By Kevin Heffernan

Step inside the art and fashion catalogue that is Kerry Wallin’s mind

We’ve posted in the past from the National Gallery of Art in DC. When in then capital, if you’ve got time for just one museum or gallery, make it NGA, even if you’ve seen it before. Outside of its stunning collection, shows and events, it’s special to us because our friend Kerry Wallin has been working there, in the Office of the Deputy Director/Chief Curator, since 2011.

Equipped with a degree in Art History from Canisius College and a Master’s in Arts Administration from Drexel University in Philadelphia, she’s one of the lucky ones who gets to directly apply her education and passion to her career as she takes advantage of her access to NGA’s collection of 145,000 works (only 3,000 are ever on display).

It was Wallin’s passion for fashion and its many correlations with the art world that led her to develop the @ngarunway account personally:

When I asked her how things came to be with the account, which boasts followers from the global fashion and art community, Wallin first cited places where this sort of cross-industry collaboration had made big waves, like the Mondrian Collection of French designer Yves Saint Laurent, a 1965 collection featuring six cocktail dresses inspired by the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.

Mondriaanmode uit Parijs, japonnen gemaakt door Yves St. Laurent , de modellen in Haagse Gemeente Museum *12 januari 1966 (Wikipedia Commons)

Additionally, NGA’s own I.M. Pei Pyramids (which were actually the inspiration for the pyramids at the Louvre in Paris!) inspired fashion from Carolina Ferrera:

Carolina Herrera Spring Summer 2015 Campaign. Shot by Willy Vanderperre. Featuring Josephine Le Tutour & Elisabeth Erm.

“My formal education is in art history so I would say it is definitely an art first mindset, but the garments and costumes and textiles in the art were always a focus of mine. So identifying comparisons probably grew organically. I was always acutely aware of fashion and art from the Philadelphia Art Museum’s textile collection, the Brooklyn Musuem’s costume collection, and The Met’s Costume Institute (which now includes the Brooklyn Museum).

“There’s always been some direct references in fashion with art like Mondrian and YSL,which was really the first, but right around the time I entered Drexel (2008), fashion exhibitions and fashion curation really started to have a moment – especially due to an Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met.

“I came to the NGA in 2011, and when I discovered the incredible collection NGA has, I really started to focus on comparing what was going on in current fashion to that collection. The NGA is the nation’s museum – it’s government. So it cannot officially come out as endorsing fashion shows or designers, or directly aligning its collection to other works, but I loved this idea too much, so I was able to do it myself on this personal account.”

(One of the rare images of Wallin at work – on National Museum Selfie Day (lol))

Wallin only cites fashion design works that have direct relations, implied or literal, to NGA’s collection, in an effort to show off their collection’s relevance outside of its walls.

“I only use NGA works because there is so much art you could reference it helps focus the search process and gives me a niche. I like to use as many works not on view as possible, and it extends the audience to people that would never have a chance to come to the NGA in person. The only requirement is that the work has an image online for a variety of legal reasons (copyright et al) and show that art and fashion and design are always related and show that the NGA is a cool, hip place.”
Refine that Instagram feed and get more art and fashion into it with Wallin’s juxtapositions, and stay tuned for more accounts to follow in the coming weeks and months.