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Geoffrey Beene: The MOVE Exhibit

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

By Alexander Grauel

The Phoenix Art Museum perfectly curates a look into the world of Geoffrey Beene- with three exhibitions starting with documents, photos and press kit files on view to the public for the first time. The exhibit was organized by the Phoenix Art Museum, with the help of the Authentic Brands Group (ABG) and its Geoffrey Beene Archive. Visitors will experience Beene’s actual fashion expertise through boleros, dresses, and jumpsuits that look like they could be in an avant-garde Alice in Wonderland. 

“This has been a few years in the making.” said Helen Jean, the Museum’s Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design.

The archive was established in 2020, when fashion collector Patsy Tarr gifted more than 300 articles of clothing to the Phoenix Art Museum. A choice collection of designs out of the hundreds gifted to the museum were selected for the exhibit.

Beene’s garments illustrate virtuoso artistic craft and elements of practicality. Light- weight textiles drape elegantly and sensibly, like this black and white cartoon-like dress and matching gloves. Been was a master at juxtaposing different elements of design in his pieces, fitting different motifs together like puzzle pieces into creative final products. Whimsical elements shine through without feeling tacky in Beene’s use of patterns, specifically stripes, polka-dots, a combination of the two and more isolating patterns like palm trees. 

Many pieces on display at the MOVE Exhibit include innovative cutouts that aid in the illusion of movement and elegance on the body. A personal favorite includes a black jumpsuit with an open-back, complemented by a diagonal-striped, shimmering black and sheer material bolero. Each stripe has a border of silver glitter textile, and as the stripes extend down the arm of the mannequin, the traditional stripe looks almost like a candy swirl stripe instead. 

Many garments and documents shown at the exhibition are being revealed to the public for the very first time. Visitors can see both designs and original documents from from Beene’s own archive, provided by ABG. They provide both background information for many of the pieces shown, and also an in-depth look into the history of Beene’s career. “…We were very intentional in trying to describe everything as detailed as we can, because fabrications are a huge part of his story.” Jean said. “His design is engaging in every layer.”

The archives the Phoenix Art Museum has on display certainly highlight Beene’s attention to detail, whether it is the use of certain textiles together or hand-embroidered flowers. Furthering the designer’s interest in movement, many of the silhouettes displayed seem to be inspired by the classic ballerina, a form fitting top or bodice with a more loose bottom piece, like a tutu. 

The MOVE exhibition will be open from February 1 to July 23, 2023, located in the Ellman, Barnett, and Orem Lewis galleries at the Phoenix Art Museum. It will be free to view for the public, on top of general admission.

Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

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