In 2018, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris acquired the very first dress to ever be 3D-printed in the history of fashion. That single, historic frock became the catalyst for a sprawling new retrospective that opened in late November at the French museum. “Iris van Herpen: Sculpting the Senses”—on view through April 28, 2024—features that inaugural gown, alongside over 100 other works made by the Dutch designer, including pieces she created for Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Björk.
Anyone familiar with van Herpen’s sculptural, otherworldly concoctions will be less than surprised to find out the aforementioned 3D-printed gown was her design. The Alexander McQueen alum, who founded her namesake label in 2007, is known for experimenting with new technologies and subverting trends, while also employing traditional couturier techniques. That crossover between fashion, tech, visual art, and science made her a perfect candidate for a show—and for the past five years, the Art Deco and contemporary design curator Cloé Pitiot and associate curator Louise Curtis have worked closely with the designer to put together Sculpting the Senses. Together, they conceived of nine themes (“Water” and “The Origins of Life” among them) to inform the exhibition, which puts van Herpen’s dresses “in dialogue with a selection of artworks, elements of nature, and videos,” Pitiot explained—a sorbet Iris Van Herpen gown, for instance, set against Kim Keever’s Abstract 46682. Each room inside the museum is themed and resembles more of a cabinet of curiosities than a gallery wall.
For van Herpen’s part, the yearslong process has been “quite emotional at moments,” she said via e-mail. “I went into the archives, then narrowed it down through the conception of the themed rooms with the curators. We knew immediately that we wanted iconic pieces in the show: ones that have been on
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