0000 Jorge Yarur Bascuñán's Clothing Museum - the Fashion Spot
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0000 Jorge Yarur Bascuñán's Clothing Museum
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from nytimes

May 24, 2007
Love, Money and Clothes

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
SHOPPING SPREE Jorge Yarur Bascuñán in front of his new clothing museum in Chile.


WHO is Jorge Yarur Bascuñán and what does he want with Madonna’s bra?

And Margot Fonteyn’s tutu?

And some of the most coveted designs of Paul Poiret, the early-20th-century couturier who is currently the subject of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

Such curious questions have become a common, and sometimes frustrating, refrain among the world’s foremost collectors of couture and historic costume as they have been outbid, outmaneuvered or otherwise undone by the deep pockets of Jorge Yarur, a 46-year-old scion of a wealthy family who is building a world-class fashion museum in Santiago, Chile, from scratch.

“Some of the most glamorous pieces that have come on the market recently have been driven up by Jorge to prices that seemed unreasonable,” said Harold Koda, chief curator of the Costume Institute at the Met.

On occasion, he said, Mr. Yarur had outbid what the Met was willing to pay.

Mr. Yarur’s Museo de la Moda, set inside his family’s elaborately reconditioned 1962 Modernist glass mansion, has become an unexpected player in a growing field of international museums now investing in fashion collections.

Over the last decade, the privately funded museum, opening to the public on May 29, has acquired more than 8,000 garments. They represent an eclectic, if not encyclopedic, range of work from the exquisitely rare (1860’s Charles Frederick Worth; 1930’s Vionnet) to the deliciously campy (Nolan Miller’s wardrobe for Joan Collins on “Dynasty”). In the process, Mr. Yarur’s exuberance has sometimes driven prices for rare examples of 20th-century couture to levels at which institutional players say they cannot compete.

Pamela Parmal, the fashion curator of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, one of several American institutions that have expanded their fashion collections in recent years, has also noted Mr. Yarur’s arrival on the curatorial stage with detectable envy.

“Our Chilean friend has had a real impact on the market,” Ms. Parmal said. “He has a very good eye, and he only goes for the best. And he does what he has to do to acquire it.”

Mr. Yarur, in a telephone interview, said that he had not intended to create such a stir and that some of his earliest acquisitions, may have seemed extreme, reflecting a lack of experience. After the deaths of his parents in the ’90s, Mr. Yarur, an only son, was inspired, he said, to transform the familial home into a museum. He enlisted experts to build a state-of-the-art storage facility and a reference center containing 15,000 fashion publications and sketches underneath the house. An indoor swimming pool was remade into a two-story room for exhibitions; the garage became a coffee shop. “Emotionally, I felt like I didn’t want to live there, but I didn’t want to sell it either,” he said. “I kept all of my parents’ things.”

Andrew Bolton, a Costume Institute curator, toured the museum last week and described it as a poetic experience, citing the conversion of Mr. Yarur’s father’s bedroom, “which shows an enormous ball gown by Galliano from Dior’s autumn/winter 2002 haute couture collection splayed out on the bed, like a drunken, but very elegant socialite.” Mr. Bolton said he found himself coveting many pieces, including a sublime Balenciaga pink silk-taffeta gown from the late ’50s.

Ignacio Pérez Cotapos, the director of ED, a Chilean decorating magazine, and once a classmate of Mr. Yarur, whom he called by his nickname, Toto, said that Mr. Yarur’s family left him an enormous fortune and that when he had started sorting their clothing, he was inspired to build upon that with acquisitions. Mr. Bolton of the Met said he was touched by Mr. Yarur’s obvious devotion to his mother, Raquel Bascuñán Cugnoni, whose image, with remarkable physical similarities to Rita Hayworth, is shown at the museum in galleries and videos.

“Not unlike Dior, Jorge’s mother was the catalyst for his love of fashion,” Mr. Bolton said. “She’s the museum’s muse.”

That a private investor could have such an effect on the valuation of fashion memorabilia has been a surprising development for curators accustomed to dealing with a subject once ranked in the backwaters of museum hierarchy. There is no question that fashion’s popularity as a form of historic narrative — and its ability to draw crowds to museums — has helped change that perception. The Met’s willingness to display an increasing number of fashion shows outside the traditional confines of its basement-level costume galleries reflects this. So does its teeth in making recent acquisitions.

