Monday, March 12, 2012

Pizzazz! The Divine Diana Vreeland in Venice

A Dazzling New Exhibition Honoring Diana Vreeland has just opened at the Museo Fortuny in Venice. Too, too divine.

An exclusive look and first report.

Venice, Palazzo Fortuny, March 10 – June 26, 2012

The first major exhibition to be dedicated to the extraordinary and complex Diana Vreeland (Paris, 1903 - New York, 1989) is certain to set Diana-maniacs’ hearts fluttering. And it gives me a great reason to head to Venice very soon.

The exhibit, which includes a shimmering array of gowns and dresses by Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy, explores the passions and opinions and vivid life of Vreeland.

I can’t wait. Calling Lufthansa. 

Diana Vreeland in Venice, 1973

The Palazzo Fortuny exhibit offers a new insight into her kaleidoscopic career—editor, style beacon, museum curator, fashion insider, traveler, wit, fashion’s fairy godmother, and a generous and imaginative spirit.

“I want to die young—at seventy. I want to die young—at eighty. I want to die young—at ninety.” – Diane Vreeland interviewed in the new Diana Vreeland by Lisa Immordino Vreeland

Diane Vreeland, Andy Warhol and Fred Hughes in Venice

The exhibition short-circuits time to paint a vivid image of Diane Vreeland, her era, her fashion influence, her enduring spirit.

The aim, curator Maria Lisa Frisa told me, is to restore a sense of the ‘magnificent gait’ with which Diana Vreeland processed through fashion of the 20th century. 

Photographer unknown. Courtesy of the Diana
Vreeland Estate.

Francesca Bortolotto Possati, CEO and owner of the BAUERS hotels in Venice launched the exhibit with great style, with an inaugural cocktail party on March 9 at the Hotel Bauer. 

Francesca Bortolotto Possati at the Hotel Bauer
Hotel Bauer
Bauer Villa F
Bauer Palladio
She was called 'The best connected woman in Venice': The glamorous and dashing Francesca Bortolotto Possati, CEO and owner of the Bauer Hotels in Venice, is shown at the star-studded opening night party with her son, Alessandro, and her daughter, Olimpia, and friends Harold Coda from the Met Museum in New York, as well as T editor Stafano Tonchi, and Rosita Missoni.

International style connoisseurs, designers, academics, models, and chic friends gathered at the Hotel Bauer glittering salons.

Fashion luminaries mingling among the Murano glass chandeliers included Benedetta Barzini (a favorite model and frequent cover girl of Vreeland’s in the sixties), Fiona Thyssen, Stefano Tonchi, editor in chief of W Magazine, Frances Corner, head of the London College of Fashion; Becky Conekin, Professor of History and Culture in Fashion at Yale; Laurent Cotta, Curator of Galliera Museum in Paris; Amy De La Haye, fashion historian; Debo Kaat, Director of Mode Museum in Antwerp; Fukai Akiko, Director and chief curator of The Kyoto Costume Institute; Louise Wallenberg, Director of Centre for Fashion Studies at Stockholm University and Miren Arzalluz, curator at the Balenciaga Foundation. 

Photograph by Arnold Newman, 1974. Courtesy of
Getty Images.

At the exhibition, designs by Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy worn by Diana Vreeland, loaned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. There will also be some extraordinary articles by Balenciaga from the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum, some of the most iconic creations by Saint Laurent from the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent and, finally, other precious garments that have made some of the history of 20th-century fashion, loaned from prestigious private collections and company archives, and including such labels as Chanel, Schiaparelli, Missoni, Pucci together with costumes for the Ballets Russes.

‘When fashion turns over it brings in little tiny cracks and creaks. That is the fascination and that is where you have to watch every step.’

‘It is very easy to do what everybody does. It is very hard to select and use only the best.’

– Diana Vreeland, from her two final and last Vogue memos, Feb 2 and Feb 3, 1971. From Visionaire’s ‘Diana Vreeland Memos’

Diana Vreeland in Vogue Office 1965,
James Karales
Photograph by James Karales. Courtesy of
the Estate of James Karales.

Vreeland exhibition co-produced by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the Diana Vreeland Estate

Curators: Judith Clark and Maria Luisa Frisa

Commissioned by Lisa Immordino Vreeland 

Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Conde Nast.

