Kremlin museums tap into taste for modern culture

Wed Sep 7, 2011 2:06pm EDT
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By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A new show displaying the works of 20th century French couturier Paul Poiret turns the dark chambers of the Kremlin Museums into a colorful showcase of popular modern culture alongside the regal clothing and objects of Russia's past.

The rich and colorful silk and velvet dresses created a century ago by Poiret, a revolutionary designer who is credited with freeing women from the confinements of the corset, opened the autumn season at the central museum in Moscow on Wednesday.

Poiret took his clients out of restrictive 19th century clothes by designing practical sheath dresses and tunics, many of which the explorer of world cultures and lover of Russian ballet created for Russian actresses and ballerinas.

A white tunic-like evening dress embroidered with gold and bright silk flowers, one of many Poiret created for Russian actress Vera Karakhan, stands by his Russian-inspired hats in a gallery filled with dresses, shoes and perfume bottles.

The modern-looking costumes, mimicked around the world since, could easily make any of today's haute-couture fashion shows. They take up two of the Kremlin bell towers usually given over to historic artifacts and icons from the Middle Ages.

"Most traditional museums in the world are trying to incorporate exhibitions of modern conceptual art, and our museum is not an exception," Elena Gagarina, director of the Kremlin Museums, told Reuters ahead of the exhibit's opening.

As if taking up the torch from Moscow's Pushkin Museum, which has just taken down a lavish fashion exhibit of Christian Dior gowns in July, the Kremlin has stepped up the expansion of its modern art and popular culture activities.

"I hope in the future we will hold even more radical modern art projects than we have so far. No museum can develop without incorporating modern art and art forms, and without touching on the pressing issues that emerge with the changing lifestyle, and fashion is part of that lifestyle," Gagarina said.   Continued...

<p>A mannequin dressed with a creation by Paul Poiret stands on display in a new exhibition dedicated to the French fashion designer in Moscow's Kremlin September 6, 2011. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>