exhibition pays tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, which included the partial decriminalization of male homosexuality. Throughout this year there has been a celebration of queer lives and rights across many media and institutions, such as the Queer British Art exhibition at the Tate Britain, which featured Gluck’s self portrait as its cover image.

Installation of ‘Gluck Art and Identity’, Brighton Museum, November 2017.  Co-curators Jeffrey Horsley and Amy de-la-Haye

Gluck: Art and Identity, Brighton Museum, 18 November 2017 – 11 March 2018.

Words and pictures by Flo Nolan.

A book, edited by Amy and Martin, Gluck: Art and Identity (Yale, 2017) is available. More details can be found here

As part of the upcoming DATS conference, hosted by Brighton Museum, on 23 and 24 November 2017, Amy and Jeff will be talking about approaches to the exhibition. For more information and to book.

A symposium, hosted by LCF on Wednesday 07 February 2018 will explore Gluck, her life, art and identity. Details are forthcoming, so please look out for information on the Centre for Fashion Curation pages and Fashion Curation blog.

More about Installing Gluck

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