Monday, May 30, 2011

All Eyes on Kees van Dongen in Paris

The exhibition "Van Dongen: Fauve, anarchist, socialite" at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris presents the work of a painter who was once called "The Idol of Paris" at the height of his fame. Known for his portraits of Parisian socialites, this prolific painter was also the driving force behind Fauvism. Van Dongen was born in Rotterdam in 1877 and died in Monaco at the age of 91.

Kees van Dongen was only twenty years old when he moved to Paris. Anxious to conceal his beginnings as a draughtsman, he cultivated the myth of a meteoric rise to fame as an artist. In fact, he was quite calculated in his approach to his career by befriending art critics and society patrons with regular salon and studio parties. Included in his circle of influential friends was the couturier Paul Poiret and the eccentric Italian muse Marchesa Luisa Casati. Although van Dongen also painted Paris landscapes, interiors, circus performers and other works, I was most captivated by his society portraits.  Slightly abstracted and stylized, these portraits beautifully document the fashions of the 1920s and 1930s.
The exhibition includes approximately 90 paintings and drawings, as well as ceramics, dating from 1895 to the early 1930s. Designed in association with the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, this exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris runs until July 17, 2011. The exhibition catalogue called All Eyes on Kees van Dongen (available in both French and English) provides a comprehensive history of the artist's work and life.

Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
11 avenue du President Wilson
75116 Paris

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: Lunch in Paris

This is one of the books I packed on my recent trip to Paris. When I travel overseas, I seem to want to sleep when I should be awake and am awake when I should be sleeping, so packing a good book is a must. Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard, captivated and entertained me during several nights of jet-lag induced insomnia.

Although the book is a memoir, it reads a little bit like romantic fiction. The story is about a girl that takes a break from her studies in London, goes to Paris for a weekend, meets a handsome Frenchman -- and marries him. Uprooting herself and her ambitions for the sake of love, she fills her days by visiting the markets and conjuring up dishes like Duck Breasts with Blackberries (page 101) on the hotplate in their tiny apartment. Her husband is blissfully happy while she struggles with her ambitions to be more than a wife. The tale is charming from beginning to end and the sixty recipes included in the book seem to be both mouth-watering and manageable.

This is the perfect book for either a lazy summer afternoon when you wish you were in Paris or a late night when you are in Paris and cannot sleep.  And when you are done, you can find out what happened after the book by visiting the author's blog at

Title: Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes
Author: Elizabeth Bard
Publisher: Back Bay Books, Little Brown and Company, New York. 2010
Category: Memoir
Number of Pages: 326 plus reading group guide

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some of My Favourite Places in Paris

I could go on for days about all the things I love about Paris.  Besides being the capital of fashion, it is home to some of the world's greatest art. I think it would take the entire summer to get my fill of all the museums, but I only had four days. Here are some of the places I visited on my most recent trip to Paris.

Monumenta 2011 by Anish Kapoor at the Grand Palais

To read more about the Monumenta exhibition at the Grand Palais, visit the loop gallery blog for my review here.

Musee Bourdelle
Musee Bourdelle was the home and studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929).  Towards the end of his life, Bourdelle initiated plans to turn his studio into a museum and today it houses more than 500 sculpture works including Delacroix, Ingres and Rodin among others. This summer, Musee Bourdelle is the host to the Madame Gres retrospective. Read my review of the Madame Gres exhibition for Fashion Projects here.

Musee de la Mode

Palais Garnier Interior 
The Palais Garnier is the thirteenth home of the Paris Opera since it was founded by Louis XIV in 1669. Designed by Charles Garnier on the orders of Napolean III during the Paris reconstruction project carried out by Baron Haussman, the interior is characteristic of Baroque sumptuousness. While in Paris, I visited Palais Garnier to see a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Musee d'Orsay
Home to the masters of Impressionism, the Musee d'Orsay needs no introduction. In spite of long lineups and a bad case of jet lag, I could not miss visiting this museum.

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, Canada is my country, but Paris is my hometown.

All photos by Ingrid Mida and are subject to copyright.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Madame Gres at the Musee Bourdelle

Madame Gres White Gowns,  Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
Born Germaine Krebs, the girl who wanted to become a sculptor became the designer Madame Gres and later was nicknamed the "Sphinx of Fashion". Secretive about her private life, her work was her passion and her career spanned half a century from the early 1930s to the late 1980s. Known for her use of  innovative construction techniques, her classically inspired pleated gowns, usually of silk jersey, resemble sculptures from antiquity.

An exhibition of gowns, drawings and photographs of Madame Gres work is currently being shown at the Musee Bourdelle in Paris. I visited the exhibition last week (where I ran into Hamish Bowles again!). I wrote a review of the exhibition for Fashion Projects. Visit Fashion Projects or click here to read my review.

Madame Gres, Couture at Work
March 25 - July 24, 2011
Musee Bourdelle
16 rue Antoine Bourdelle
75015 Paris

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Window Shopping in Paris

Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.
Bo Derek

A lacy confection from Nina Ricci

Valentino Red 2011

A Madame Gres inspired dress at Chloe
  (Watch for my review of the Madame Gres exhibition on Fashion Projects)
A hot pink number at Nina Ricci!

The windows tell a story at Chanel!
One thing I love about window shopping in Paris is that the prices are posted somewhere within the window. One glance and you know immediately whether or not you can afford to venture inside. Sadly, I could not buy anything because the only time I had for shopping was on Sunday when the shops were closed!

