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      Past Exhibition

      Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love

      On view June 25, 2022 to November 6, 2022

      Today's hours:

      10 am–5 pm

      Monday

      10 am–5 pm

      Tuesday

      Closed

      Wednesday

      Closed

      Thursday

      10 am–5 pm

      Friday

      10 am–5 pm

      Saturday

      10 am–5 pm

      Sunday

      10 am–5 pm

      Monday

      10 am–5 pm

      Tuesday

      Closed

      Wednesday

      Closed

      Thursday

      10 am–5 pm

      Friday

      10 am–5 pm

      Saturday

      10 am–5 pm

      Sunday

      10 am–5 pm

      Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love celebrates the career and legacy of fashion designer Patrick Kelly (1954–1990).

      Based in Paris from 1979, Kelly was primarily self-taught and fearlessly drew inspiration from his experiences growing up in the American South, his Black heritage, his days in the New York and Paris club scenes, and his personal muses. His light-hearted and sophisticated designs pushed racial and cultural boundaries, asserted Black empowerment, and were rooted in expressions of love and joy. The exhibition was first presented at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2014 and revised for presentation at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. The exhibition at PEM situates Kelly and his work in the broader context of art and fashion history by exploring the impulses behind his designs, his significant collection of racist memorabilia (images of which he repurposed to tell his own story), and footage from his exuberant and groundbreaking fashion shows.

      First presented by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2014, and reconstituted by the de Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 2021, the exhibition presents more than 75 fully accessorized runway ensembles, dating from 1984 to 1989.

      Follow along on social media using #PatrickKellyatPEM.

      Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.


      The exhibition is made possible by the generosity of Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation, Angus and Leslie Littlejohn, and Susan and Appy Chandler. Additional support was provided by individuals who support the Exhibition Incubation Fund: Jennifer and Andrew Borggaard, James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, Kate and Ford O'Neil, and Henry and Callie Brauer. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

      Media Partners

      Boston Spirit
      WBUR


      TOP IMAGE: Patrick Kelly’s Fall/Winter 1988–1989 advertising campaign. Photo by Oliviero Toscani. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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      Designed by Patrick Kelly, Woman's Dress (detail), Fall/Winter 1986-87. Wool and spandex knit, plastic buttons. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Bjorn Guil Amelan and Bill T. Jones in honor of Monica Brown, 2015-201-124. Image Courtesy of the Philadelp

      Designed by Patrick Kelly, Woman's Dress (detail), Fall/Winter 1986-87. Wool and spandex knit, plastic buttons. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Bjorn Guil Amelan and Bill T. Jones in honor of Monica Brown, 2015-201-124. Image Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

      Designed by Patrick Kelly, Woman’s Ensemble: Coat and Dress, Fall/Winter 1986-87, Woman’s Dresses, Fall/Winter 1986-87 and Fall/Winter 1988-89. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Bjorn Guil Amelan and Bill T. Jones in honor of Monica Brown, 2015, 2015-20

      Designed by Patrick Kelly, Woman’s Ensemble: Coat and Dress, Fall/Winter 1986-87, Woman’s Dresses, Fall/Winter 1986-87 and Fall/Winter 1988-89. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Bjorn Guil Amelan and Bill T. Jones in honor of Monica Brown, 2015, 2015-201-29a,b, 2015-201-124, 2014-207-11. Image Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

      Portrait of Patrick Kelly. Photo by Oliviero Toscani. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson / Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

      Portrait of Patrick Kelly. Photo by Oliviero Toscani. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson / Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

      Patrick Kelly’s Fall/Winter 1989–1990 advertising campaign. Photo by Oliviero Toscani. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

      Patrick Kelly’s Fall/Winter 1989–1990 advertising campaign. Photo by Oliviero Toscani. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

      Patrick Kelly’s Spring/Summer 1988 advertising campaign. Photo by Oliviero Toscani. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

      Patrick Kelly’s Spring/Summer 1988 advertising campaign. Photo by Oliviero Toscani. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

      Patrick Kelly as seen on America’s Black Forum, November 5–6, 1988. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

      Patrick Kelly as seen on America’s Black Forum, November 5–6, 1988. Courtesy of the Estate of Patrick Kelly. Scan by Randy Dodson/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

      This exhibit opened at PEM right at a time when it sometimes feels like hope is scarce."
      — WBUR
      Inspiring. I now want to be a fashion designer.”
      — From the guest book
      This was everything. Inspiration and hope my soul desperately needed. Thank you, Patrick Kelly.”
      — From the guest book
      Thank you for letting me relive my teen years.”
      — From the guest book
      Thank you for exposing me to a beautiful soul and fabulous art that I didn’t know anything about before.”
      — From the guest book

      Patrick Kelly: The American in Paris

      This award-winning documentary traces the brief creative life of the artist who forever changed fashion.

