BOSTON — "All of Boston is divided into two parts, one of which follows science and the other, Mrs. Jack Gardner," a local pundit quipped presciently in 1875, years before Isabella Stewart Gardner was to build the palazzo-museum that would make...
BOSTON — "All of Boston is divided into two parts, one of which follows science and the other, Mrs. Jack Gardner," a local pundit quipped presciently in 1875, years before Isabella Stewart Gardner was to build the palazzo-museum that would make her legendary here.
A new exhibition, "The Making of the Museum," which opened Tuesday (Apr. 22) and runs through Aug. 21, explores how she built the collection and the museum while illuminating the mystery and innuendo cloaking Gardner’s life. For the first time, her travel diaries, photographs and sketches — as well as never-exhibited sketches by John Singer Sargent, who was one of her intimates — will be shown as part of the museum’s centennial celebration. Included are Gardner’s ecstatic notations about key works, particularly Titian’s Europa. "I am breathless about the ‘Europa’!" she writes. "Every inch of paint in the picture seems full of joy."
Months of rummaging in archives, however, have not turned up her thoughts on the Vermeer — beyond a note of its purchase on a day packed with social engagements. A rarity in the art-world, the Vermeer is one of only 35 known works by the Dutch master and was stolen in a 1990 heist and never found, along with Rembrandt’s only known seascape.
"The Vermeer has become a cult painting," says Alan Chong, the show’s curator. "It was the first real painting she bought, paying serious money. And it was before she was getting much official guidance, so we can assume she was acting on her own instinct."
Gardner’s instincts have caused much speculation, since later in life, she ordered friends to destroy correspondence and had her papers and family bible burned.
"We’re connecting the dots by looking at what was said about her behind her back," Chong says.
Gardner saved virtually every article printed about her — accurate or not —and the show includes those speculating on the "weird" activities at Fenway Court, as the museum was called.After her husband died, Gardner’s circle consisted of "handsome young men, some talented but others just pretty," as Chong puts it, including James MacNeil Whistler, Henry James and Marion Crawford, a political novelistrumored to be her lover, and Sargent, who painted three portraits of her. Her husband decreed that one, which pays careful attention to her hourglass figure, should not be publicly shown at Fenway Court, but Gardner managed to hang it so that visitors could catch glimpses of it from other rooms.Her aesthetic preoccupations and hunger for the exotic shaped her travel diaries — the photos she snapped while traveling to China, Japan and through Cambodia to see the jungle temples of Angkor Wat. In Egypt, she describes breaking away from the carriages to lie in the sands and contemplate the sphinx.
"She went through constant makeovers," says Chong. "She cultivated myths about herself."
And pinning "Mrs. Jack" down is still difficult. Mere days before the exhibition is to open, Chong is tiptoeing among photographs and papers laid on the gallery floor with co-curator Richard Linger, discussing how to properly present her life’s work.
"The more I dig into the details, the more mysterious she becomes," Chong says, "the more contradictions emerge."
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast