03 March 2007

The exhibit.

Today was the perfect New York Saturday.

I woke up to crisp, Upper West Side hotel sheets, had an early-morning, on-the-go breakfast of Spanish tortes and cappuccinos from Zabar's, and enjoyed a long sunny walk through a Central Park teeming with runners, strollers and in-love couples.

Finally, we exited the park in the 60s and made our way up the flight of shallow concrete steps to the entrance of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

'American Chic' was a much smaller exhibit than I expected, both in size and audience. Housed in one of the Met's smallest spaces on the lowest level, Nan's collection of evening gowns, pantsuits, resort wear, jewelery, and high heels was only given one medium-sized room and three tiny auxiliary rooms, all of which were completely devoid of natural light.

And any sort of guidance.

Harold Koda, the exhibit's handler, offered his patrons very little insight as to why or how he chose and grouped the pieces he did. Within some of the individual showcases, themes were identifiable - in the stunning 'black and white evening' collection, for example, where I learned that this classic combination, in Nan's own words, "is often the guise of the vamp and the femme fatale" and "allows a woman to project a quietly charged elegance and controlled allure" - but for the vast majority, there seemed no obvious logic behind Koda's selections.

In the room off to the right of the main hall, a one-shouldered seafoam green cashmere column dress was flanked on one side by a pair of navy, high-waisted raw silk trousers and on the other by a red bandeau bikini. In another showcase, a very '80s long-sleeved tri-colored velvet knee-length holiday frock stood shoulder-to- shoulder with a sleeveless beige Yves Saint Laurent silk crepe cocktail dress with matching shell-button bolero. And next to that, Mrs. Kempner's 1949 pink and purple strapless coming-out gown.


One might have thought the essays preceding each floor-to-ceiling display would have served as a guide to that particular collection, but again, no. Though they were extraordinarily well-written, these pieces were little more than general commentary on Nan's upbringing, her lifestyle and and her couture-as-art viewpoint.

Overall, it was a showcase hardly worthy of a woman whose style Andy Warhol called "iconic."

But as I told R in response to his apology for our mutual disappointment, the privilege of getting to see the 1969 Madame Grès bordeaux silk jersey gown with crucifix-esque back - the one I risked getting booted to capture on film when I snapped the illegal photo above - was well worth the trip.

Well, that and the triple berry pie from Cafe Lalo.

1 comment:

nyc admirer said...

You went to Lalo without me??