Palais Galliera

Although the Palais Galliera was originally constructed in the late 1800s for the Duchesse de Galliera as a museum to house her prized art collection, its boxy, Beaux-Arts style structure by architect Paul-René-Léon Ginain was often criticized as being too insubstantial to house extensive collections and large exhibitions. Made up of five modestly sized rooms, the Palais has seen many incarnations over the years: after the Duchesse's death in 1888 the building functioned as an industrial design museum; in the 1950s as a museum for the works of figurative painters; and in the 1960s as an auction venue serving the markets of period furniture and old masters paintings, before becoming a fashion museum in 1977. In 2009 the building underwent renovations before reopening in 2013 in all its former glory. Since then, this condensed but regal museum has featured a handful of fashion-related exhibitions which are more than suited to the close quarters of its structure. Beginning with a retrospective of the Tunisian-born designer Azzedine Alaïa, the Palais set a new precedent for the ways in which clothing could be viewed in a museum context. With no protective glass or barriers, museum visitors were able to view the incredible detail of Alaïa's garments as if they had flung open the doors of their own closet. The curators here seem to understand that the beauty of these artworks lies not only in their social implications, shapes and forms, but in the details of their embellishments and textures – integral parts of their makeup, which simply can't be taken in properly from a distance. Viewing works like these in such an intimate context, set against the intricacies of the Palais' mosaic floors and dramatically vaulted ceilings, feels like a royal gift from the Duchesse herself. JR

This review is included in TTA8. Click here for more information about the issue.

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