"We knew the exhibition would do well, but we didn't know how well," said Anna Wintour, editor of US Vogue, referring to Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011.  The exhibition attracted 661,409 visitors in just three months, ranking it alongside Met blockbusters such as Mona Lisa (1963) and Treasures of Tutankhamun (1978) and making it something of a turning point in how fashion exhibitions in major art museums were viewed by the public, critics and scholars. This consolidated a trend that had long been in formation. Major critically successful exhibitions have now thoroughly blurred boundaries between art and fashion and people no longer ask: But is it art and does it belong in a museum? No one is particularly interested in justifying whether fashion is art or not and fashion curation is now one of the most prestigious and exciting curatorial fields.
Sally Gray’s lecture will look at how fashion exhibitions are now seen as contributing to critical discourse about culture. She will examine how Australian fashion found its way into art museums showing that it was once a contested domain for museum prominence. Why is it that contemporary fashion exhibitions have drawn huge audiences and critical interest from a variety of observers? Among national and international examples, the lecture will investigate the curatorial framing for Christian Louboutin: Exhibitionist at the Palais de la Porte Doree in Paris in 2020 and the exhibition The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined, at the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene in Vienna, in 2017.