If you need a break from the busy pace of the pre-holiday season, an oasis of sumptuous beauty can be found at the exhibition Fortuny y Madrazo: An Artistic Legacy, at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute. I stopped by on Saturday (after seeing Ann Hamilton’s installation at the Park Avenue Armory ) and was completely seduced by this show. In the past two years QSSI has presented three wonderful fashion exhibitions, including Balenciaga: Spanish Master, curated by Hamish Bowles, and Joaquín Sorolla and the Glory of Spanish Dress—so I will definitely bookmark their site to watch for upcoming exhibitions!
Although Mariano Fortuny is most deeply associated with his adopted city of Venice, he was born into a Spanish artistic dynasty. His parents and grandparents were artists, curators and collectors, who helped to build the Prado’s extraordinary collection. Based on his father’s Orientalist paintings as well as his own extensive travels, Fortuny drew on the ornament many cultures, from North Africa to Japan, in creating the fabrics and clothing which brought his many and varied talents to a wide audience. Curated by Oscar de la Renta, the exhibition presents several dozen examples of Fortuny’s textiles and fashions, many from private collections, along with his paintings, photographs, and books.
Any textile lover will be seduced by his interpretations Persian, Hispano-Moresque and Italian Renaissance motifs in luxurious velvet fabrics. I have always felt that his legacy as a printer has been somewhat undermined by excessive secrecy on the part of the company, which is still in operation. While this exhibition does not provide any technical examination of the fabrics, it does at least provide the opportunity for close examination of a large number of superb examples. The subtlety of the coloration and complexity of the surface finishes is inspiring, still.
Exhibition runs from November 30, 2012−March 30, 2013
Queen Sofía Spanish Institute
684 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10065
Associate Curator, Cooper-Hewitt,
National Design Museum