Phoenix Art Museum receives major gift to expand dedicated fashion galleries
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Phoenix Art Museum receives major gift to expand dedicated fashion galleries
(Left to right) Jeanne Paquin, Black velvet tight-fitting evening dress with ostrich feather dropped skirt, 1930. Velvet (black), ostrich feathers. Gift of Mrs. Wesson Seyburn; Christian Dior, Black tulle evening bodice and tulle ballerina length evening skirt, 1954. Tulle (black). Gift of Mrs. Louis Coblentz; Yves Saint Laurent, Black wool tuxedo jacket and tuxedo-style pants, 1967. Wool. Gift of Mrs. David E. K. Bruce.

PHOENIX, AZ.- Today, Phoenix Art Museum announced a major gift from longtime Museum supporters and former Board Trustees Kelly and Steve Ellman that enables the Museum to expand fivefold the footprint of its fashion galleries, dedicated to exhibitions that showcase the history and art of fashion. The Kelly Ellman Fashion Galleries will open on October 9, 2024 with the first exhibition in a three-part series that explores the depths of the Museum’s fashion holdings. Drawn exclusively from the PhxArt fashion collection, The Collection: Greatest Fits (Vol. 1): The Art of Archiving Fashion features more than 80 garments and accessories. The display traces the formation of the Museum’s collection and the impact of Arizona Costume Institute on its expansion, while showcasing the collection’s impressive breadth and depth. Iconic silhouettes from the 18th century through the present and vignettes illustrating significant themes and historical moments demonstrate the collection’s ability to explore and educate about the larger history of fashion. In addition to the expanded gallery space and inaugural exhibition, the Ellman gift also ensures fashion-related acquisitions, publications, and the early phases of a major collection digitization project.

“We are deeply grateful to the Ellman family for their ongoing support of Phoenix Art Museum’s beloved fashion collection over the past three decades,” said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. “Through major gifts, acquisition and programming support, and their continued invaluable patronage, the Ellmans have played a critical role in ensuring that PhxArt upholds excellence in this particular collecting area. Their impact has truly enabled the Museum to make the art of fashion accessible for our broadest audiences.”

Phoenix Art Museum is one of few institutions in the United States that continually collects, preserves, and exhibits works of fashion, placing the southwestern institution in the company of other leading fashion museums. The Museum began collecting fashion in 1966, when Arizona Costume Institute was founded to support the acquisition and preservation of garments and accessories of historical and aesthetic significance. Today, the PhxArt fashion collection houses more than 9,000 objects of women’s, men’s, and children’s dress spanning the 18th century through the present. It is also home to three special archives, including the Geoffrey Beene Archive of more than 300 garments by the late designer gifted by Patsy Tarr; the Emphatics Archive, featuring avant-garde fashions by Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler, and others; and the Ann Bonfoey Taylor Archive, featuring the extraordinary custom- couture wardrobe of the American-socialite and tastemaker.

The Ellman family has supported the Museum’s fashion collection since 1986, including a major gift that endowed the first iteration of the Ellman Fashion Design Gallery. This newest gift reaffirms the Museum’s commitment to increasing dedicated gallery space to our fashion collection, which now includes the entire mid-level floor of the Museum’s south wing. This change brings the institution’s permanent exhibition space for fashion from 1,200+ sq. ft. to nearly 6,400 sq. ft. The Ellman’s gift will also support future fashion exhibitions through the Kelly Ellman Fashion Endowment Fund, the establishment of the Ellman Fashion Program Fellow position, the first phases of a multi-year digitization project that will make the fashion collection more accessible to the general public on, a collection publication created by SCALA Arts & Heritage Publishers, and fashion-related acquisitions that further strengthen and grow the Museum’s expansive fashion holdings.

The space’s inaugural exhibition, Greatest Fits (Vol. 1): The Art of Archiving Fashion, opens on October 9, 2024. Exhibition highlights include:

• A history on the founding of the Museum’s fashion collection, with an emphasis on the efforts of Arizona Costume Institute and notable supporters, including the Ellman family.

• A graphic display of more than 20 all-black silhouettes that have defined fashion history from the 18th century to the present.

• Vignettes of significant fashion “happenings” and themes, such as the Battle at Versailles, a high-fashion showdown between American and French designers in 1973; outstanding examples of avant-garde fashions; garments that draw inspiration from Romanticism and Greco-Roman culture; and technology-driven designs.

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