Creatures and Creations (Waddesdon Manor)

Fashion is not art, nor is art fashion, but over the last few years the relationship between the two has definitely become a topic of interest, with more exhibitions and institutions that explore their boundaries opening.

Francois Henri Pinault has the Palazzo Grassi gallery in Venice, Miuccia Prada has the Fondazione Prada and you’ve also got the Louis Vuitton Foundation and Museum. And, whilst fashion houses have moved into the gallery and museum space, there have also been these ‘blockbuster’ fashion exhibitions, such as “Manus x Machina” created by museums.

There seem to be a lot of different projects that are happening at the moment which really see fashion and contemporary art culture working very close together, although they are very different factors.

Creatures and Creations

One of the latest examples of this is Creatures and Creations; an exhibition formed from responses by an artist and a fashion designer to the brilliantly eccentric natural history collection of Walter Rothschild.

The exhibition is held in the beautiful grounds of Waddesdon Manor which was built by Walter Rothschild’s uncle, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild.

Walter Rothschild was a naturalist who began collecting insects as a child. He kept a menagerie at his house in Tring, which included giant tortoises, emus and cassowaries. He took a flock of kiwis to university with him and trained zebras to pull his carriage.

His reputation and knowledge in the scientific community was so great that many newly discovered creatures and plants, from fleas to giraffes, were subsequently named after him, given the Latin form of his family name ‘Rothschildi’.

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And it is these species that provide the inspiration for the two contemporary artists in this exhibition, Platon H and Mary Katrantzou.

It was Platon’s discovery, a decade ago, of Walter Rothschild’s collection that led to the creation of exhibition. Inspired by Walter’s passion and expertise, and the creatures that bear his name, Platon has transformed their features, wings and carapaces into beautiful, transcendental abstract digital collages, which really caught my eye.

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Alongside this, Katrantzou has created a capsule collection of three couture dresses, featuring intricate hand beading and embellishment.

There is “Papillion”, formed with eleven layers of tulle underskirts, the “Delias”, another tiered tulle dress, with a tulle butterfly on the chest, and finally the “Alexandra” dress which is embellished with Swarovski crystals, sequins and beads.

The dresses are different in style, but all are inspired by the colours, shapes and motifs of the same species that stimulated Platon H.

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Whilst this is not the biggest fashion exhibition of the year, I really enjoyed the amalgamation of fashion, digital art and animal specimens on show. It reminds me again, as Force of Nature did, that the natural world is an endless source of inspiration, and it’s interesting to see the contrasting, but also complimentary responses of two very different Greek creatives.

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The Manor itself is a worthwhile visit, with the art, wine and sculpture collection of the Rothschild family on display here, you could easily spend half a day exploring these and the beautiful grounds. One for the more intrepid fashion enthusiast, but their adventure will be rewarded.

Creatures and Creations at The Stables in Waddesdon Manor runs until October 29.

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