The exhibition “Reload! Traditional costume, art, fashion” in Museum Kunst der Westküste focuses on traditional costume as a historical and a contemporary piece of clothing. According to the makers of the exhibition, traditional costume is regaining popularity nowadays even away from fairs and festivals and is influencing art and fashion design in equal measure. The interdisciplinary exhibition features works from the 18th and 19th century alongside contemporary works and current designs in an endeavour to highlight the different perspectives on traditional costume.
As the era of industrialisation saw a spread in urban, bourgeois fashion, the wearing of traditional costume became restricted more and more to certain rural regions or to special occasions. The function of traditional costume as a means of communication, which once indicated the wearer’s social status as well as where he or she was from, increasingly faded into the background. But traditional costume has now rebounded in popularity, as questions of belonging and identity have acquired new relevance in today’s fast-changing world, where a person’s roots and his or her own story are suddenly just as important as questions about the future. The exhibition underscores these changed points of reference by demonstrating the currency of traditional costume in art and fashion.
Traditional costume as an appealing subject in art
Traditional costume is an appealing subject in art in a multitude of ways that is presented in Alkersum in works dating from the 18th century onward. Images from around 1800 show colourful traditional costumes sewn from different materials. Around 1900, dark-coloured traditional costumes fascinated artists like Otto Heinrich Engel, August Wilckens and Johan Julius Exner, who came to Fanø and Föhr to draw and paint the local women and girls. These idealised representations are contrasted in the exhibition with works by artists such as Sabine Dehnel, Sandra Heinz, Anja Luithle, Annette Schröter, Trine Søndergaard and Mila Teshaieva, who explore their personal relationship with traditional costume through paintings, photographs, images and ceramics. Topics that include a connection to home, identity and keeping tradition alive are also subject to ironic and critical scrutiny.
Traditional attire reinvented through fashion design
The 80 works on display in the museum on Föhr also include examples from fashion design that approach, reshape and develop the topic of traditional dress. Elements of traditional dress can be found both in haute couture and in everyday clothing. The pieces on show make it clear that a modern relationship to traditional costume goes beyond a mere nod to fashionable dirndls and lederhosen. For example, graduates in fashion design from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover have taken an in-depth look at traditional dress from the Schaumburg district and have taken elements of the original clothing and distorted or reshaped them in a playful manner. The result is both opulent clothing and headwear as well as modern and functional variants. Under the title “Rungholt”, designer Nico Dams has in turn created clothing that constitutes an aesthetic revamp of Frisian traditional costume in terms of colours, shapes and materials, with traditional silhouettes and embroidery combined with seafaring and marine-inspired elements. The works of British design icon Vivienne Westwood also marry elements of Alpine traditional dress with checked patterns.
In addition to this extensive exhibition, a carefully selected programme of events including artist talks, lectures and workshops allows visitors to delve deeper into the topic of traditional costume.
About Museum Kunst der Westküste
Museum Kunst der Westküste is located in Alkersum on the North Frisian island of Föhr and was opened in 2009 by founding director Thorsten Sadowsky. The museum is a charitable foundation with an archive encompassing 700 works based on the collection of historically focused paintings belonging to the museum founder Frederik Paulsen. The museum’s focus is on gathering, researching and showing art dedicated to the topic of the sea and the coast.
Posted on 08.11.2017