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Suzy Menkes 15. 1. 2018

Viktor&Rolf: Kings of the Netherlands

by Suzy Menkes


An exhibition marking their 25 years of fashion will open in Rotterdam in May to celebrate a radical conception of ‘wearable art’

Viktor&Rolf's The House At The End Of The World, 2005


Viktor Horsting, Suzy and Rolf Snoeren in Paris in March 2003


They have framed their clothes, highlighting fashion as art, turned models into perambulating figures with dolls’ heads and faces – and they showed a collection in the dark to the sound of cow bells.

Now, after a quarter of a century, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have gone back to their native Holland as “Dutch national treasures”.

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren in Paris, July 2002


Those are the words of Thierry-Maxime Loriot, the exhibition curator who captured Jean-Paul Gaultier’s saucy originality and sent the Parisian’s witty designs to museums around the world.

Viktor Horsting (left) and Rolf Snoeren (right) with exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot (centre)


Now Viktor&Rolf will be in the spotlight as examples of a quarter of a century of their creations go on display at ‘Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists 25 Years’ at the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam from 27th May to 30 September, 2018.

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren hanging their 'Wearable Art' frame collection, 2015


Viktor&Rolf Couture, Autumn 2015


“When I look back, I realised that they don’t stay in one category, they don’t follow trends, they never go for the obvious – yet they are relevant and necessary – Iris Van Herpen would not have existed without them,” said the curator from Canada’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He was referring to a later Dutch designer known for her experimentation.

The Kunsthal will have 45 Viktor&Rolf couture pieces, as well as costumes created for ballet and opera – and even an outfit made in 2016 for Madonna, who wore it for a fundraising concert in at Art Basel in Miami.

Viktor Horsting (left) and Rolf Snoeren (right) with Liya Kebede in Paris, October 2003



This is not the first time that Viktor&Rolf have presented their most dramatic pieces as art history. A retrospective exhibition in Melbourne, Australia has preceded the current plans for Rotterdam.

“Apart from showing our work on the catwalk, we also enjoy presenting it as an exhibition,” Viktor&Rolf said jointly. “In this way, everyone can see it, not just that handful of people attending the shows in Paris.”

Fashion in museums has been a growing reality in the 21st century. In fact, some designers – like the Rodarte duo – appear to create clothes that move seamlessly from creation to film or museum, without much airing on a human body.

Exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot with Suzy in Montréal, June 2011


But Loriot knows how to bring displays to life – famously creating for the Gaultier show debut models talking or singing through digital ‘mouths’. In fact, the JPG story has carried on with a ‘Love is Love’ show that is a spin-off of Loriot’s original. After the Montreal debut, it now continues on tour.

Viktor&Rolf Ready-To-Wear, Autumn 2018


Emily Ansenk, the director of the Kunsthal, says that the museum and Victor&Rolf’s work are of the same age – both with 25th anniversaries, adding that the retrospective “stems from admiration of their experimental designs that are continuously exploring the boundaries between art and fashion, offering an extraordinary opportunity to experience the unconventional creativity of this innovative fashion duo.”

Suzy with Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren at the 2007 New York Costume Institute Gala


But the Thierry-Maxime Loriot chariot is already on its way to a new destination: a study of Thierry Mugler, the powerful designer of the 1980s who gave up fashion for show business, is under preparation for 2019.

Suzy with statues of Viktor and Rolf in Paris, October 2003