Drawing on Style: Three Masters of Elegance, the first selling exhibition of fashion-illustration art in New York City, will take place September 5 to 10 during the city’s annual fashion week. Fashion curator Connie Gray of London’s Gray M.C.A gallery has assembled a total of 60 pieces: half from the late Kenneth Paul Block—who did a great deal of work for W magazine, among others—and the remainder from contemporary artists Jason Brooks and Bil Donovan, the in-house illustrator for Christian Dior.
Gray stresses the difference between fashion designs—which are sketches of clothes-to-be—and fashion illustrations, which celebrate finished works of couture. “Illustrators, for many years, worked hand in hand with photographers,” she says. “Now [illustration] looks fresher than photography and stands out far more on the page.”
Highlights of the exhibition will include Block’s 1965 YSL Study for Fashion Savages by John Fairchild (estimated to sell for $3,000) and Beauty Story (estimated at $5,000). “Block was more interested in line and stance than beauty—that’s why he was so revered,” says Gray. “He didn’t follow the tradition of making everything look absolutely perfect. He could be quite harsh sometimes in the way he interpreted a look. That’s what made him great.”
Brooks’s Chanel Boots 2017—a signed archival giclee monoprint that is expected to fetch $2,500—is another striking piece, rendered in red-and-black silhouette with the subject’s boots adding a pop of stark white. “[Brooks is] masterful in the way he manipulates his images, and the fact that he works in silhouettes brings impact and visual power to his art,” Gray says.
Works by Donovan will include Dior II and Viktor & Rolf 2017, Luxure Magazine, the latter a mixed media on paper that is expected to bring in $2,300. Both pieces demonstrate the artist’s mastery of subtlety and color. “He almost never uses pencil,” Gray says.” “He paints with no underlying sketching. It’s very spontaneous, and that’s what fashion is—spontaneous.”
Exhibition lots for Drawing on Style: Three Masters of Elegance will be presented in a preview aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 starting August 31. The actual exhibition will take place at Manhattan’s Cheryl Hazan Gallery from September 5 to 10.