Photos by Ingrid Mida 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

McQueen Hats and Accessories

"Everything I do is connected to nature in one way or another."
Lee Alexander McQueen

Over the course of his career, McQueen collaborated with a number of others in the production of accessories, including milliner Philip Treacy and jeweler Shaune Leane. In these selected photos from the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the proof of his extraordinary vision and creativity is evident.

Corset (backplate) and Headpiece, VOSS collection 2001
(Hand-draped glass etched and painted red)

"I especially like the accessory for its sadomasochistic aspect."
Lee Alexander McQueen

Spine Corset, Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen 1998

This will be my last post about the McQueen exhibit at the Met. While I have enough photos and material to write about it for weeks to come, I think it is time to move on to other things. When this post goes live, I shall be in Paris.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty continues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until July 31, 2011. If you cannot make it to NYC, there is a beautiful exhibition catalogue available through Amazon. I will not be posting a review of the book on my blog as I've been asked to write about the book and the exhibition for Worn Fashion Journal, an independent fashion  publication for fashion geeks (like me).  If you haven't heard about Worn, visit their website and blog at or click here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

McQueen and Embroidery

Although Alexander McQueen was known for his exquisite tailoring, I've not seen much mention of the extent to which he deployed embroidery and beading to embellish his garments. However, in touring the retrospective of his work at the Met, it was apparent that embroidery was one of the creative tools that McQueen used often.
McQueen kimono inspired coat spring/summer 2001
The workmanship on these pieces is incredible and cannot be fully appreciated unless you see them in person.  All I can say is that they were utterly breathtaking in both conception and execution.

From McQueen's show Autumn/Winter 2008-2009
From McQueen's Dante collection Autumn Winter 1996/97
And as I walked through the show, I thought of my friend Susan Elliot of Plays with Needles who is incredibly passionate about embroidery and beading.  These photos are for her!

From McQueen's Ecclect Dissect Collection for Givenchy Autumn/Winter 1996-1997
From McQueen Voss collection, spring/summer 2001 collection
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and runs until July 31, 2011. To read my review of the exhibition, please visit Fashion Projects or click here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

McQueen Masks

Alexander McQueen once said "Life to me is a bit of a [Brothers] Grimm fairy tale". A gothic fairy tale was what came to mind when I toured the retrospective of McQueen's work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art  on Monday.

Intensifying this dark mood are the unusual masks fitted to many of the mannequins on display. Constructed out of linen, leather, lace and a variety of other materials, these masks custom made by artist Guido Palau added a haunting and ghostly aura to the show.

Mask by Guido for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Met
Mask by Guido for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
McQueen often incorporated masks into his runway shows himself. The first incarnation thereof was a fencing mask worn with a liquid metallic floor-length gown shown in the McQueen spring/summer 1995 collection shown in London.  He revisited masks and face coverings many times over the span of his career, including in fall/winter 2009 when he designed a chain-mail long-sleeved top  and built-in face mask that was worn underneath an evening gown in an avant-garde graphic print.

The Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition is now open to the public at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and runs until July 31, 2011. In my review for Fashion Projects, I explain why this exhibition is cutting edge in presentation of fashion as art. To read that review, visit Fashion Projects at or click here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Anna, Stella and Sarah at Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Sarah Burton, Stella McCartney and Anna Wintour at the Press Preview for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
There seems to be a little bit of confusion as to where I was on Monday. I am a fashion scholar, not a fashionista and I did not attend the Costume Institute Gala at the Met.  But I was at Monday's press preview for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, attending as the reporter for Fashion Projects.

The speakers that morning included Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas P. Campbell, curator of the exhibition Andrew Bolton, as well as Stella McCartney and Sarah Burton. Anna Wintour, although present at the event, did not speak (and yes she had her sunglasses in her hand).

Stella McCartney at the Press Preview for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Met
Stella McCartney, who was co-chair of the gala event in the evening, said "the mind, the hand and the artistry (of McQueen's work) are breathtaking".  In her poignant comments, she honored both his memory and their friendship,  citing the many parallels between their careers.

Sarah Burton at the Press Preview for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Met
Sarah Burton, who is no doubt exhausted after her work on the royal wedding, said only a few sentences about her work with Lee describing him as a "genius" who had incredible "passion and attention to detail". She also said that she was "proud to have worked with him".

As is probably evident from my photos, I had front row seats during the presentation. There were literally hundreds of press in attendance and it was really memorable to be part of the opening of this extraordinary exhibition that celebrates the rare genius of Lee Alexander McQueen.

Over the next week or so, I will post selections of the many photos I took inside the exhibition as well as a review of the exhibition catalogue. To read my review of the exhibition itself, please visit Fashion Projects at or click here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

An Exhibition Review of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photograph by Solve Sundsbo/Art + Commerce
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
It was a day I'll never forget. While at the Metropolitan Museum's press preview of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,  I rubbed shoulders with Harold Koda, Philip Treacy, Hamish Bowles, Suzy Menkes, and Anna Wintour.  Read my review for Fashion Projects  here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Alexander McQueen Dress, autumn/winter 2010
Photograph by Solve Sundsbo/Art+Commerce
courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
At 10 am on Monday morning, I will be handing over my assignment letter from Fashion Projects to the press officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to gain admittance to the press preview of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.

The exhibition will feature 100 ensembles and 70 accessories which span the period from McQueen's postgraduate presentation in 1992 until his death in 2010. Some items have been borrowed from collectors, models and friends of the designer but most of the items come from the McQueen and Givenchy archives. I'll be writing my review for Fashion Projects tomorrow and will post the link here soon thereafter.

The show opens to the public on Wednesday, May 4th and runs until July 31, 2011.