An unprecedented exhibition in Madrid connects fine art with fashion

The Duchess of Alba by Goya and a Balenciaga dress. Photo courtesy of Thyssen Bornemisza

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid has just opened a fantastic exhibition “Balenciaga and Spanish Painting” that connects fine art with the creations of one of the most celebrated fashion designers ever, the Spanish Cristóbal Balenciaga.

The exhibition, curated by Eloy Martínez de la Pera, is not to be missed for several reasons. It is a groundbreaking show for fashion lovers because it elevates the clothes to the rank of fine art. Christian Dior once said that Balenciaga was “the master of us all”. His creations are presented alongside historic paintings by Spanish masters as El Greco and Goya.

The Duchess of Alba, painted in 1795 by Goya, for example, wears a white dress with red silk bow similar to the silk gown with a scarlet bow that the Spanish fashion designer created around 1955, 1960.

An organza evening coat Balenciaga made in 1964 with applications of off-white and pale red flowers stands next to the still life “Flowers in a vase” with flowers in the same colours of the coat, that Gabriel de la Corte painted in the second half of the 17th century.

References to Spanish art and culture in the creations of Cristóbal Balenciaga are put in evidence in this exhibition. The Spanish bullfighter’s suits clearly inspired the sequin embroidered bolero jacket from the private collection of Amish Bowles, which is displayed next to a painting of Julia Hacia wearing a similar bolero, painted in 1915 by Ramon Casas y Carbo, and the big volumes and drapings of this architectural red gown are reminiscent of the Flamenco dancer’s dress.

Among the exceptional pieces are twelve El Grecos, nine Goyas, paintings by Murillo, Velázquez and Zurbarán.

Many of the masterpieces are on loan from private collections and public museums like the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao. The pieces loaned from the Prado, Spain’s national museum, are not allowed to leave the country, and the paintings of the Duchess of Alba are not even allowed to leave the palace, so if you want to see this fantastic exhibition, you will have to travel to Madrid.

The iconic Balenciaga gowns come from the Museo Balenciaga in Guetaria, Museo del Traje in Madrid, Museo del Disseny in Barcelona and private collections, some of them never exhibited before.

You can visit “Balenciaga and Spanish Painting” at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional in Madrid until the 22nd of September; is an exhibition not to be missed!


Photos courtesy of Thyssen Bornemisza