After a fashion

Zaha Hadid’s exhibition design for the Hayward’s Addressing the Century show covers 100 years in five galleries, Clare Dowdy remains unmoved

Clothes and accessories generally look best worn, so it is quite a challenge to create an exhibition which displays them to their credit.

Architect Zaha Hadid was aware of this dilemma when she designed the Hayward Gallery’s latest show, Addressing the Century – 100 Years of Art and Fashion.

The exhibition, which opened last week, examines the influence art and fashion have had on each other this century over five gallery spaces. “The use of light and darkness, as well as shifting sightlines and viewpoints, is complicit in the resolution of the paradox of exhibiting objects which are normally in transition,” says Hadid.

Indeed, the first gallery, called Decoration, feels positively dark. Pieces by turn-of-the-century designers such as Paul Poiret are laid flat in boxy, glass-covered installation blocks.

This style develops as each gallery – featuring the post-war years, the Thirties, Sixties, and beyond – gets lighter and more animated. This culminates in the last space, called Convergence, where Gilbert and George dance on video, and amazingly long white creations are hung from the Hayward’s lofty ceiling.

Exhibitors include Gustav Klimt, Man Ray, Pierre Cardin, Issey Miyake, Philip Treacy and Helen Storey. While it is frustrating not to be able to touch the objects (there are signs everywhere that even clean fingers can damage material), the visitor is encouraged to throw caution to the wind in the Dressing Room area.

Here 30 fine art and textiles students from The Slade, Loughborough College and Sir John Cass School of Art have work on show which examines the fusion between art and fashion in the Nineties. Handling is encouraged in this section, and pieces can be tried on at certain times of the day.

Esterson Lackersteen’s graphics are clear, simple and in keeping with Hadid’s geometric display systems. However, directional signage is lacking and it is easy to leapfrog from the first to third gallery by accident.

This exhibition has grand ambitions and some areas are very informative. However, as one visitor at the preview said, “I wouldn’t pay to see it.”

Addressing the Century – 100 Years of Art and Fashion runs at the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank until 11 January 1999

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