Friday, May 23, 2014

The Met Roof and The Frocks of Charles James



The Met in New York City is one of the half dozen great art museums in the world, but I get the giggles every time I go to one of their contemporary rooftop installations. The current iteration gets points for creating a Green Space rather than the metaphorically blood-splattered floor of last summer's edition, but it still feels a bit silly.



I turned 60 on Thursday, a milestone which I never expected to experience for some reason, and tearing through the Met with seemingly half the rest of the world on a Thursday afternoon was a delightful way to spend it.



The most interesting special show was a fashion exhibit of rich ladies' ballgowns by Charles James from the 1940s through 1960s. David Byrne, who is a longtime blogger on top of everything else, wrote last week about the exhibit and its fascinations, and he was dead on. The designs of the gowns and the computer graphics in front of each of the structured frocks illustrating their engineering are totally fascinating.



Byrne also writes: "James was notoriously temperamental and fussy. One could say he was an artist who wanted his work seen in the best way possible, but after insulting too many rich lady clients and their friends (he called one woman a frump to her face and refused to dress her), well, the commissions began to dry up...James died penniless in squalor in the Chelsea Hotel in 1978. Changing times yes, but a lot of his problems he seemed to have brought on himself. The artist as a horrible, bad-tempered asshole—we all know them."

That is a perfect New York Cautionary Tale, if ever I have heard one.

9 comments:

AphotoAday said...

Happy Birthday, Mike! I've been to the Met--great place!

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I love that the Terribly Insulting Word He Should Not Have Uttered was "frump." Maybe it really was a more genteel time. . .

Axel Feldheim said...

I don't know. "Frump" sounds awfully insulting to me. I don't think you'd do very well if you saw Dede Wilsey & called her a "frump."

Thanks for the link to the David Byrne post, Michael. That's an impressive use of technology. And it does seem interesting & valid to present the dresses from an engineering point of view.

Namastenancy said...

Congratulations on reaching the big 6-0. As one who is looking at 70, I can tell you that the 60's are quite an interesting landscape.

As for Mr. James - always a mistake to be too bitchy when your clientele is wealthy women. Just ask Truman Capote.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Axel, It's not so much that I think "frump" is not insulting, it's more that when I heard he was using words he should not have been using to rich women I thought of many far worse terms, which I will refrain from specifying since this is a family show.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Patrick: I have a feeling those words you are refraining from specifying were also used publicly about a few clients.

Namastenancy said...

I love it when you guys are so polite.

janinsanfran said...

Happy Birthday youngster. I can say that ... :-)

Rachel said...

Happy Birthday!
Sounds like you had a good time, that's fantastic.