The Jewish Museum will present the first museum exhibition focused on Isaac Mizrahi, the influential American fashion designer, artist, and entrepreneur. On view from March 18 to August 7, 2016, this survey exhibition explores Mizrahi’s unique position at the intersection of high style and popular culture.
While best known for his clothing design, Mizrahi’s creativity has expanded over a three decade career, moving beyond fashion to embrace acting, directing, set and costume design, writing, and cabaret performance. Beginning with his first collection in 1987 and running through the present day, Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History weaves together the many threads of Mizrahi’s prolific output, juxtaposing work in fashion, film, television, and the performing arts.
Mizrahi’s inventive and provocative style brings complex issues into the arena of fashion, igniting a spirited discourse about high versus low, modern glamour, and contemporary culture. His runway shows were cast with unconventionally beautiful models of all ethnicities, dressed in Star of David belts, Western wear infused handmade lace, Adidas sneakers in place of high heels, handbags worn as hats, or a humble cotton undershirt paired with a floor-length taffeta skirt. Uniting opposites is a Mizrahi signature, which can be seen in his many combinations of evening and sportswear, formal and casual, couture and mass market.
Mizrahi’s outsized personality, loquacious charm, and innate sense of timing have made him a beloved figure, appearing in living rooms across the country through his numerous film and television cameos, as a judge on Project Runway: All-Stars, and on his current show on the QVC network Isaac Mizrahi Live!.
Isaac Mizrahi was born in 1961 in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in a Jewish family, he attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush before transferring to New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts (he was a featured extra in the groundbreaking film, Fame, based on the school) and then Parsons School of Design. He entered the New York fashion scene in the late 1980s; his clothing line, Isaac Mizrahi New York, debuted at Bergdorf Goodman in 1986. In 1989 he received the Perry Ellis Award for Emerging Talent and was named Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Womenswear Designer of the Year, an award he won again in 1991.
Unzipped, a riotous, witty, and insightful documentary about the making of his fall 1994 collection, earned Mizrahi and the director, Douglas Keeve, the 1995 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. When his fashion house closed in 1998, Mizrahi followed other passions in theater and dance, designing costumes and sets for Mark Morris and Twyla Tharp and winning a 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design for a Broadway revival of Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women. In 2003 he was the first fashion designer to launch a line of well-designed, affordable clothes in collaboration with Target.
Today he stars in Isaac Mizrahi Live!, a call-in home-shopping TV show that airs weekly on the QVC network. He also appears as a judge on Project Runway All Stars. Mizrahi has directed and narrated “Peter and the Wolf” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, directed and designed “The Magic Flute” and “A Little Night Music” for the Opera Theater of Saint Louis, and worked the red carpet at the Oscars and Golden Globe Awards. He is currently at work on a television series and memoir.
Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History will be organized thematically, exploring key trends in Mizrahi’s work—from the use of color and prints to his witty designs that touch on issues of race, religion, class, and politics. The core of the exhibition will feature iconic designs from the Isaac Mizrahi New York clothing label (1987–98), the “semi-couture” collections (2003–11), and his trailblazing line for Target (2002–8).
It will comprise approximately 50 “looks,” including clothing, hats, jewelry, shoes, accessories, and costumes for theater, opera, and the Mark Morris Dance Group. Also on view will be the designer’s original drawings and photographer Nick Waplington’s behind-the-scenes images of Isaac Mizrahi at work in the studio and on the runway (soon to be a coffeetable book). A specially produced multi-screen video installation will showcase content drawn from runway shows; the award-winning documentary Unzipped; the television program The Isaac Mizrahi Show; scenes from his cabaret, LES MIZrahi; numerous film and television cameos; appearances on Project Runway; and Isaac Mizrahi Live!.
Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History is organized by Chee Pearlman, Guest Curator, with Kelly Taxter, Assistant Curator, and is made possible by the Wilf Family Foundation, The Coby Foundation, Ltd., Xcel Brands, the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation Inc., Target, and Friends of Isaac.
Endowment support is provided by The Peter Jay Sharp Exhibition Fund, The Skirball Fund for American Jewish Life Exhibitions, the Barbara S. Horowitz Contemporary Art Fund, and the Joan Rosenbaum Exhibition Fund.
Friends of Isaac Committee
Co-Chairs: Natalie Portman, Audrey Wilf, Jane Frieder Wilf,
Members: Hilary Feshbach, Liane Ginsberg, Pnina Hiller, Sharon Hurowitz, Linda Landis, Karen Mandelbaum, Sheree Mandelbaum, Beth Nash, Nancy Pantirer, Jerry Rose, Laraine Rothenberg, Fiona and Eric Rudin, Scott Salvator, Mara Sandler and Amy Rose Silverman
Located on Museum Mile at 1109 Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street, the Jewish Museum is one of the world’s preeminent institutions devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture from ancient to contemporary, offering intellectually engaging, educational, and provocative exhibitions and programs for people of all ages and backgrounds. The Museum was established in 1904, when Judge Mayer Sulzberger donated 26 ceremonial objects to The Jewish Theological Seminary as the core of a museum collection. Today, the Museum maintains a collection of over 30,000 works of art, artifacts, and broadcast media reflecting global Jewish identity, and presents a diverse schedule of internationally acclaimed temporary exhibitions.
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