Between 17 June and 3 October 2021, the exhibition ‘Balenciaga. The Elegance of the Hat’ will take place, thanks to years of joint research into the hat collections at the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum and the Design Museum of Barcelona, which have co-produced the exhibition. It has been curated by Igor Uría, a conservator at the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum, and by Sílvia Ventosa, a conservator of fabrics and clothing at the Design Museum of Barcelona, and promoted by the Barcelona Design Hub.
‘Balenciaga. The Elegance of the Hat’ is the first international exhibition focusing on Cristóbal Balenciaga’s hats and headdresses, created in the haute couture house’s millinery departments in Paris and Madrid from the late 1930s to the closure of the Balenciaga fashion house in 1968.
The exhibition includes 87 hats, 78 of which are presented individually, and 9, as part of an outfit and with a dress and a stole. The Design Museum of Barcelona contributed 43 of the pieces, while 44 came from the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum collection.
Cristóbal Balenciaga established a very characteristic style and shape in his hat designs, with stylised, refined volumes created through simple, almost abstract shapes. His hats are true sculptures.
The items on display highlight the unique nature of the designer’s work: the innovative, imaginative shapes; the selection of fine materials; the search for the best techniques; and the artisanal way in which the hats were made. Put together, these factors result in a unique, one-of-a-kind, magnetic collection of hats.
Balenciaga was familiar with historical and popular headdresses and strived to bring them up to date and into fashion. He experimented to create new models, while studying hats from a number of cultures in order to modernise them. He also played with harmony and contrast between colours, seeking to create a significant visual impact.
In this monographic exhibition, visitors can admire unique pieces of headwear while discovering little-known aspects of hat-making, in terms of both the production process in the workshops and selling the final product, which were tasks mainly carried out by women. The exhibition thus emphasises the feminine world that brought Balenciaga’s designs and creations to life: the people who led the millinery departments in Paris and Madrid, made the hats and sold them were all women. It also contrasts the work undertaken by these women with the world of the women who wore the hats: the social elite dressed by Balenciaga.
From a contemporary perspective, the exhibition deals with the importance of this accessory for making a statement in the social and cultural context of the time.
It also offers a knowledge space, consisting of a library service – offering both consultation and lending – with over 300 publications provided by the Documentation Centre at the Design Museum in collaboration with the El Clot – Josep Benet Library.
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