Since becoming the capital of reunited Germany, Berlin has had a dose of global money and international style added to its already impressive cultural veneer. Once home to emperors and dictators, peddlers and spies, it is now a fashion showplace that attracts the young and hip. Moving beyond descriptions of Berlin’s fashion industry and its ready-to-wear clothing, Berliner Chic charts the turbulent stories of entrepreneurially-savvy manufacturers and cultural workers striving to establish their city as a fashion capital, and being repeatedly interrupted by politics, ideology, and war. There are many stories to tell about Berlin’s fashion industry and Berliner Chic tells them all with considerable expertise.
List of Illustrations, Dedication, Acknowledgements, Introduction: Locating Berliner Chic, Chapter 1: Berliner Chic in Museums, Chapter 2: Berliner Chic and Historiography, Chapter 3: Berliner Chic and Photography, Chapter 4: Berliner Chic on the Silver Screen, Chapter 5: Berlin Calling: Sex and Drugs and Punk and Techno, Chapter 6: Becoming Berlin: The Flux of Corporate Luxe, Chapter 7: Conclusion – Where Fashion Lives Today, Battleground Berlin, References,
“The very project of modernity is born out of the desire for a world without surprises, a safe world, a world without fear.”
“The museal gaze thus may be said to revoke the Weberian disenchantment of the world in modernity and to reclaim a sense of non-synchronicity and the past.”
Museums have been much maligned. Since their revolutionary beginnings in late eighteenth-century Paris, they have been accused of rendering objects inauthentic and crepuscular, of disciplining or interpellating class-based (but not class-conscious) national subjects, of showcasing the trophies of imperial war and conquest, and, more recently, of succumbing to the seductive forces of the market. Given that the museum has become an increasingly important site for fashion (Steele 8), it is perhaps to be expected that fashion would be implicated in these critiques. In 1983, Yves Saint-Laurent became the first living fashion designer to be honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a solo exhibition, and Diana Vreeland’s exhibition became a lightning rod for controversy, a fate shared by subsequent blockbuster exhibits, such as the Armani exhibit organized by the Guggenheim, designed by Robert Wilson and sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, which opened in New York in 2000, travelled to Bilbao in 2001 and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 2003 before proceeding on to London, Rome, Tokyo, and Las Vegas, garnering criticism as well as kudos along the way.
As this chapter reveals, fashion has not only been implicated in but has also provided the impetus for a particular strand of this criticism. Since entering the Berlin landscape towards the end of the nineteenth century, fashion has served to work against the prevailing assumptions about museums as the proper public places for the display of art treasures, i. Adorno once noted that museum and mausoleum are connected by more than phonetic association (175), but as Andreas Huyssen points out in Twilight Memories, museums have also acted as iterations or translations that promote the living-on (the survival) of objects and the memories they carry with them, as “a life-enhancing rather than mummifying institution in an age bent on the destructive denial of death: the museum thus as a site and testing ground for reflections on temporality and subjectivity, identity and alterity” (16).
Moreover, it is not only that this older critique “does not seem to be quite pertinent any longer for the current museum scene which has buried the museum as temple for the muses in order to resurrect it as a hybrid space somewhere between public fair and department store” (15). As we hope to establish here, the conjugation of fashion (in which, as laid out in the Introduction, we follow Elizabeth Wilson in understanding in terms of rapidly changing sitios de citas no religiosos styles of dress) and Berlin museum culture establishes a much longer historical trajectory for this type of hybridity than previously assumed and encourages a thoroughgoing rethinking of the relationship between fashion and the museum. Huyssen may have thought it was hyperbolic to claim in Twilight Memories that “the museum is no longer simply the guardian of treasures and artifacts from the past discreetly exhibited for a the select group of experts and connoisseurs; no longer is its position in the eye of the storm, nor do its walls provide a barrier against the world outside” (21).