BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts
The Palais des Beaux-Arts (called BOZAR, a homonym for the French beaux-arts) is Brussels’ arts centre and museum which consists of exhibition rooms, theatre halls, a concert hall and multimedia rooms which together showcase a range of international cultural and artistic activities including classical and contemporary art exhibitions, theatre, dance, literary and film festivals, music concerts – the list goes on and on.
When I learned that a Belgian fashion exhibition was part of the BOZAR summer programme, I couldn’t wait to go and see it. When we finally had a chance to visit, it was Belgian National Day and BOZAR was celebrating by offering free admission to all of its exhibitions that day – what good luck!
The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story
I’m no expert on Belgian fashion, and had it not been for the advert I saw for this exhibition I wouldn’t have even realised that Belgian fashion was actually a thing. Boy, did this exhibition teach me a thing or two! Not only is Belgian fashion internationally recognised, but Belgian fashion academies (such as the Antwerp Academy, and La Cambre in Brussels) and the designers that spring from them are among the most highly regarded in the fashion world. I was surprised to learn that some of the most well known international labels are Belgian (Diane von Furstenberg, Kate Spade, Dries Van Noten) and that there are and have been Belgians designing for fashion houses such as Dior, Nina Ricci, Lanvin and Valentino.
The exhibition was surprisingly prolific and presented perfectly the surreal, avant-garde qualities that define Belgian fashion through a historic overview highlighted by the creations and successes of individual designers. This exhibition was well put together and very inspiring – “unexpected” indeed.
Juergen Teller: Pictures of Vivienne Westwood & The Honey Dress
We followed the surprisingly extensive Belgian fashion exhibtion through the BOZAR art centre, and just when I thought we’d come to the end, down the last hallway lined with mannequins I spotted a very surprising sight lining the far wall – a huge portrait of a completely naked older lady. I strugged to find the connection at first, but soon realised this portrait was just one of a series of three photographs of Amercan fashion designer Vivienne Westwood – a completely naked, 68-year-old Vivenne Westwood! The photographs were taken by German celebrity photographer Jürgen Teller, and were actually very impressive.
We then made our way to a room screening The Honey Dress, a short film which documented the creation of a dress made entirely of honey (complete with bees!) which basically involved constructing said dress directly on the model’s body immediately before being paraded down a runway.
Bellisima: The Story of Five Dresses
Running parallel to the fashion exhibition was ‘Bellisima: The Story of Five Dresses’, which documented the golden age of Italian fashion through a display of five haute couture gowns, including a vintage Valentino evening dress that Bec instantly fell in love with. Accompanying the dresses were a selection of fashion sketches and accessories, as well as 1950s and ’60s editions of Italian fashion magazines (Vogue among them) which not only featured some excellent photography work, but also took us back in time and left us in awe of the art and influence of fashion.
“The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story”
BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts
Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000 Brussels