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Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy – Museum Exhibition

“Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy”
Now on the San Francisco Legion of Honor

On July 10, 2022, I had the privilege to visit the Gao Pei exhibition at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco. This special exhibition, “Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy” features highlights of this couture designer’s most stunning and influential garments and runs through Sept 5. 

There’s no way to describe the thrill of seeing one of these garments up close to see the amazing design, fitness, and exquisite application of rhinestones, synthetic pearls, ribbon, thread, and more.  Photos cannot do these garments justice.

Guo Pei: An Experience in Two Parts

There are two parts to this show.  On the main floor of the museum, European fine and decorative arts are presented chronologically. A regular museum viewer will experience Gao Pai’s couture work displayed throughout these galleries. 

The curator carefully selected the perfect dresses to juxtapose with the Legion’s permanent collection. These pairings create smart, effective, and often thought-provoking, visual conversations.

For example, take a look at the photo to the right. Notice how one of Guo’s cartridge pleated minidresses is strategically positioned. This dress placement, next to a Reubans portrait “Sara Breyel” c. 1611 visually demonstrates the global historical influences on Guo’s work creating a shared design DNA.

As a bonus, the display notes sometimes shared the number of hours it took to craft one of these magical garments.  Some as many as 10,000 hours of labor! I felt humbled and awed by the sheer complexity, the quality of the workmanship, and the beauty of the design.  

The curators have strategically selected some of the most expansive and volumetric garments for exhibit in the main halls.  These pieces are given plenty of space and allowing visitors to experience them in the round. For me, it was a real treat to see how Guo Pei visualized and executed her garments in every dimension and made them beautiful from every angle.

Gou Pei: Special Exhibition

The lower-level special exhibition gallery features more of Gou Pei’s work. There are six exhibit halls filled with some of the most iconic pieces of Guo’s work.

The show is dazzling. The textiles are sumptuous. Guo Pei’s garment shapes expand beyond the boundaries of the human physique. It’s almost overwhelming how impactful Guo Pei’s works are in person. They are ethereal, spellbinding, jaw-dropping, and utterly inspiring.

In the special exhibition space, the gowns, robes, and dresses are presented as mini-collections. Gou’s most striking and avant-garde pieces take centerstage surrounded by more wearable pieces.

These garments displays have a delightful theatricality that echos Guo Pei’s fashion shows. There are dramatic and often moody lighting effects, subtle music, and beautifully painted scrims that often use the interplay of light and shadow to separate and connect the displays. 

Rhinestones, sequin, beadwork, and so much more

If you are planning a trip to the Legion of Honor museum, and don’t mind seeing about 1/4 of the full Guo Pei experience, simply purchase a regular ticket. You will enjoy more than a dozen of her exquisite creations in the main halls.

You can also purchase a separate admission ticket to the special exhibition and experience many more Guo Pei pieces. It’s well worth the investment. 

If you can’t make it to the museum, but still want to experience this exhibition, I recommend picking up a copy of the exhibition catalog “Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy” available now at the Legion, through Amazon, and at other museums and art-centric book stores.

I bought the book at the Museum, and I’m absolutely smitten with it! I really hope that I will get to experience this exhibition one more time before it closes on Sept. 5.

Now, back to the studio to put this inspiration to work!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
July 11, 2022

PS: Follow me over on Instagram for more stunning photos from this exhibit and more!


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