July 2010

Culture(d)—July 2010

edited by MAYER RUS

  • Mid-18th-century French men’s three-piece collarless
suit made of luxurious silk <i>ciselé</i> velvet.
  • A 1780–85 velvet jacket, with paste stones, foil,
sequins and metallic-thread-embroidery appliqué trim.
  • Silk-satin waistcoat with sequins and metallic-thread
embroidery, made to be worn with the jacket above.
  • Special archival mounts in nonreflective aluminum
drawers hold the museum’s 18th-century shoe collection.
  • The graceful back of a French-style gown (<i>robe à la
Française</i>), circa 1775, made of silk brocade.


Just the anticipation of Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan’s arrival in 2007 inspired costume and textiles department head Sharon Takeda to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime European collection.

The acquisition—of mostly French items containing every fashionable silhouette reflecting the historical, political and artistic changes in the span of 200 years—would be perfect for the museum, whose holdings were mostly English and American.

This being Hollywood, securing it was not without suspense. The dealers—London’s Martin Kamer and Swiss Galerie Ruf—weren’t optimistic that a new director would jump at growing the museum’s current costume and textiles department and basically wrote off LACMA as a potential buyer.

They were wrong. After reviewing the pieces with Takeda and Ellen Michelson of LACMA’s Costume Council, Govan was exhilarated. LACMA doesn’t divulge the cost of acquisitions, but the collection has been estimated in the multimillions. Michelson agreed to have the Costume Council fund roughly a third, and Govan set to raising the rest. Donations came in through a series of salons, with the lion’s share provided by philanthropist Suzanne Saperstein.

The initial exhibition—Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915—doesn’t open till October 2, when it inaugurates the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion, but we thought you needed a first look. —Nina Kotick