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'MIRROR MIRROR' in Five Highlights

Photo: Stany Dederen

'MIRROR MIRROR - Fashion & the Psyche' aims to move visitors through an unexpected dialogue between art installations and avant-garde fashion that highlight such themes as body dysmorphia.

Next to silhouettes, the exhibition features a lot of dolls, a personal fascination of MoMu Curator Elisa De Wyngaert.

Since starting at MoMu as a curator, she has found herself surrounded by mannequins: lifeless human replicas with - at least, to her - a mysterious appeal. Below, she walks you through five not-to-be-missed highlights in 'MIRROR MIRROR'.

During my first week at the museum, I found myself surrounded by an army of naked mannequins waiting to be dressed. Their silent presence left me anything but indifferent. In every aspect of my job, they have remained, to me, the embodiment of artistic potential and its limits.

Elisa De Wyngaert, Curator MoMu

Walter Van Beirendonck's 'Sleeping Beauty'

Sleeping Beauty' is a doll that appears to be alive thanks to a mechanism located inside its chest. If you listen closely, you can also hear it breathing quietly; it is asleep. The doll is is central within the oversized doll's house we built for the exhibition. The ambiguity of dolls lies in the fact that they straddle the uncomfortable boundary between animate and inanimate objects, something which simultaneously fascinates children and frightens adults. Van Beirendonck's installation 'Sleeping Beauty' encapsulates this idea.

Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Sleeping Beauty', in-situ installation, 2022
Photo: Dries Luyten
Walter Van Beirendonck, Autumn-Winter 1999-00
MoMu Collection inv. X1556, Photo: Stany Dederen

The custom-made wigs of hair stylist Cyndia Harvey

What connects the mannequins inside 'MIRROR MIRROR' with artists like FKA Twigs, Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean? Hair stylist Cyndia Harvey's wigs. In her mother's hair salon, the Jamaican-British native became fascinated by the tactility of hair. While working in a Black hair salon in London, Harvey gained insight into the limitless possibilities of hair. As an assistant to hair stylist Sam McKnight, she had her first taste of the fashion and music industry. Her custom-made wigs bring the mannequins inside the exhibition to life and demonstrate the psychological, political, and expressive power of hair.

  • Cyndia Harvey, wigs and Comme des Garçons, Spring-Summer 1997
    Photo: Jeroen Broeckx
  • Cyndia Harvey, custom wig and Molly Goddard, Spring-Summer 2020
    MoMu Collection inv. X458, Photo: Jeroen Broeckx

Ed Atkins' lonesome avatar

Cyborgs and avatars have been around in the art world for some time now. More recently, they have started making waves in the fashion industry as well, just think of 'virtual influencers' such as @noonoouri on Instagram. We are confronted on the daily with bodies that do not exist in the physical world, yet they can still have a great deal of influence on our self-image.

Ed Atkins' video installation 'Ribbons' wraps up the exhibition. Hopefully, visitors will take the time to really take in his work. They will meet a male character. He may seem a bit aggressive at first, but you get to know him as a melancholic, vulnerable and lonely character. Atkins makes us reflect on how we experience our own bodies in relation to the digital world, and the loneliness of a digital life.

Ed Atkins, Ribbons, 2014 (video still)
Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, dépendance, Brussels and Gladstone Gallery, New York, Photo: Stany Dederen

The gathering of international toy fashion dolls, curated by children

Historically, dolls were intended for adults. From the 1960s onwards, Barbies start to make their appearance. In a way, it's strange that a Barbie doll, with its developed body, was meant for children. Yet, this brought about an elaborate world of its own: Barbie played an important role in everyone's childhood. We invited a group of children to help us set up a scene of international fashion dolls. Because children look at dolls with a much more sincere, playful look, we could definitely use their help. The composition that the children have made is very surprising, very carefully put together and it is shown in its entirety in a display case in the exhibition.

International toy fashion dolls, in-situ installation, 2022
Photo: Stany Dederen
Behind the scenes
Photo: Miles Fischler

Sarah Lucas' bunny girl

Sarah Lucas' feminist work challenges the male gaze. Lucas stuffs pairs of tights to create 'bunny girls', with dangling arms and passively lolling and splayed legs. The Bunny sculptures urge us to ask questions about sexuality and idenity and comment on the vulnerable positions women often inhabit. For the last day of 'MIRROR MIRROR', we are bringing back a workshop for families which was inspired by her work inside the exhibition. The first edition was met with a lot of enthusiasm by all ages.

Sarah Lucas, Something Celia Said, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery and Sadie Coles HQ, London
Photo: Stany Dederen
Sarah Lucas, Something Celia Said, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery and Sadie Coles HQ, London
Photo: Dennis Ravays

Hopefully, visitors will discover how art and fashion are an integral part of daily life and meet in symbiosis. The fashion designers and artists taking part in this exhibition investigate such notions as beauty standards and self-image, or proclaim feminist and anti-capitalist ideas.

Elisa De Wyngaert, Curator MoMu

'MIRROR MIRROR – Fashion & the Psyche' is on view through 26 February 2023. More info and tickets available here

Learn more about the family workshop on Sunday, 26 February here