The journey of actress Glenn Close’s costume collection coming to the Eskenazi Museum of Art has been eight years in the making. But on May 6, the exhibit will finally open, highlighting pieces from the collection of more than 800 costumes Close gave to IU.
“The Art of the Character: Highlights from the Glenn Close Costume Collection” opens May 6 at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art and will run through Nov. 15. The museum recommends visitors make reservations to avoid long wait times at the door.
Kelly Richardson, curator of the Sage Collection at IU, helped put the exhibit together. She said the idea of Close donating her costume collection to IU began in 2013 when Bernice Pescosolido, an IUsociology professor, joined the Science Advisory Board of Close’s mental health nonprofit Bring Change to Mind.
“That led to a conversation with Laurie McRobbie about Glenn’s costume collection and the Elizabeth Sage Historic Costume Collection as a possible home for it,” Richardson said.
Richardson and Kate Rowold, former Sage Collection director and former associate dean of the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design, then went to tour the storage facility in New York where Close’s costumes were being kept.
After Richardson and Rowold wrote a proposal for the costume collection to be brought to IU, Close took a tour of the Auxiliary Library Facility at IU in 2017 and discussed how students could learn from and work with her costumes with the leaders of the project.
“She liked what she saw, and the costumes arrived on campus in late 2017,” Richardson said.
The process of putting the exhibit together has taken time. As soon as the collection arrived on campus, talks of a public exhibit were in the works, but work began in earnest, in 2018, Richardson said.
“When IU sent out a press release about our acquisition of the collection and its arrival on campus, my inbox and voicemail blew up,” Richardson said. “It was clear that the public wanted to see these iconic costumes in person.”
As the exhibit was being put together, Close became invested in it and has been a positive influence throughout the years, Richardson said.
“She’s great,” Richardson said. “Glenn’s been quite involved in the exhibition planning process and has been a pleasure to talk to and worth with. She’s totally invested in making sure that the work of costume designers is recognized and is very supportive of the exhibition.”
On a project like this, Richardson said students and volunteers normally help. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, most of the preparation work was completed by Richardson, her assistant and Galina Olmsted, assistant curator of American and European Art at the Eskenazi Museum.
“Limited access to the building and to costume storage due to COVID-19 precautions was one of the most challenging aspects of the project,” Olmsted said. “But thanks to campuswide collaboration and constant Zoom meetings, we were able to pull it together.”
Despite pandemic obstacles, Olmsted and Richardson said they are excited to share the costumes with visitors.
“Can’t help myself – the ‘101 [Dalmations]’ and ‘102 Dalmatians’ costumes are simply spectacular,” Richardson said. “The designs are so imaginative and creative and executed with such skill and attention to detail.”
Olmsted said her favorite costumes come from the 1988 film “Dangerous Liaisons.”
“The designer, James Acheson, looked at French paintings from the period for inspiration and the blue dress with pink roses is based on the dress worn by Madame de Pompadour in her 1756 portrait by François Boucher,” Olmsted said. “Acheson’s commitment to detail is incredible and the costume is one deserving of close attention.”