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Indepth Arts News:

"Versace at the V&A: A Retrospective of Gianni Versace (1946-1997)"
2002-10-17 until 2003-01-12
Victoria and Albert Museum
London, , UK

A major retrospective of the work of fashion designer Gianni Versace (1946-1997) opens at the V&A . Versace at the V&A is the largest exhibition the V&A has ever dedicated to one fashion designer. Versace at the V&A will feature the most comprehensive collection of clothing ever exhibited from the Versace archives. More than 130 of his designs will be on display. It will examine the lifetimes work of this leading designer, illustrating the diversity of his work over 30 years.

The exhibition will show Versaces great originality and versatility, and also the craft and innovative technical developments which he pursued in his search for beauty.

The house of Versace is renowned for its style and luxury and Gianni Versace was famous for dressing the most glamorous celebrities. Versace at the V&A will feature high profile works worn by Princess Diana, Elton John, Madonna, Courtney Love, and the unforgettable safety pin dress worn by Elizabeth Hurley.

Other major themes in Versace at the V&A will include Versace’s designs for numerous opera and ballet productions featuring many of his stunning theatrical pieces. These include costumes for the 1991 production of ‘Capriccio’ at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (the exhibition will show a beautiful evening dress made for Dame Kiri Te Kanawa) and the 1987 production of ‘Salomé at La Scala Theatre, Milan.

Versace was an eclectic and highly knowledgeable collector of art. A section is devoted to designs which reflect his passion for historical artefacts and contemporary art.

The ‘Ballroom’ area of the exhibition will be dedicated to jewelled and embroidered couture garments and classical evening wear, while further areas will include the leather creations, tailoring and printed fabrics, many of which will be exhibited on mannequins designed by Gianni Versace himself. In the final section of the show visitors will have the opportunity to handle many original examples of clothing and fabric such as the metal mesh which Versace developed early in his career.

Documentary film footage about the life and career of Gianni Versace, one of the most colourful and talented designers of the late 20th century, will also be shown.

Today Versace, based in Milan, remains one of the world’s leading fashion houses and is still a family run business. Since 1997, Donatella Versace, Gianni’s sister, has been Chief Designer and has carried the spirit of the house of Versace into the 21st century. Under her direction, the house continues to receive wide critical acclaim as she creates her own signature. The exhibition concludes with several dresses from her recent collections including the Jungle Print dress worn by Jennifer Lopez.

The V&A’s connections to Gianni Versace date back to 1985 when the Museum hosted a study day on the designer. Versace designs were also on show in the dress gallery, the first Versace display in the UK.

A book, The Art and Craft of Gianni Versace, will be published by V&A Publications. Edited by Claire Wilcox and including contributions from Valerie Mendes and Chiara Buss, it will (£24.95) contain 200 colour illustrations with a paperback cover which opens out into a page size flap featuring a colourful parade of images.

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