Collector Margot Siegel inspires a look at the intertwining of art, fashion and pop culture at the Goldstein Museum of Design.
As a fashion journalist, Margot Siegel always had an eye for the next big name, the next style shift, which trends were significant and which mere flashes of frivolity. Her personal collection shows it, from a Louis Vuitton handbag designed by Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami to her 1960s Goldworm knits.
As a longtime donor to the Goldstein Museum of Design, Siegel persuaded noted designers such as Bill Blass to contribute important pieces from collections. She also bought pieces (often waiting for a sale) she knew would be considered historic eventually, and got department stores to contribute as well her friends. Beginning this weekend, the Goldstein will fete the 86-year-old Siegel's fashion-filled life with a show titled "Intersections: Where Art Meets Fashion."
"Fashion has always had a place in art," said Siegel, who lives in Minneapolis, near Walker Art Center in Kenwood. "You look at a Sargent painting and remember how beautifully the subjects are dressed. Art has a place in fashion, too. You read profiles of designers and they're always saying they were influenced by so and so, the artist. They say that Dior used to check which colors a painter friend of his was using and then use the same ones in his collection that season."
Siegel was born with fashion sense in her DNA. Her French mother, Madame Jeanne Auerbacher, was a well-known saleswoman for Dayton's Oval Room. After getting a journalism degree and being sent on assignment to Europe to seek out designers such as Emilio Pucci who had laid low during World War II, Siegel was a fashion editor for Women's Wear Daily in the 1940s and '50s. But it was in the 1960s that she saw her other passion, art, begin to intertwine with fashion in one big pop-culture whirlpool. The '60s ushered in an anything-goes attitude that freely blended fashion and art, questioning whether all fashion wasn't indeed art, as well, if Brillo boxes and soup cans could be considered such.
"In the age of pop art, a dress could just be a dress, and speak for itself without all these layers of identity," said Barbara Heinemann, co-curator of the Goldstein exhibit. A scholar on dress who recently completed a dissertation on Siegel's life and career, Heinemann said her subject's passion for art and fashion developed together when she came back to the Twin Cities to be public relations director for Walker Art Center: "The thing she's proudest of is her ability to pick out, in the art world, what was going to be important before it was, like Warhol."
Among other artworks, Siegel has lent one of Warhol's famous "Marilyn" portraits to the show.
"When Warhol came along, my friends said, 'How can you like this artist? Soup cans?' I told them he was the artist journalist of the '60s. What others said with words, he said with pictures."
Of all the items Siegel has donated to the Goldstein or lent for this exhibit, her favorite is a silk two-piece Missoni ensemble in a multicolored tulip pattern. Her late husband, attorney Harold Siegel, "just adored tulips."
The Goldstein show includes several dozen pieces, such as a Halston plunge-back dress inspired by splatter-painter Jackson Pollock, a woman's business suit incongruously adorned with the bold cartoon graphics of Roy Lichtenstein, and a transparent coat by Issey Miyake that looks vibrant, yet delicate enough to shrivel at a single touch.
The Lichtenstein suit is an example of Siegel's determination to acquire top-drawer artifacts for the Goldstein.
"It originally belonged to Shari Applebaum, who was on a tour with me that Walker did for donors," she said. "When she got on the bus, I saw it and wanted to just grab it right then. After three or four years, she did donate it."
Does she ever want to do a reverse loan, and borrow some of the couture back for a night?
"Once they're donated, they can never be worn again by anyone," she said. "A lot of these things I wish I had back to wear, but I'm glad they're at the museum. It's mostly for the students. The kids today don't learn about designers like Adrian, Norman Norell and Geoffrey Beene."
Other featured designers in the show are Adolfo, Missoni, Emilio Pucci, Zandra Rhodes and Yves Saint Laurent. In addition to Warhol, artists include Richard Hamilton, Jim Dine and Wayne Thiebaud.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046