FRENCH TENDENCIES: The Brooklyn Museum’s senior curator of fashion and material culture Matthew Yokobosky has been named a Chevalier in the National Order of Merit.
He was honored for orchestrating “fabulous exhibitions that shine a spotlight on French fashion” and “reflect the fact that France is truly a land of innovation.”
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The medal was presented by Damien Laban, acting consulate general of France in New York at a ceremony on Jan. 18 at the French consulate on Fifth Avenue. His predecessor Jeremie Robert, who was recently tapped as French President Emmanuel Macron’s adviser on African affairs, had informed Yokobosky that he would be saluted last summer. Becoming a Knight of the National Order of Merit was not something that Yokobosky had ever considered. When he got the call while seated at his desk, he automatically started taking notes on a yellow Post-it note — just as he does with everything. But this note had to be reread many times — “maybe just to emphasize that it wasn’t a dream,” he said.
In the time since he first joined the Brooklyn Museum as an exhibition designer in 1999 and elevated to the lead creative role, he always pursued projects that he felt passionate about without ever focusing on the fact that maybe he was showing more French designers than others.
Guests at Thursday’s gathering included Dianne Brill, Amy Fine Collins, Lauren Ezersky and her husband Nelson Happy, Cartier’s Esther Woo and Jon Omahen and fashion designers Claudio Cina and Nabys Vielman. Photographers Sante d’Orazio, Faten Gaddes and Dustin Pittman and artists Paul Caranicas and Ruth Marten were among the other creatives in the crowd.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh alum first worked at the Carnegie Museum of Art before moving to New York. In 1987, he took a curatorial assistant post at the Whitney Museum of American Art. At that time, his nights were spent designing costumes for the avant-garde theater La Mama with the director Ping Chong. Yokobosky gleaned his fashion know-how from the 40-page spreads in Details magazine that often featured photos of fashion shows for Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana. Those images that were shot by Bill Cunningham “really inspired” Yokobosky’s aesthetic for costumes, he said.
Through his curatorial role, he has spotlighted the work of Gaultier, Mugler, Pierre Cardin and Dior and how they helped shape culture positively by highlighting gender stereotypes and feminism in exhibitions. One example was the 2022 “Thierry Mugler: Couturissme” show, which was coordinated with Thierry-Maxime Loriot. The 2020 show “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion” was the first one in the U.S. in 40 years. In 2021, collaborating with the house of Dior, Yokobosky staged “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” to magnify the namesake designer’s ties to New York. “Dior is like the Monet of fashion. He’s evergreen and there are many ways you could do a show about Dior,” he said.
In his remarks, which were shared with WWD, Yokobosky said, “I think what has drawn me so continually to French culture is the forms of beauty, cinema, fashion, food, architecture and indeed style. There is an ability to capture the subtlest of feelings in a perfume, a film scene, a wonderful pastry, a fashion design. And when you are in Paris, you often do feel, as if you are in a very chic movie — the possibility exists.”
Fittingly, after being honored at the French consulate Thursday night, he flew to London to catch the “Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. A dinner at the members’ dining room in the House of Commons capped off the week’s festivities.
The Brooklyn Museum’s yet-to-be-revealed next exhibition won’t be solely French-centric and will be somewhat pan-historical, according to Yokobosky.
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