Exhibition Details

Location: Ellman Fashion Design Gallery
Dates: November 7, 2009
to March 7, 2010


“a true creative genius and bold and original designer.”  New York Times

"Beene continues to be the most American of designers and very likely the country's best too." Time Magazine

Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004) was one of America’s most original fashion designers, a true design pioneer that elevated his craft to an art. In this spirit, the Fashion Design Department of Phoenix Art Museum presents Geoffrey Beene: Trapeze, a whimsical exhibition that goes beyond the study of dressmaking into the world of conceptual art. The exhibition is drawn from a superb private collection acquired in the 1980s and 1990s, when Mr. Beene was at a creative peak and much like Mr. Beene’s life in fashion, is witty and irreverent. It will allow visitors to experience his celebrated designs and philosophies in a striking and stimulating way.

For 40 years, beginning with the opening of Geoffrey Beene, Inc. in 1963, Beene challenged the American Fashion establishment by creating visionary haute couture for women and superbly tailored styles for men that married comfort and luxury. Winner of eight Coty Awards, three CFDA Awards, an honorary doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design, he was deemed an “American Original” by the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Featuring more than 30 garments, Geoffrey Beene: Trapeze profiles the fanciful custom-made wardrobe of Patsy Tarr, a prominent supporter of dance in New York and founder and publisher of the award-winning 2wice magazine.

Unlike a retrospective, the exhibition provides unique insight into the creative relationship between designer and client. Featuring one-of-kind garments and unique items, the exhibition clearly expresses the designer’s sense of humor and expertise with fabric. Also present is Beene’s love of flowers, dots, curves, wraps, folds and triangles, reoccurring themes present is several of the designs.

Designed by Abbott Miller, a partner at the award-winning New York design firm Pentagram, the installation draws inspiration from Beene’s love of the circus. Surrounded by polka-dots and stripes, specially designed mannequins will be suspended from the ceiling displaying Tarr’s fantastic clothes. Tom Kalin’s film “30” commissioned by Beene in 1993, will play on a continuous loop – its film noir surrealism complementing the installation theme.



The exhibition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum.
Support provided by The JCT Foundation, Robert Burg Design, and Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Image Credits

Left: Geoffrey Beene, American. Shrug and Jumpsuit, 1993. Double faced striped satin and silk jersey. Lent by Patsy Tarr. Model Holley Farmer of Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Center: Geoffrey Beene, American. Gown and Belt. Black chiffon with satin ribbon trim. Lent by Patsy Tarr. Model Holley Farmer of Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Right: Geoffrey Beene, American. Gown. Silk jersey stripes, chenille dots, and reptile printed satin. Lent by Patsy Tarr. Model Holley Farmer of Merce Cunningham Dance Company.