Growing up in the Midwest, Helen Jean knew of Geoffrey Beene as the name on the designer-licensed shirts and neckties her father purchased at the mall.
It was only after she began her education in fashion that she came to see and understand the creativity and artistry of the revered American designer.
In her role as the Jacquie Dorrance Curator for Fashion Design at Phoenix Art Museum, she is the public face of the institution’s current exhibition “MOVE: The Modern Cut of Geoffrey Beene,” which is on display through July 23.
The show can be seen in three rooms on the second floor of the museum. In the large Harnett Gallery, mannequins posed as ballerinas dance in breathtaking evening gowns, watched by dress forms bearing sporty jumpsuits, chic officewear, and a gaggle of cheerful, polka-dotted garments. In the next gallery, a collection of inventive evening gowns faces a rainbow of coats and bolero jackets. In the final room, objects on loan from the Geoffrey Beene archives share space with one very special dress, a sequin-and-ostrich-feather minidress from the 1960s that was one of the first pieces in Phoenix Art Museum’s fashion collection.
Most of the items in “MOVE” come from the wardrobe of New York City philanthropist and publisher Patsy Tarr, a longtime client of Beene’s before his death in 2004.
As Jean explains, Ellen Katz, a major donor and supporter of the museum, who hails from New York, convinced her friend Tarr to donate the bulk of her Beene garments to Phoenix Art Museum in 2019. (Tarr had already loaned the museum a number of items for a 2009 exhibition titled “Geoffrey Beene: Trapeze.”)
“We’re very, very fortunate that she chose our museum,” Jean says. “Of course, it was very intentional on her part, sharing this story and these
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