AMSTERDAM.- The Stedelijk Museum
presents The Gijs+Emmy Spectacle, Fashion and Jewelry design by Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum 19671972. The exhibition is based on a legendary fashion show presented by the artist duo Gijs Bakker (1942) and Emmy van Leersum (19301984) in 1967.
In the late 1960s, Bakker and Van Leersum, both trained jewelry designers, created a furor with their avant-garde jewelry and clothing that fused fashion, design, and art. Two one-off events and numerous exhibitions brought Gijs and Emmy international recognition in the world of 1960s jewelry design and sparked a true revolution.
Bakker and Van Leersums breakthrough came in 1967 when they presented their vision of a total concept of fashion and jewelry with a spectacular show at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. The show was the opening event of the exhibition Edelsmeden 3. This show launched Gijs and Emmy as pioneers in their field, says Marjan Boot, curator of the upcoming exhibition. The futuristic garments, large aluminum necklaces, the styling of the models and the fashion show element featuring electronic music, spotlights, and rhythmical movements propelled them to the vanguard of youth culture.
The most famous item of jewelry featured in the show is undoubtedly Bakkers Stovepipe Necklace (with matching bracelet), now an icon of Dutch design. Bakker was the first designer to create a piece of jewelry of such audacity and on such a scale. It was a provocation. At the time, Bakker said, To me, theres something brazen in seizing on something as mundane as a stove pipe in jewelry design.
Such large, bold collars demanded a self-assured wearer. It was a statement radical, progressive, and, most of all, liberated.
In their work, Gijs and Emmy strove to create a synthesis between jewelry, clothing, and the personality of the wearer (male and female). Exploring jewelry as a separate, yet integral, part of fashion was a key element of their vision; Gijs and Emmy were concerned with the total look. They turned their backs on the elite, status-oriented world of haute couture and the inward-looking world of handcrafted jewelry. To enhance their desired synergy between wearer, jewelry, and apparel, the duo experimented with new modes of presentation such as a jewelry show with live models. Their innovative logo was a collective stamp with the names Gijs+Emmy.
In 1970, after exhibiting widely abroad, Gijs and Emmy explored the theme of integrated jewelry and fashion in Amsterdam in the exhibition Kledingsuggesties (Clothing Suggestions). The presentation featured costumes made from a stretch fabric newly available on the market. The outfits were a kind of basic garment that wearers could customize. Van Leersums designs incorporated hardened prosthetics, while Bakker used nylon rings.
The heart of the Stedelijks exhibition comprises a reconstruction of the 1967 show. Visitors are immediately immersed in the world of Gijs and Emmy by a teaser video by artist Bart Hess (1984) that includes backstage images and sounds recorded shortly before the show began. Seven outfits are presented on a catwalk: five historic costumes with the original large necklaces and two reconstructions. Presented in close proximity are the jewelry designs the couple submitted for the exhibition Edelsmeden 3. The display also reflects on the role of photography and the media, with photographs by Matthijs Schrofer, Sjaak Ramakers, and others. An adjacent gallery presents the designs that Gijs and Emmy included in Objects to Wear, an exhibition that toured America, in addition to a number of private commissions for costumes with matching jewelry.
There is no surviving footage of the 1967 fashion show. Marjan Boot was able to reconstruct the show on the basis of a handful of descriptions by those who saw it, scores of reviews, and conversations with those involved in the original show such as photo model Sonja Bakker, Renie van Wijk a young journalist who participated in the show as an ordinary girl, photographers, journalists, and the design duos earliest fans. Gijs and Emmys early work was particularly prized by those who frequented avant-garde Amsterdam galleries such as Galerie Swart and Art & Project.