Sunday, February 13, 2011

Last Chance: The Balenciaga Show at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute

For those of my discerning readers who live in the tri-state area, Reggie recommends that you hightail it to New York City by Saturday, February 19th, to see the show Balenciaga: Spanish Master at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute on Park Avenue.  That is, if you haven't seen it yet—which Reggie hadn't, until yesterday afternoon.  On display since November 19th, the exhibit closes in New York on February 19th.  So now is your last chance to see it.  Hours have been extended until the show closes, with the galleries open until 6 p. m. on Monday and Tuesday, and until 8 p. m. Wednesday through Saturday.

The cover of the exhibition brochure

Lots of other bloggers and media have already profiled the show, so I'm not going to review it in any detail here.  Suffice it to say, the clothes are stunningly beautiful, and seeing them provides a rare glimpse into the most rarified world of Balenciaga's couture patrons.

Christóbal Balenciaga as a young man
Image courtesy of the Spanish Institute

Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972) began his career as an apprentice to a tailor at the age of thirteen in his native Spain, where he learned dressmaking skills and eventually opened couture salons in Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastián.  He moved to Paris in 1937 during the Spanish Revolution and practiced couture there until 1968, when he closed his business.  Supposedly the shock of the news was so great for Mona Bismarck that she took to her bed for three days, devastated by it.  Poor thing, it must have been just awful for her.

The clothes are displayed against backdrops of
Spanish interiors and locations
Image courtesy of the Spanish Institute

The exhibit at the Spanish Institute displays Balenciaga's clothing dating primarily from the 1940s through the 1960s, and the outfits range in style from frothy confections of sheer feminine elegance to severe, architectural ones reminiscent of ecclesiastical robes.

A later, monastic outfit
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York
Image courtesy of same

While Reggie certainly appreciates the mastery of all of the clothing on display in the exhibit, he prefers the prettier party frocks, which in some cases took his breath away.  So lovely and ladylike.

A lovely Balenciaga dress from the 1960s
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York
Image courtesy of same

Reggie likes to attend such exhibits when he can because he is a student of social history of the world inhabited by the likes of the great couturiers' patrons.  Seeing what these ladies wore is a window into their (mostly) private world.  It's one thing to read about Thelma Chrysler Foy, it is another thing altogether to see the dress she actually wore.

The Institute's building on Park Avenue
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Another reason to see the Balenciaga exhibit, aside from the clothes that is, is that it is mounted in the Spanish Institute's lovely neo-Federal townhouse on Park Avenue.  Designed in 1926 by McKim, Mead & White for the Oliver D. Filleys, it was given to the Spanish Institute in 1965 by Margaret Rockefeller Strong de Larrain, Marquesa de Cuevas (now that's a mouthful!).  The building is a fitting venue for the show, as it is the type of house that Balenciaga's patrons very well could have lived in when they frequented his salon and commissioned his elegant frocks.

For those of my readers who are fortunate to live on the West Coast, an expanded version of the show will reopen as Balenciaga and Spain at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, where it will run from March 26 through July 4. 

Balenciaga: Spanish Master
Queen Sofia Institute
684 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10065
(212) 628-0420


  1. In that case I shall certainly visit when it comes to California. Lucky us!

  2. Dearest R, Oh, how I should love to have joined you on a visit to this exhibition. The clothes and the architecture of the building in which it is housed look most interesting, a perfect partnership. If I were to choose, then it would be the tailored rather than the frilly.....but any Balenciaga gown would be a welcome gift!!

  3. How I'd love to see this. I was fortunate to see the Golden Age of Couture show last summer. Pure magic.

  4. Reggie, thank you for some of the more intimate details of the exhibit.

    I do like the more tailored with a fabulous piece of jewelry. To wear a Balenciaga gown would make me feel like a queen.The women who wore his collections had lives that I am sure, would be so interesting to know more of...

    Art by Karena

  5. It is an extraordinary show; I went on opening night and was bedazzled by it all. And especially by a wonderful silk printed with carnations.

  6. It would be wonderful to see these luxurious garments in person...and it would be even better to own one!

  7. Thanks for the heads up Reggie! I will have to definitely get to the exhibit before it's gone. Beautiful post.

  8. I am so disappointed that one cannot get to NYC to see this. Balenciaga was one of the true greats of the world of Haute Couture in the 20th century! However unlike Reggie Savoir Faire prefers his more architectural offerings, as he created lines so pure that no one has been able to duplicate

  9. Beautiful indeed. That 'monastic' little black number is almost a master class in elegance

  10. Wow! Reggie, that looks totally up my street. I can't make NY but I'm going to California later in the year and shall try and catch this. The dress is indeed a master class in elegance, how beautifully put by TDED. Hope all's well with you both and Pompey of course xx


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails