Gender-Bending Fashion at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston sets out to emphasise that well before Generation Z mainstreamed gender disruption, there was already an extensive history of designers, celebrities and social activists consciously embracing gender fluidity through provocative and often sumptuous sartorial choices.

Just inside, viewers are given a definition of gender-bending and wall texts offering a crash course on relevant terms such as agender, gender queer and transsexual. The show’s curator, Michelle Tolini Finamore, clearly intends for these scholarly frameworks to add weight to the fun that lies beyond when, stepping into a long rectangular gallery, you feel as though you are both at and in an elite haute couture show, sashaying down the runway to anthems like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.

Jet black walls provide backdrops for skinny mannequins posing on podiums backlit in triangles of neon light and plexiglass. The exhibition design succeeds in making the show immersive but also risks trivializing its content, which thoroughly examines how controversial clothing choices (such as 20th-century women daring to “cross dress” in pants and breaking the law at times to do so), have played out amid shifts in how Western society regards gender and sexuality, patriarchy and power. Read More…

 

Image Credit: Courtesy of the MFA, Boston/Michael Blanchard

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Standing on the brick-paved Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts, and adjusting his purple silk scarf, Dan Monroe, who has served as the Peabody Essex Museum’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo executive director and CEO for over 25 years, gestured to the institution’s new expansion. “We have never believed that new buildings are the answer to transforming museums,” he provocatively said to the group gathered before him.

 

But with its collection of 1.8 million works, PEM had literally run out of exhibition space. Following a successful $650 million campaign, the museum hired New York–based firm Ennead Architects to design its new 40,000-square-foot wing. Set to open in September, the expansion marks the eighth extension of the museum since its 1799 founding by early American mariners. (These seafaring individuals were looking for a way to publicly display curiosities brought back from perilous voyages.) With this upcoming expansion, PEM will become one of the 10 largest museums in the U.S. in terms of size, collection, and endowment. Read More…

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Mark Lee, principal and founding partner of the Los Angeles–based architecture firm Johnston Marklee, is completing his first year as chair of the department of architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). Final exams loom, and to reach his office, one has to scramble up steep stairs past students’ desks—”trays” in GSD speak—at Gund Hall, a five-story open-plan beehive where bodies hunch over cutting mats and rulers with equally palpable panic and pleasure. A word play on Bauhaus, the building’s café, Chauhaus, pumps out cappuccinos below, and the aroma wafts upward.

It’s impossible to spend time on Harvard’s campus without sensing the living impact of the Bauhaus legacy, particularly with the rich offering of public programming related to the Weimar school’s centennial. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius found refuge from Nazi Germany with a chair position at GSD in 1937, and the university soon became an important center for the Bauhaus in exile, as Gropius passed down its educational principles to the next generation of influential architects including I.M. Pei and Philip Johnson. He even conceived his own living quarters, Gropius House, in nearby Lincoln, Massachusetts, as a living Bauhaus laboratory for students to experience. Read More…
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It is no secret that the art ecosystem in the Gulf is dominated by women. Much more than figureheads, there are female royal patrons, experienced expatriates and homegrown professionals leading cornerstone institutions including Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, 21,39 Jeddah Arts, Qatar Museums and Sharjah Art Foundation.

Western observers often delight in pondering why so many women are at the forefront of this scene, a relative newcomer to the global art world. “How is it possible that women’s voices can be heard so loudly in the Middle East?”, they ask, through thinly veiled Orientalism.

To the women themselves, gender is almost a non-issue. The Art Newspaper spoke to three female directors who are shaping the future of museums in the Gulf about their efforts to build creative communities, embrace inclusivity in the workplace and reveal the relevance—beyond the beauty—of Islamic art.

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