The Resurrection of Magic

Gallagher’s displays the fashion art once at the heart of couture

Once upon a time, during a long bitter winter, there came one night a rare mid-February thaw. In the chilled hearts of the citizens, the brief respite awakened bittersweet musings. In a fitful sleep charged with myth, a queer little boy traveled to a turreted castle set high on a snow-shrouded peak.

In a crystal ballroom, candle-lit for a waltz, he waited. An alabaster beauty in high powder, dazzling in a gown that fell in a faint hush to the polished parquetry, appeared.

For weeks, the boy drew the dream and wondered who the dream lady was and what he thought she was wearing; something whirling by Dior, perhaps, or running like a Gres?

Years later, the young man, now a fledgling couturier, spied a Gruau fashion drawing while exploring the archives at Gallagher’s. In a dizzy rush, his romantic yearnings returned. Scratching and dashing, his pen lines chased a corseted waist alighting on clouds of tulle. Oh God, the dress!

Once upon a time, the rag mags routinely featured the works of such artists as Christian Bérard, Carl Erickson (Eric), René Bouché, and Antonio—all sentient angels drawing dresses to grace our dreams. The good news is you needn’t go skulking around the dank fashion catacombs carved under 12th Street to find their preserved works. Gallagher’s has now got a proper display space for these gems of culture.

To celebrate the publication of Michele Wesen Bryant’s book “WWD Illustrated, 1960s –1990s,” the gallery is exhibiting a stunning survey of fashion art including works by Charles Boone, Deborah Marquit, Robert Melendez, Robert Passantino, and Kenneth Paul Block. Their elegantly simple and sure line drawings are dazzling. The Blocks are superb. Proving the drawing rule that less is always more, he displays a masterly draftsmanship informed by the pure economy of a single charcoal line sweeping across toned paper sparkling with pearl-like highlights.

Glen Turnstull’s glamour faces of fashion models are so pretty they hurt.

So if at heart you are a queer little boy in love with pretty things, like elegant drawings of dresses, this exhibit will satiate that longing for what is both beautiful and sublime. It will surely revive one’s magical belief in queens and castles and Valentine waltzes.

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