LACMA to Display Rodarte’s Fra Angelico-Inspired Couture Collection in Its Renaissance Art Galleries

Sketch by Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte, promised gift of Rodarte (Kate and Laura Mulleavy)
(Courtesy LACMA)

Rodarte’s Los Angeles County Museum of Art-acquired 10-piece spring/summer 2012 couture collection, which debuted last June at Florence fashion fair Pitti W, is finally scheduled to make its North American debut. LACMA will present the pieces in an exhibition titled, "Rodarte: Fra Angelico Collection," from December 17 to February 5, 2012.

Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the California born and bred sisters behind Rodarte, found inspiration in Italian Renaissance art for the collection, specifically High Roman Baroque sculptor Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini’s "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa," as well as early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico’s frescoes in the monks’ cells at the Convent of San Marco. In a seemingly appropriate twist, LACMA will display the gowns against works from the same period that inspired them — including the circa 1491-95 painting by the Master of the Fiesole Epiphany, "Christ on the Cross With Saints Vincent Ferrer, John the Baptist, Mark, and Antoninus" — in the museum’s Italian Renaissance gallery.

"These gowns are the first works by Rodarte to enter the museum’s permanent holdings, and we are pleased to present this outstanding collection," said Sharon S. Takeda, senior curator and head of the Costume and Textiles Department in a release. 

The ethereal dresses are created in a color palette of moonshine white, aqua, pistachio, lavender, mauve, dusty blue, and crimson, akin to the Renaissance pieces. The duo also used feathers, 30,000 Swarovski crystals, silk georgette, organza, tafetta, and tulle to construct the gowns, which were sculpted and draped in such a manner to resonate with the period. The gowns feature hand-forged gold rays in the form of stunning metal headbands, belts, and breast plates.

The Mulleavys had promised the collection, made for the occasion of Pitti W, as a gift to the museum’s Costume and Textiles Department last June when they unveiled the gowns at a site-specific installation in Florence, created with Alexandre de Betak and his firm, Bureau Betak.

“Rodarte: Fra Angelica Collection” marks the Mulleavys’ third solo exhibition following 2010’s “Quicktake: Rodarte” at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York and last spring’s “Rodarte: States of Matter” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Rodarte’s pieces are also in the permanent collections of the Museum at FIT, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art.

Click on the photo gallery above to see the dresses from "Rodarte: Fra Angelico Collection," on display from December 17 to February 5, 2012 at LACMA. For more information, visit