BOSTON — Fashions displayed in art museums are generally iconic, exquisite and, above all, at least decades old.
The Museum of Fine Arts Boston will upend one of these traditions in November when it presents “Fashion Show: Paris Collections 2006,” a rarity in its examination of fresh-from-the-runway pieces. The show features spring couture from Dior, Chanel, Christian Lacroix and Valentino, along with fall 2005 ready-to-wear from Rochas, Martin Margiela, Viktor & Rolf, Azzedine Alaïa, Hussein Chalayan and Yohji Yamamoto.
The show, given the prime slot on the museum’s fall exhibition lineup, is the MFA’s unambiguous signal it wants to be a major player in collecting and exhibiting 20th- and 21st-century fashion.
“I want to make the MFA the style capital of the museum world,” said museum curator Malcolm Rogers.
The effort is backed by a $10 million bequest last fall from late philanthropist Roberta Logie to endow the David and Roberta Logie Department of Textile and Fashion Arts. It is the biggest gift to a single curatorial department in the museum’s history.
The department recently secured 80 ensembles from Geoffrey Beene’s estate, with plans for a future exhibition, and purchased a Spanish-inspired silk gazar skirt and blouse from Lacroix’s spring-summer 1993 couture.
“The last 10 to 20 years have been a fascinating time in the history of fashion with the way the runway shows have evolved,” said show curator and fashion department head Pam Parmal, who attended the Paris collections and made trips to each house to scrutinize and select individual pieces. “The time also felt right for Boston. With all of the new retail and Barneys opening [in Boston], I think the show really clicks into growing interest.”
Selected works swing from John Galliano’s lavish blood red tulle gown from his Marquis de Sade collection to Chalayan’s witty, black velvet cocktail frock with dress form pleat.
Visitors will see the garments at about 3 feet away, a distance roughly equivalent to runway show seats reserved for top editors and celebrities.
Each house will be represented by eight to 10 looks. Custom platforms and dropped ceilings will mimic the look and lighting of the original show. Margiela’s artisan collection, which wasn’t presented on the runway but as an installation art piece, will be shown as it was originally.
Parmal said she has run into little grandstanding or pretension.
Alaïa has been most involved, discoursing with Parmal on Madame de Pompadour and historic couture (he owns a substantial collection) over lunch at the communal staff table in his studio. Valentino came on board first, a savvy move since the brand opened its first store in Boston in the spring.
As for the articulate and cerebral duo of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, “everyone in the department has kind of fallen in love with them,” Parmal said.