A special exhibition celebrating 40 years of theatre on Broadway and the West End is to run in both New York and London. Provisionally called Curtain Up!, the exhibition is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Olivier Awards in 2016, and will showcase past winners of the awards in the ultimate celebration of theatre and the arts in the two cities.
It will run first at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in February 2016, and then at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in the autumn of 2016. The venues are both collaborating with the Society of London Theatre on the exhibition and it will indefinitely honour the shared artistic heritage which connects London and New York.
The Curtain Up! exhibition is being designed by Tom Piper, the artist responsible for the poppy art installation at the Tower of London in 2014 in order to mark the centenary of the First World War. Curtain Up! is being curated by the Victoria & Albert Museum’s theatre department, with support from the Library for the Performing Arts in New York. Additional theatrical artifacts and material will be displayed from theatre collections across the UK and the US in order to enhance and support the exhibition.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has expressed his support of the exhibition, maintaining that it will celebrate the unique relationship that has been created between the two cities and what they offer in terms of theatre. The exhibition is also being supported by iconic actress Helen Mirren, who opens in The Audience on Broadway this month, having also appeared in the show in the West End. Alongside the exhibition an education programme will be run, which will be aimed at encouraging young people to get involved in the performing arts and spark a lifelong interest.
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s major autumn 2012 exhibition, Hollywood Costume, is set to be a fabulous and incredibly insightful event. The landmark show will open after five years of sourcing and identifying items to be part of the treasure trove of exhibits.
During the Golden Age of Hollywood (from the 1930s to 1950s), costumes would be removed to vast costume storage once the filming was complete and were subsequently rented, remade and re-styled for new productions, rather than maintain their significance for the original production they were intended for. When the Hollywood studio system declined in the 1960s and 1970s, costume archives were sold making the curator’s job for the V&A exhibition even more challenging. However, some iconic costumes have been tracked down for showcasing with even some private collectors loaning their treasures to the exhibition for the general public to see up close.
The earliest costume in the exhibition is from the first MGM sound film, The Broadway Melody, which was released in 1929, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture and the film was followed by many successful sequels. The costume displayed was worn by Bessie Love as one of the Mahoney sisters as a vaudeville act, complete with character shoes and shiny show tights. The film A Broadway Melody was a huge catalyst for change in the film industry in the transition between silent films and sound. Another iconic costume on display is the gingham pinafore dress worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, having been held in a secure bank vault in London’s Fleet Street. One of the pairs of Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slippers are in demand for the exhibition, having taken on mythic status since 1970 when MGM sold a pair for $15,000, and it is unclear how many shoes remain in existence.
Other costumes which will be creating the sum of the V&A exhibition include those from Vertigo (1958), The Birds (1963), the mink and sequined dress designed for toe-tapping Ginger Rogers in Lady in the Dark (1944), Hello Dolly! (1969), Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Moulin Rouge! (2001), along with the musical Chicago complete with stylised black costumes, such as Renée Zellweger’s floor-length gown for her performance of Nowadays.
For more information about this exhibition, visit the V&A website.
Image courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.