Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
“Art into Fashion”

Bud dress

Couturiers are the last persons with a claim on the luxury of controlling one’s time. Their job is to keep up with the ghastly calendar of the fashion shows, each one requiring an entire new collection based on a new concept. To think that this happens four times a year in addition to the production of two prêt-à-porter lines is to elevate the meaning of “stress” to an entirely new level.

Unless we are talking about Robert Capucci (1930–  ), the Italian couturier who dared to drop it all for the sake of his sanity and his art. Fifty years of a prolific career and a variety of experiments with shapes, volume, and color earned him a retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, titled “Art into Fashion” on view from March 15 through June 5, 2011.

The 80 dresses exhibited in Philadelphia chronicle the designer’s changes over time and his audacious sartorial gestures that transformed women into natural extensions of his art. This is strikingly evident in his design Bocciolo (Bud) and Nova Gonne (Nine Skirts). Both evoke Capucci’s Italian Baroque heritage so fertile in excessive sculptural compositions of drapes, folds, conches, and drama.

Capucci’s experiments with materials, light and color are equally dramatic and overwhelmingly fresh even today. It is increasingly rewarding to see exhibits of such caliber in American museums. Contrary to their European counterparts, American curators need to reject their fear of including couture and textiles into the art historical discourse. Fashion may be popular but this does not mean it does not deserve its place within the arts. The more connections one dares to make with other media (painting and sculpture for example) the more fascinating the outcome will be. This is all to say that “Art into Fashion” was a step in the right direction. I just wish there were more shows of that type on our side of the pond.

The catalog that accompanies the exhibition offers a good biographical note and plenty of beautiful pictures. Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion, Edited by Dilys E. Blum. Published in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2011.

©Thomaï Serdari