My friend wrote up a good review on Vivienne Westwood's exhibit at the De Young museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate park.
Only yesterday did I have the pleasure of observing the exhibit myself. I thought I would lend my two cents as well.
I agree with my friend's take on the lack of music. It was a little sterile without it. I also think adding more lighting to the later pieces might've pleased the color palette more. But I was actually really inspired by the dark setting! I mean, especially with her early stuff, that's the environment the clothes were designed for. Dark, musty, hot underground spaces with live music. Now that she points it out, it seemed like the music element of her work was noticeably absent while we were there. Then again, punk music may be grating to the average museum goer. It seems to go hand-in-hand with Westwood's work though. I was practically humming Siouxsie and the Banshees while observing her shoes.
The videos were kinda annoying. I like video in museums when done well as an accompaniment or even cleverly designed as it's own installation (think Bill Viola et. al.), but not really as a center piece. It felt like these videos were meant to substitute a piece of exhibit. I did appreciate when it would show a model acting out a piece that was on display near the video, but for the most part it was just brain candy that could've been easily replaced with more cleverly posed mannequins.
And her quotes on the wall were pretty much shit. I mean, taking up a whole wall to say that theres a clock that reacts to anything ordinary is redundant and slightly patronizing. We know she's unusual! She doesn't have to announce it at the entrance. We could all figure it out ourselves in the time it takes to say the word "Sex." If Ms. Westwood put those quotes up herself, I think I'd feel a bit embarrassed for her.
It was also nice to see her return to the early stuff with her last line. The t-shirt that featured "I'm not a terrorist, please do not arrest me" superimposed on a giant heart is brilliant, and so reminiscent of her classic Westwood/McLaren partnership. The shirt's message is controversial and thought provoking, much like when "Sex Pistols" was overlaid on top of a British flag reminiscent of a ransom note. Indeed, if the government of now were transposed to the seventies when punks were introduced and misunderstood, I do think that most of our favorite punks would have seen terrorist charges for no other reason than their identity and demeanor. They were practically there anyways in the seventies. Now with habeas corpus in question...
Anyway, back to the point at hand. I love her fashion - even her later couture stuff (and her pirate line, of course). If it was practical to buy, I'd be shopping at her store. Most of her fashion, besides maybe some of her eighties collection, stand the test of time. It makes me think Betsy Johnson and Gwen's L.A.M.B. labels should have an obligatory thank you to Ms. Westwood on the labels.
I was most impressed with the crowd. It was as if many attendees dressed that day in reverence to Vivienne. The fashion of many museum goers were so much more of a tribute to her than the exhibit itself, and vividly so in comparison to the real deal exhibited in pictures and mannequins. I like to think that if Vivienne Westwood was watching from the wings she would be proud. It was particularly striking to see the leather and chain clad youth among the other exhibits. It was a breath of fresh air to see punks still live in or around the city. Their absence is (mostly) missed.