The other day, a friend and I went to see the marvellous Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the equally marvellous Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, Co. Durham:
This was very busy, so if you’re planning on going – and I can recommend you do – be prepared for it to be absolutely packed. While a successful exhibition is a good thing, it did mean that some of my photos didn’t turn out too well as there were too many people in the way, but hopefully I still have enough to give you an idea of what it’s like.
So let’s start with some toiles:
and embroidery samples:
that give an interesting insight into the working practices of a fashion house.
Also interesting, to me at least, is that while some of the embroidered pieces looked very effective from a distance:
close up, the embroidery itself was, well, not quite the standard I’d expected:
There’s probably a lesson in that!
Part of the exhibition contrasted some of Saint Laurent’s work with fashion going back to the 18th century, using pieces from the Museum’s permanent collection; these were all in cases and I couldn’t get any photos without a lot of glare and reflection, so you’ll just have to take my word that it was all fascinating stuff. The main part of the exhibition – the clothes! – were not in cases, though, so I can show you a few things that stood out for me.
A collection of mostly 1980s evening wear:
Another evening dress, that I absolutely loved:
Two outfits designed for the stage:
Not a good photo of more evening wear:
but I wanted to show a close-up of the beadwork around the collar:
I loved some of the ready to wear clothes, such as these:
Isn’t that safari suit great!
Another evening dress:
And its embroidered discs:
I couldn’t quite work out how they’re done, though they’ve clearly been done separately and applied.
Elsewhere in the Museum there’s plenty else to see, with art, such as this beautiful van Dyke portrait:
Lots of ceramics, both old:
(which I much prefer), and some oddly random bits and bobs, such as this Jacquard loom in the corner of a room otherwise displaying antique toys:
But the thing the Bowes Museum is best known for is the Silver Swan:
I have to say that I think that this surprisingly badly displayed, considering its status. It’s rather abandoned in the centre of a gallery, in a very ugly modern case. They really could and should do much better by it.
Having said that, the swan itself is stunning. It’s a life-sized 18th century automaton of a swan made in silver and glass. Once a day, to a packed gallery, it’s set in motion, when it moves its neck and ‘eats’ one of the little silver fish swimming in front of it.
I’ll finish with a YouTube video by Mark Vallack of the Silver Swan in action. Enjoy!