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New Geoffrey Beene Archive at Phoenix Art Museum to be unveiled at February virtual event
Behind the scenes of "Geoffrey Beene: A Duet of Fashion and Movement." Manley Films production. Courtesy of Manley Films.

PHOENIX, ARIZ.- Phoenix Art Museum and Arizona Costume Institute, a Museum affiliate group that supports the institution’s fashion design department, will present a virtual unveiling of the new Geoffrey Beene Archive at Phoenix Art Museum on February 11, 2021 at 6 pm. The virtual fundraiser, entitled Geoffrey Beene: A Duet of Fashion and Movement, celebrates a recent gift of more than 350 Beene garments to Phoenix Art Museum from Patsy Tarr, longtime Beene patron, president of the 2wice Arts Foundation, and founder and publisher of 2wice magazines and books, which sets the stage for a future exhibition of Beene’s work at the Museum during the 2022-2023 exhibition season. Among the evening’s highlights, the event will feature the premiere of an original short film that provides an in-depth look at 25 garments by the designer, renowned for his whimsical, comfortable, and exacting designs; a dance performance by Deanna McBrearty, former dancer in the New York City Ballet and Beene model; stories by founding archive contributor Tarr; and comments by Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO; Helen Jean, the Museum’s Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design; and Kathie May, president of Arizona Costume Institute. Geoffrey Beene: A Duet of Fashion and Movement will be streamed live and is open free to the public, with suggested donations of $250 or greater in support of the fashion design program and collection at Phoenix Art Museum. Additional sponsorship and underwriting opportunities are also available to support the event, the preservation of the archive, and educational programming. The February event replaces the annual ACI Holiday Luncheon, which was postponed to December 6, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and raises vital funds each year in support of the Museum’s fashion design program.

“We are incredibly excited to present this event at a time when our community’s ability to gather together is limited by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. “Geoffrey Beene: A Duet of Fashion and Movement celebrates the generosity of donors like Patsy Tarr, who give so generously in support of Phoenix Art Museum; the artistry of Geoffrey Beene; and the support of Arizona Costume Institute. Although we are sad not to celebrate the Holiday Luncheon together in 2020, I am grateful to our ACI volunteers, led by ACI president Kathie May and event chairs Ruby Farias, Kelley Sucher, Perrine Adams, and Laura Madden, for creating something exceptional and engaging that increases access to our fashion design collection during these challenging times.”

In addition to celebrating the unveiling of the new Geoffrey Beene Archive at Phoenix Art Museum, Geoffrey Beene: A Duet of Fashion and Movement marks an important milestone, as ACI has pledged $67,500 over five years to support the acquisition of additional work by the late designer to further grow the breadth and depth of the Beene Archive. Considered one of the most whimsical designers in American history and renowned for his superb technical skills, Geoffrey Beene (1927–2004) created forward-thinking, practical, and comfortable women’s fashions that showcased contrasting details and clean, geometric designs, while also highlighting his distinct humor, wit, and artistic vision. Throughout his career, Beene created versatile jumpsuits, intricately detailed boleros, elegant evening gowns, and more, earning wide acclaim for his designs that centered comfort and movement, both in how the wearer experienced his garments and how the onlooker viewed his technically precise patterns and forms that often created the illusion of motion. Also considered the father of American sportswear, Beene famously used challenging fabrics with significant pliability such as double-knit jersey, primarily used in tshirts, to construct stylized designs that ensured maximum comfort, a feat that could be achieved only by someone with his mastery of tailoring. Beene was additionally known for regularly incorporating elements of menswear, including ties and starched-style collars, into his womenswear, evidence of his tailoring background. Throughout his career, he received various awards and accolades, including induction into the Fashion Hall of Fame, eight Coty Fashion Critics Awards, and a lifetime achievement award in 1998 from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He also created the wedding dress for Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of former U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson and First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson. Beene’s work can be found in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, de Young Museum, Fashion Institute of Technology, and Victoria and Albert Museum, among many other internationally renowned fashion collections.

“Geoffrey Beene prioritized movement in every single design, and the virtual event Geoffrey Beene: A Duet of Fashion and Movement explores and celebrates this boundless mobility inherent in his masterfully crafted work,” said Helen Jean, the Museum’s Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design. “Through a video produced by Phoenix-based Manley Films and messages from Patsy Tarr, Beene Archive donor, and former ballerina and longtime Beene model Deanna McBrearty, event attendees will enjoy the unprecedented opportunity to closely examine his impeccable garments, now part of the Museum’s new Geoffrey Beene Archive, through the lenses of physical, aesthetic, and social movement to learn how he constructed comfortable yet stunning ensembles that ensured maximum mobility and gave the illusion of movement through various patterns and forms.”

Members of the public who attend the virtual event on February 11 will discover the sense of movement and artistry in Beene’s designs through the world premiere of a film created by the Museum in collaboration with Phoenix-based Manley Films. Featuring more than 25 ensembles from the collection, the video is narrated by Tarr and McBrearty, who will also share their experiences working with the designer. The evening will additionally feature a pre-recorded dance homage by McBrearty, who performs original choreography in a jumpsuit created by the late designer to demonstrate the range of mobility his garments allow, in addition to comments that celebrate Beene’s high-performance couture by Rodgers, Jean, and May.

“Arizona Costume Institute is honored to play a pivotal role in the success of the fashion design department at Phoenix Art Museum and present this once-in-a-lifetime experience that celebrates and shares these new works by Geoffrey Beene with our members and the Museum’s diverse audiences,” said Kathie May, who has served as ACI president since 2019. “We hope that by making this event accessible to all in our community, more people will have the opportunity to learn about the Museum’s exciting collection and find ways to get involved in support of our Phoenix Art Museum.”

Geoffrey Beene: A Duet of Fashion and Movement will be presented free to the public on February 11, 2021 at 6 pm.

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