Why Wasn’t “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” a Success?

by Barb on November 19, 2012

met exhibit prada 560x372 Why Wasnt Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations a Success?

Visitors looking at the Schiaparelli and Prada exhibit at The Met

I may be a late to the game in terms of weighing in on what perhaps “went wrong” with the Met’s “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” feature exhibit, which ended this past August; suffice to say, I haven’t had a moment to sit down to gather my thoughts (although this sounds a bit like a broken record, since I’ve mentioned this several times now). That said, I’ve decided to make time, as opposed to wait, to write on fashion exhibitions and theories.

When the numbers came in, attendance was noted at a lacklustre 339 838 visitors (which pales in comparison to the record-breaking McQueen exhibit, which had 661 509 visitors), the curators were in expectance of the turnout on account of their desire for something that was more intellectual as opposed to an emotional experience. Cowles postulated that such led to an exhibit that made guests simply say “well, that was interesting,” as opposed to “OH MY GOD — THAT IS A MUST SEE!” This assertion offered could be enough to explain away the number of visitors and slow churn at the exhibit’s closing, however, upon viewing the exhibition, there is more that stands behind the flat reaction.

Firstly, in order to enjoy the exhibit, one has to suspend belief so as to permit the hypothesized conversations between these two designers. But even in doing so, the dialogue seems contrived, grasping at connections between the two icons’ ideologies. While it is pleasant to see the Vanity Fair series come to life, the extension of conversation to over seven vignettes seems a bit farfetched.

Secondly, despite the fact that the cinematics are pleasing to the eye, they are disruptive to the flow of the exhibit. Each dialogue lasts anywhere from a minute to several, along with a delay in between every start and finish. There is no way to perfectly time the visit, and to take away as much as possible, a decent amount of time is spent simply standing in front of the projection screen, watching a vignette midway and hoping for it to quickly begin again. Not to mention, the acoustics (and mind you, it was towards the closing days, yet not particularly crowded, when I went) were at times difficult to hear, thus losing some of the ambience that the curator sought to create.

Lastly, creating an intellectual work requires the necessary background to be given; however, there was little if any provided at the exhibit, apart from the website and pamphlet. In effect, the notion that this exhibit was menat to be intellectual was lost, and could be viewed more so as entertainment, thus accounting for the mild, as opposed to feverish, reaction to it all.

By no means was the exhibit a failure, but it certainly was one that didn’t clearly assert itself to be either emotional/entertaining or intellectual. Had it done so and worked out the logistics, the turnout may have fared better or attracted the correct demographic.

Image via NY Mag

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