Biographical Highlights:
Diana Vreeland was born into the Dalziel family in Paris in 1903 to an English father and American mother

She became Mrs. T. Reed Vreeland in 1924.

In 1936, she was discovered by Carmel Snow, who saw her dancing in Chanel one evening at the St. Regis. Harpers Bazaar job followed.

In 1962, she moved to the US edition of Vogue and became editor-in-chief the following year.

She was fired from Vogue in 1971, but by the following year she had already been invited by Thomas Hoving, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, to work as Special Consultant at the Costume Institute.

Her era at the Met was also marked by the style of her fashion exhibitions.

She died in New York in 1989.

At her memorial service, Richard Avedon said of her: “Diana lived for imagination ruled by discipline. No one has equaled her”.

Venice, Palazzo Fortuny, March 10 – June 26, 2012 

Photographs of Diane Vreeland from the exhibit at the Fortuny Museum published here with express permission from the Museo Fortuny.

Images from ‘Diana Vreeland The Eye Must Travel’ (Abrams 2011) published here with express permission from Abrams.

Images of the Bauer hotels used with specific permission from Francesca Bortolotto Posati, CEO of the Bauers, Venice.

With thanks.

Palazzo Fortuny
San Marco 3780 – San Beneto, Venice, Italy
Booking and information:

For more information:
Palazzo Fortuny,

The Bauer hotels: 

Diana Vreeland The Eye Must Travel’ (Abrams 2011) 


Anne said...

Beautiful! Lovely blog; I'm a new follower!
Anne ♥♥

mbwife said...

Diana Vreeland is having her moment, isn't she! Another perfect and timely post, since Venice is on our May agenda.

peggy braswell said...

Have read all I could get my hands on about DV. This looks delicious.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Anne--I hope your art works are going well--and that your plants are healthy and happy in this weather. Time consider a trip to Venice to see DV! So happy to hear from you.

Molto Bene Wife--Thank you for your lovely comment. Painted finishes, dramatic walls, colors--Venice has them all. It's waiting for you to take a trip for inspiration with the MBH (molt been husband).

Peggy-Looks like many of my readers are heading to Venice in the spring and early summer, so they'll see the DV show in the fabulous and mysterious Palzzo Fortuny. I hope you take the trip (or...vicariously with your DV books...).
cheers IDNAE

Stacy CUrran said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Philip Bewley said...

Loved reading about the exhibit here...what I loved from what I have read about DV is her passion and enthusiasm for it, design, new photographers...she really pushed design forward in so many ways.
Loved reading your posts this morning -this one and some terrific ones in the archive (John Coote's place in Ireland...marvelous exclusive photographs )

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Thank you so much for your lovely comment--and your message about John Coote.
Diana Vernally--her life continues, really. I was fortunate to see the new film about her--lots of vivid video--and it will also make this a big year for Mrs Vreeland. I met her family--sons and grandchildren and grand-daughter in law...and they are so warm and outgoing.
John Coote-I was fortunate to meet him, and loved his design and style. Lovely man.
I always see the 'up' side of things, as you know. Over the recent holidays, John had sent me glorious photos of his daughter's wedding, and he was there looking spruce and trim and proud. And then...I happened, by chance, to see on Facebook, written by a close friend of John's that he had died, suddenly, in Indonesia while checking furniture designs.
Life is precious. Friends are precious.
You are precious, dear Philip.
BEST -- DIANE said...

I have a dear friend that lives now in Santa Fe, and she worked with Diana on 5 of her shows at the Met....

I think she was a true original...
l wonder what her personal life was like???


Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

HI Melissa-

Lovely to hear this information. Your friend was of fortunate.
Diana Vreeland's private life! I have it on very good authority that her husband--who was very stylish and well-mannered--doted on Diana and adored her.
I've met her grandchildren--and they are wonderful. Her family all seem very happy and love Diana unreservedly--and they also dote on her. I could not be more pleased.
Stay in touch, DIANE

Brillante Interiors said...

As someone said... fashion is a brand, style is when you remember the person not the dress.

Diane, I have lost your e-mail address, could you kindly send it to me again? I like to send you a private email.

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Diane, Hope you are well. How I love this review! I wish I could go there to see this exhibition in person! I've been reading all your posts here and I've got a lot of catching up to do!! I really love your Mrs. Howard's book review of "The Joy of decorating".

With best wishes, ASD