Press \\ Press Release

1980s Fashion Icon Celebrated at PEM

Released June 7, 2022

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love opens June 25, 2022

SALEM, MA – The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents an exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of the late fashion designer Patrick Kelly, whose meteoric rise in fashion remains unprecedented. Rooted in expressions of love and joy and inspired by his experiences growing up in the American South, Kelly’s fearless yet lighthearted designs pushed racial and cultural boundaries. First presented by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2014, and reconstituted for presentation at the de Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 2021, Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love is on view at PEM from June 25 through November 6, 2022.

Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1954, Kelly was primarily self-taught and drew inspiration from his Black heritage, his days in the New York and Paris club scenes and his personal muses. Drawn from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the exhibition – which features footage from the designer’s exuberant fashion shows and over 75 fully accessorized runway ensembles created between 1984 to 1989 – situates the artist and his work in the broader context of fashion history by exploring the provocative objects and lived experiences that inspired his clothing. Patrick Kelly’s promising career was cut short by his premature death from complications related to AIDS on January 1, 1990.

“Since his passing more than 30 years ago, Patrick Kelly’s vibrant aesthetic has become part of the lexicon of global fashion,” said Petra Slinkard, PEM’s Director of Curatorial Affairs and The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles. “Kelly’s short but inspiring career produced fourteen collections in just six years. He promoted powerful messages of joy and love, while addressing important cultural and social issues head on. Kelly and his work have subsequently become touchstones for a number of established and emerging designers.”


June 22 at 5 pm – Please join us for a reception and curator-led tour of the exhibition.

Conversation | 6–6:30 pm | Morse Auditorium | Free with registration
Dance Party | 7-11 pm | Main Atrium | Free for members and Salem residents; nonmembers $12

The night opens with a conversation between DJ Ana Matronic, Siddhartha V. Shah, PEM’s Director of Education and Civic Engagement and Curator of South Asian Art, and Petra Slinkard, PEM’s Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles. They will discuss the cultural impact of fashion on the dance floor and fashion designer Patrick Kelly, in anticipation of the June 25 opening of the exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love. Stick around for the PEM Pride After-Hours Dance Party from 7-11 pm as legendary DJ Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters spins disco, house and ‘80s music hits.

Registration is recommended to attend this event. Day-of tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Register for the conversation and dance party HERE.


High-resolution images are available upon request.

Share your impressions with us on social media using #PatrickKellyatPEM

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: Runway of Love
was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The organizing curator is Dilys E. Blum, the Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles, with curatorial support from Monica E. Brown (1949–2015), Senior Collection Assistant for Costume and Textiles, and Laura L. Camerlengo, former Exhibition Assistant for Costume and Textiles, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and currently Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles and presenting curator at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. The presenting curator at the Peabody Essex Museum is Petra Slinkard, the Director of Curatorial Affairs, The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles.

Philadelphia Museum of Art logo

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 and WBUR.

Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time -- including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM's campus offers a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, 10 am–5 pm, and Fridays 10 am–7 pm. Closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit

Whitney Van Dyke | Director of Marketing & Communications | | 978-542-1828
Amelia Kantrovitz | Exhibition Publicist | | 617-794-4964