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Four paper fashion collections presented together for the first time
Isabelle de Borchgrave, Maria-Maddalena d’Austria, 2007, based on a 1622 portrait of Maria-Maddalena with her son Ferdinand II by Justus Sustermans in the collection of the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, Michigan. Photo: Andreas von Einsiedel.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA.- The Oklahoma City Museum of Art opened the special exhibition, “Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper,” on June 16. The exhibition features 67 life-size, trompe l’œil paper costumes of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave.

“This exhibition will be the culmination of a fruitful collaboration among several institutions,” explained President and CEO, E. Michael Whittington. “The work began several years ago when the OKCMOA team and our colleagues met with the artist in her Brussels studio to explore the possibility of a retrospective that would tour throughout the United States. I am especially appreciative of Kevin Sharp and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens staff for their lead role in organizing this project.”

“We are thrilled to host Isabelle de Borchgrave’s work in Oklahoma City,” added Director of Curatorial Affairs Dr. Michael J. Anderson. “As one of the most prominent artists working in Europe today, de Borchgrave is well known for her creativity and ingenuity in the fields of painting, fashion and paper sculpture. Visitors will be amazed at the intricacy and beauty of her artwork and surprised to know she crafted the work in this exhibition using just paper and paint.”

de Borchgrave (born 1946) is a prominent Belgian artist, painter and sculptor, best known for her intricate paper costumes. Following a visit to the Metropolitan Museum in 1994, de Borchgrave began working in the new medium, creating trompe l’œil paper works in what eventually would become four major paper fashion collections.

• The first, “Papiers à la Mode” (Paper in Fashion), takes a fresh look at 300 years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel. In collaboration with her friend, Rita Brown, a Canadian-based theatrical costume maker, de Borchgrave created 25 life-size dresses drawn from paintings and actual garments representing a selection of beautiful silhouettes from various periods in exquisite and unusual textiles.

• “The World of Mariano Fortuny” will immerse museumgoers in the elegant world of 20th-century Venice with de Borchgrave’s interpretations of the painter and fashion designer’s iconic Grecian-styled dresses and tunics.

• “Splendor of the Medici” will lead visitors through the streets of Florence, where they will encounter famous figures in their sumptuous ceremonial dress. For this collection—featuring the most complicated costumes she has made thus far—de Borchgrave worked with 10 studio assistants for more than a year to create 30 elaborate paper sculptures, textured and detailed with jewelry, shoes and accessories.

• And in “Les Ballets Russes,” de Borchgrave pays tribute to Serge de Diaghilev, Pablo Picasso, Léon Bakst and Henri Matisse, who all designed for the extraordinary ballet company. Working from a combination of photographs and artist’s drawings, de Borchgrave created dynamic sculptures that bring the boldly colored costumes to life.

This exhibition is organized by OKCMOA, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Society of the Four Arts Frick Art and Historical Center, and Artis-Naples, the Baker Museum and is the first time all four collections are being presented together in a retrospective of de Borchgrave’s innovative work.

Along with these pieces, a series of 11 kaftans highlighting Silk Road textiles have been included, as well as a newly commissioned costume inspired by a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, “Portrait of Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, Princess of Condé,” c. 1610. Both the costume and the original Rubens portrait have been included in the exhibition.

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