V&A collaborates with artist Nick Veasey to build first ever mobile x-ray art studio ahead of landmark exhibition on designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.
Ahead of the first ever UK exhibition on the fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, opening on 27 May, the V&A teamed up with x-ray artist Nick Veasey to create the world's first mobile x-ray art studio. In the studio, Veasey captured a series of beautifully crafted life-sized x-ray images revealing new and surprising details about the work of one of the 20th century's most revered couturiers. The x-ray project is one of a number of forensic techniques that the Museum has applied to Balenciaga's garments to shed new light on his exquisite craftsmanship and
challenge some of the myths that have built up around the elusive designer.
Due to the fragility of the V&A's Balenciaga collection, handling and movement must be kept to a minimum. To ensure the safety of these precious objects, the V&A challenged Veasey to devisea solution to photograph the garments onsite at the Museum's archive. Veasey's ingenuity sawhim convert the back of an articulated lorry into a purpose-built mobile unit to x-ray some of Balenciaga's signature shapes.
Veasey's ghostly images uncover hidden construction details invisible to the naked eye. X-rays of Balenciaga’s 1954 balloon hem dress with curious leg-ties show subtle internal hooping that supports the garment's many swathes of fabric, revealing how Balenciaga fashioned one of his most ambitious designs. An x-ray of a 1967 cape dress made from a single piece of silk gazar for socialite Gloria Guinness, unearths strategically placed weights at the front of the dress that determine its abstract, architectural hang. A light pink dress dubbed 'La Tulipe' made for
Hollywood actress Ava Gardner looks simple at first glance, but x-rays reveal the complex inner workings of the garment and the use of boning and corsetry, dispelling the myth that Balenciaga did not use such structures. Stray dressmaking pins were also found inside garments– a tantalising glimpse into the hands-on nature of their creation.
Nick Veasey, said: “X-ray is an honest process. It has integrity. It shows how well things are made or not, revealing previously hidden internal details. The collaboration with the V&A gave me access to stunning couture garments made by ‘The Master’ of fashion. The results, I am pleased to say are beguilingly beautiful as befits these iconic examples of historic fashion.”
Cassie Davies-Strodder, curator of the V&A’s Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, said: “Showing garments, that are intended to be worn and touched, on static mannequins and behind glass is
always challenging. Displaying Balenciaga’s work is a particular challenge as the exceptional craftsmanship is often in the details you cannot see. The beautiful x-ray images Nick has created enable us to show, at a glance, those hidden details which make his work so special. They have given us a greater understanding of these exquisite pieces in our collection, and shed new light on Balenciaga’s mastery and technique.”
Veasey's x-rays are displayed alongside Balenciaga's historic garments, as well as replica toiles created by pattern-cutting students from London College of Fashion, UAL, and digital animations to give a greater understanding of how Balenciaga created his most revolutionary designs.