      Curator Interview

      In this video, Petra Slinkard, PEM's Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles, discusses the appeal of Patrick Kelly's work and his enduring legacy.

      Patrick Kelly  Runway of Love book cover

      Exhibition Catalogue

      Generously illustrated with hundreds of images of runway photography, garments on mannequins, and never-before-published archival materials, this book is an unprecedented exploration of Patrick Kelly’s influential career. Visit the Museum Shop in person or online.

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      FAQs

      Patrick Kelly drew on the visual vocabulary of the Jim Crow south and his experiences of growing up in Mississippi in order to create fashion that transforms suffering and oppression into expressions of exuberance and joy. His own signature look – denim bibbed overalls – paid tribute to the laborers, tenant farmers, and civil rights activists of the American South while his designs for others included a line of red handkerchief dresses that were meant to reclaim the imagery of southern Black domestic servitude.

      Kelly was an avid collector of racist objects and objects of Black representation – primarily ceramic figurines and dolls, including the character of a “golliwog,” a fictional Black children’s character from the late 1800s with exaggerated facial features. Kelly sought to subvert this harmful imagery by dismantling and repurposing its power. In the 1980s Kelly made the “golliwog” central to his brand by using it as his company’s logo and the motif across many of his runway designs. PEM has included a selection of Kelly’s collection of racist objects, as well as Black dolls made for his atelier by his mother and grandmother, to express the complex and powerful influences of race, power, and violence that directly informed the artist’s life and work.

      Visitors will encounter several signage content warnings to alert them to the presence of this anti-Black and racist material. Visitors are encouraged to avoid this section of the exhibition if they prefer to not engage with the content or find it too disturbing. Resources and opportunities for visitors to read, reflect, and respond are also provided within the gallery. A complete overview of gallery signage and wall text may be found HERE.

      Working in the spirit of the Black radical imagination, Kelly envisioned an aesthetic that represented the possibilities of what can and could be done by directly inserting race into the conversation. On the topic of using the “golliwog” imagery, he observed, “I get a lot of criticism from Blacks, and from whites and from everybody about who I am and my image. And with the Blacks I always say, if we can’t deal with where we’ve been, it’s gon’ be hard to go somewhere.”

      No. Through the presentation of Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, PEM is seeking to broaden understanding and appreciation of one of the most important Black fashion designers of the 20th century. Race and identity were central themes of Kelly’s work and career and PEM hopes to provide visitors with sufficient context and a sensitive interpretation of this work to promote an understanding of both the joyful and painful aspects of Kelly’s story.

      There are numerous examples of contemporary Black American artists subverting racist imagery in their work, including Kara Walker, Nick Cave, Faith Ringold, Robert Colescott, and Allison Saar.

      Last year, PEM’s curatorial team held cross-departmental focus groups and listening sessions at the museum with a variety of staff to gauge sensitivities and concerns about presenting this material. Curators consulted with previous venues of this traveling exhibition to better understand the public’s response and looked to the work of scholars and thinkers on the topic, including the scholar Sequoia Barnes, who has written:

      “Those who remember Kelly tend to cite his signature buttons and bows, which adorned every garment in every season during the very brief height of his career, from 1985 until his untimely death due to complications from AIDS in 1990. But for me, the most important element of his designs is his use of racist imagery. A Black queer creative from Mississippi, Kelly took images that signified the stain of America’s foundations in brutality, displacement, and oppression and turned them into something that I can only describe as a radical Black camp aesthetic. Kelly was not afraid to go there, like the Black radical artists before him, such as Romare Bearden, Betye Saar, and Robert Colescott, who also reappropriated racist images of Black people to expose and confront what many of us are so desperate to avoid, those disgusting images and objects from America’s not-so-distant past: mammies and golliwogs, wide-smiling caricatures of minstrels eating watermelon, postcards showing little Black children being eaten by alligators. Kelly was no stranger to these images, having grown up in Vicksburg, Mississippi, one of the American hotbeds of violence during the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights Movement.”