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Hollywood Comes To Phoenix

Images by Jeff Moses.

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A Sneak Peak At The Costumes Depicting Iconic Characters From Classic Hollywood Films That Will Be On Display At The Phoenix Art Museum This This Summer



Going further in will land a visitor at the extensive Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro collections which feature many of the costumes from their most iconic roles, and also is the first use of “projected faces,” in the exhibit. Each costume in this homage is accentuated with the face and facial mannerisms of the character: all of the costumes come complete with facial projections and realistic faces designed to suspend reality and provide the feeling that the exhibit is more than a gallery exhibition.

The next costumes come from My Fair Lady, Titanic, Borat, and Legally Blonde. Rounding the corner one will find the likenesses of Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence by way of their costumes from American Hustle, which according to Lieb, will only be displayed in Phoenix.

Captain Miller from Saving Private Ryan, Batman, Dick Tracy, Neo, Austin Powers, and The Blues Brothers are among the others on display near the end of the exhibit. This is also where props like guns, briefcases were displayed most prominently. Though according to Ballinger, none of the props were original to the movies.

This section also has the only fake out of the exhibit in that a costume adorned with Harry Potter’s face actually belonged to a different Hogwarts student.

Second to last is Monroe’s iconic white dress from Seven Year Itch which almost has a ghostly quality to it as it is the only costume which is kept behind a glass enclosure. The added precautions are taken because of the costume’s $5.6 million price tag. Before Judy Garland’s iconic Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz would see patrons out into the store.

As spectacular as the main exhibit is, Sewell decided to curate an off-shoot exhibit as well one floor up from the end of the costume exhibit. The fashion curator went and put together a small collection of dresses worn by actresses nominated for the award of best actress and best supporting actress on the ‘red carpet’ at the Academy awards. The museum was actually able to acquire a dress that Glenn Close wore when she was nominated for Dangerous Liaisons, as well as one of the costumes she wore in the movie for the exhibit. Close also attended the gala opening of the exhibit at the museum.

“We are one of the few art museums in America that has always dealt with fashion design. We have the Arizona Costume Institute here and we have a Curator of Fashion Design and we do two or three exhibitions a year going back to the late 1960s. We thought because Hollywood costumes was coming and it was all about film that we wanted to do something complimentary,” said Ballinger.

He went on to talk about how many of the nominated women were nominated for roles that were not so glamorous, and how the two exhibits compliment each other in such a way to further show the difference between a fashion designer and a costume designer.

“This is the most complex installation we have ever done,” said Ballinger and not just because of the difficult task of highlighting the differences between fashion and costuming.

“All the wires, and cables and set up make it complex. And then there is the really wild side of, yeah we have all these costumes but we can’t use them all in P.R. because of the copyright protection that goes along with almost every single one,” said Ballinger.

But the complexity is paying off.

“It’s drawing a lot of people. It’s drawing more than recent exhibitions over the past several years. People are spending an hour and a half in here and in this fast paced world that tells me they enjoyed it. It’s an opportunity to see iconic film characters in a way you've never seen them before,” said Ballinger. “It’s participatory, it’s not paintings on the wall, it’s not very static. Between the sound track and these projected images heads moving and eyes blinking there is a participatory nature to this exhibit you can't tell people about you have to see it.”

The Hollywood Costume Exhibit will be open until July 6, and the Red Carpet dresses will be open until July 27.

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at
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