This is the largest exhibition of Viktor&Rolf in the Netherlands to date. It is the third exhibition that the Kunsthal has organised with guest curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot after the exhibition on Jean Paul Gaultier (2013) and the Kunsthal’s own international travelling exhibition on fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh (2016). Viktor&Rolf collaborated with the Kunsthal in selecting highlights from their career, resulting in some sixty of the most innovative works from their haute couture and ready-to-wear collections. This exhibition is a unique opportunity to admire haute couture – usually only visible on the catwalk – at close quarters.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary, the Han Nefkens Foundation has announced that it is donating eight fashion items to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, bringing its collection of works by Viktor&Rolf up to twenty-four pieces.
The exhibition ‘Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists 25 Years’, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Amsterdam-based high fashion house Viktor&Rolf, shows some of the most impressive and innovative works by this Dutch design duo at the Kunsthal Rotterdam. For the past 25 years the symbiotic collaboration between Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren has led to works of uncompromising beauty and extraordinary collections. It is impossible to trace the results of their collaboration back to individual contributions. In their own words: “We often play with the idea of two people being one, or both of us being of one mind, and we play with our image to express that.” The recent portrait of Viktor&Rolf, especially shot for the exhibition by the Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, is equally revealing in a visual sense.
The exhibition ‘Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists 25 Years’ shows Viktor&Rolf’s radical conception of ‘wearable art’ and explores the elements that make their designs unique in the contemporary fashion world. Throughout their illustrious career, Viktor&Rolf have carved a contradictory identity that pushes the boundaries between art and fashion, often contrasting romance and rebellion, exuberance and control, classicism and conceptualism. Around sixty works from Viktor&Rolf’s haute couture collections give an insight into their unconventional and conceptual approach, also showing that they have never shied away from criticising the fashion industry (of which they are a part themselves). With regard to form and materials – the interplay of lines, volumes, bows, collars, ruffles etcetera – their creations are stunningly beautiful and technically perfect. Their fashion shows are like powerfully eloquent ‘performances’. The 1999 Russian Doll show, for which Viktor&Rolf draped nine layers of clothing around a single woman, top model Maggie Rizer, meant their international breakthrough. Subsequently many other high-profile haute couture shows followed. Creations from collections such as ‘Bedtime Story’ (2005), ‘The Fashion Show’ (2007), ‘NO’ (2008), ‘Cutting Edge Couture’ (2010), ‘Red Carpet Dressing’ (2014), ‘Wearable Art’ (2015) and ‘Van Gogh Girls’ (2015) can be seen in the exhibition, as well as pieces that have never been shown before from their newest collections, ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ (2017), ‘Action Dolls’ (2017/18) and ‘Surreal Satin’ (2018).
The exhibition includes 25 handmade examples from the ‘Dolls’ series which consists of replicas of antique dolls dressed in some of the fashion artists’ most iconic designs. Each porcelain doll is dressed in an haute couture creation that was exactly scaled-down on the basis of the original patterns, a meticulous and extremely labour-intensive process. Even the fabrics have been woven to scale, and the miniature model’s hair and make-up are exact copies of the runway styles.
One of the special loans is the wedding gown that Viktor&Rolf designed in 2004 for Princess Mabel van Oranje-Nassau on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Friso. It can be admired alongside its miniature ‘Doll’ version, a special loan from ING Art Management. Other remarkable works include the garment Viktor&Rolf designed for Madonna, to be worn during her 2016 benefit concert at Miami Art Basel, and the theatrical costumes for the Dutch National Ballet production of ‘Dutch Doubles’ (2014).
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of Viktor & Rolf]