The Bowes Museum wins the Art Fund’s New Collecting Award

The New Collecting Awards are organised by the Art Fund and aim to encourage curators to acquire objects to help develop their museum’s collection and continue their professional development.

My written application for the New Collecting Award was accepted in January this year, after which I presented to a panel of six judges at the Art Fund’s head office in London. During the presentation I described what I would like to acquire for The Bowes Museum and how this might benefit our fashion and textile collection and my career as a curator. In April it was announced that The Bowes Museum, along with four other institutions, had been awarded a New Collecting Award of £60,000.

How will we spend the money?

As a new curator to the field of fashion and textiles at The Bowes Museum, I am always learning new and exciting stories about its history. One story which captured my imagination was the history of our Founders, particularly that of Joséphine Bowes. We know that Joséphine Bowes had a taste for high-end fashion and during the 1850s and 1860s aligned herself with women like Empress Eugenie, the last Consort of the French, shopping at the House of Worth in Paris. We have two bodices in the collection which are attributed to Joséphine, but no other couture from her wardrobe survives. Using our archive of bills and records from John and Joséphine’s life, the New Collecting Award will enable me to research and acquire an iconic capsule collection of French haute couture, in homage to Joséphine, spanning two centuries, which reference her tastes and lifestyle.

BM.297, Josephine Bowes, Countess of Montalbo (1825-1874), 1850
BM.297, Josephine Bowes, Countess of Montalbo (1825-1874), 1850

 

Worth and Bobergh bill, Madame Bowes, 1869
Worth and Bobergh bill, Madame Bowes, 1869

Mentor

Another exciting aspect to the Arts Fund’s New Collecting Award is an appointed mentor for the project. Throughout the two-year process I will be mentored by Professor Judith Clark, a fashion curator and lecturer at London College of Fashion. Judith is one of the two co-founders of the Centre for Fashion Curation (CfFC) and is internationally recognised across academia, museums, galleries, industry and the press. She has curated major exhibitions at the V&A in London, Mode Museum in Antwerp, Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam and Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Recent exhibitions include The Concise Dictionary of Dress (with Adam Phillips) at Blythe House, London, commissioned by Artangel. The mentoring process is extremely beneficial for my development as a curator and will encourage me in the right direction for the project. Over the course of two years I will spend time researching our archives at The Bowes Museum and will travel to London and Paris to meet with Judith, private fashion collectors/dealers and auction houses.

The run up to Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal is proving to be a great inspiration for the project and is helping to form a French direction for the fashion and textile gallery, which is a fundamental aspect of the Museum’s DNA.

Hannah Jackson, Assistant Curator

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