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"Cristóbal Balenciaga: Collector of Fashions" opens at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Left: Collection privée Cristóbal Balenciaga, Nœud de communiant, fin XIXe ou début XXe siècle, Culotte, fin XVIIIe siècle. Right: Balenciaga, Robe du soir, haute couture A/H 1957, n°91© Scheltens & Abbenes / Galliera.

TEL AVIV.- The exhibition "Cristóbal Balenciaga: Collector of Fashions" presents the Spanish couturier's (1895–1972) passion for Spain's heritage, as expressed through his personal collection of clothes and textiles housed in the Musée Galleria, Paris, and items from the Balenciaga Archives.

Cristóbal Balenciaga's body of work has inspired generations of designers, and research into it is steadily growing since the designer's death in 1972.

Over the course of three decades, from 1937 to 1968, Balenciaga elevated the craft of haute couture into an art form. He studied the qualities of the fabric and its innate potential, and knew how to infuse movement into every fabric type with which he worked. He explored the body's volume and the interrelations between its various parts. With the dexterity of a master he introduced folds in the fabric, thereby reinventing the female silhouette while removing the waistline and broadening the shoulders—acts largely inspired by the Japanese kimono, which also inspired the perception of the garment's back side. In addition to the innovative interpretation he gave traditional dresses from Spain's various provinces, he revolutionized the reference to proletarian work clothes which, under his hand, became wonderfully elegant.

Balenciaga knew how to flatter the imperfect body and create a comfortable setting for it via elaborate architectural-structural cuts, such as the barrel line in 1947 and the 1948 capes; the elongated silhouette of his signature "semi-fitted" line (in contrast to Dior's tight fitting contours), which he began developing in 1951 and is characterized by a tightly tailored front and a loose back; unbelted suits; loose-sleeved shirts; puffy balloon skirts; tubular tunic dresses (1955', "sack" dresses, which blur the waistline (1957); baby-doll dresses in trapezoidal cut (1958); and a variety of loose, over-sized coats.

One way to examine an artist's world and his sources of inspiration is through the items that have accumulated in his possession over the years, ones which he purchased, received as gifts, or exchanged with other artists—works of art and items of fashion, books, notes, and newspaper clippings. Balenciaga's sources of inspiration are thus exposed in his unique collection, presented in Israel to the public for the first time. Olivier Saillard, Director and Chief Curator of the Galliera Fashion Museum in Paris and the show's curator, chose to fuse them into an "anti-spectacular" exhibition with an archival appearance, a hermeneutic-biographical outline which juxtaposes items of clothing designed by Balenciaga from his arrival in Paris in 1937 at the age of 42 up until his retirement in 1968, with items from his private collection: fabrics and traditional garments from different regions of Spain, bullfighting attire, jackets, boleros and waistcoats, hoods and capes, scarves and collars, beaded decorative accessories, sequins, needlework, lace, and appliqués, as well as various magazines and books, spanning the period from the late 18th century to the 1970s.

The exhibition was organized by Musée Galleria, Paris, and brings together items from its collection and the Balenciaga Archives, Paris

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