Likewise, other institutions are now competing for important works of fashion, including the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and new museums dedicated to fashion in Berlin and Antwerp, Belgium. Corporate entities, as well, recognize the importance of documenting the history of their own franchises — all resulting in a frenzied market for historic fashion. Some examples:

At a Christie’s auction in London in December, the house of Givenchy paid $811,800 for a little black dress created by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

The Victoria & Albert in London bought a rare 1954 Christian Dior ensemble known as the Zemire for about $5,100 at an auction in Paris last year; it will be the centerpiece of its “Golden Age of Couture” exhibition planned for September.

The Museum of Arts & Design in New York is expected to announce today that it has received a $2 million grant from the Tiffany & Company Foundation to establish a permanent gallery for contemporary jewelry in its new home on Columbus Circle.

The Costume Institute’s Poiret exhibition, meanwhile, was predicated on its purchase at a May 2005 auction in Paris of 20 pieces of the once-lost wardrobe of Denise Poiret, the designer’s wife and muse, spending an estimated $581,000, not including the auctioneer’s commissions. (The Met would not confirm its budget, but an estimate can be deduced by comparing the Poiret catalog with auction sale prices that are publicly available.) Among its purchases was a 1911 coat made with a woodblock-printed fabric designed by Raoul Dufy, for which the Met paid more than $90,000. In the early ’80s, the Fashion Institute of Technology bought one of the most important Poiret designs, a sorbet-colored gown, for $6,000.

The sale of the nearly 600 Poiret designs, considered by curators as a seminal event because of their provenance, totaled $2.4 million. This included record prices for a couture garment at auction ($168,500 for a 1914 ivory silk coat) and for shoes ($52,370 for a pair made for Denise Poiret in 1924 by Perugia), both Costume Institute purchases. Several French museums also bought multiple pieces, but one of the most competitive bidders, according to the curators, was Mr. Yarur of Chile, whose purchases included a 1913 dinner jacket for $60,830.

Louis Webre, the vice president for marketing and media at Doyle New York, said Mr. Yarur has outbid any number of institutional collectors for works sold through that auction house as well, but he would not disclose specific purchases other than to note that Mr. Yarur was “among the most discerning of our clients in terms of quality.”

Some prices, however, can be gleaned by comparing Mr. Yarur’s holdings to auction results that are public record. From the Margot Fonteyn sale at Christie’s, Mr. Yarur paid $94,800 for the tutu Leslie Hurry designed for a performance of “Swan Lake.” In 2001, he paid $21,150 for one of the conical bras Jean Paul Gaultier designed for Madonna’s “Blonde Ambition” tour.

It was Mr. Yarur’s grandfather Juan Yarur Lolas who established a string of textile companies and cotton mills in South America and in 1937 founded the BCI Bank in Santiago, which is now one of the country’s largest and remains in the control of his descendants.

“It is an extraordinary combination of a lot of money with the best standards of quality,” Mr. Pérez said of his friend. “He is very refined and a perfectionist. He has done everything with extreme care and quality."

Institutions that don’t have that kind of money have had to be more creative in building collections and public support. The Fine Arts in Boston, for example, was able to add some remarkable contemporary couture to its holdings as a result of its fall show on that season’s Paris collections — Azzedine Alaïa and Christian Lacroix made gifts of several pieces in the show.

Later this year, Ms. Parmal is planning an exhibition that places shoes throughout the museum as they relate to various periods — Miu Miu rococo-inspired wedges with 18th-century furniture; athletic shoes from the Red Sox and Celtics next to ancient Greek pottery painted with sports motifs.

Historic costume has not yet experienced the inflation that has spurred other parts of the art market, Mr. Koda said, but the Poiret auction made one thing abundantly clear.

“It’s not only one entity, in Chile, that has made this change,” he said. “A number of institutions have built up a war chest for important acquisitions. In the field, you have this incredible energy focused on dress, and this sounds crass, but in a way, it’s really enlivened the marketplace.”

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
Holdings include a 1967 Yves Saint Laurent minidress.

Gill Allen/Associated Press
Also in the collection is Madonna’s bra.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
WARDROBE At El Museo de la Moda, styles from the 1930s.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
Minidresses from the 1960s.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
The collection includes clothing and images of Jorge Yarur’s relatives (top right), who inspired his love of couture.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
There is also a basement reference library for books and fashion publications.


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quite amazing that this one man can compete against institutions like the met. sounds like quite and extensive collection!

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just realized how much the bra top of madonna is similar to C.Kane's ring madness dresses. or the other way around.

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