Isabelle de Borchgrave Paper Costumes Artist - Brussels, Belgium

What is the name of this exhibition?

Les Ballets Russes, Homage to Diaghilev

Can you tell us how this exhibition came about?

The Ballets Russes is a passion. I love the music, dance and of course the costumes. Those costumes were often designed by great artists like Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Delaunay. I love the drawings these artists made of the costumes, they were one of my greatest inspirations for this collection.

Petroushka, 1911 image by René Stoelite

Can you give the places and dates of its travels? Do you know where the costumes will go at the end?

This exhibition won’t be on show in 2012. Maybe in 2013 but we do not know yet where it will be exactly.

You have made forty costumes for this collection.

Some of the Ballets are : Firebird, Petroushka, The Bal, L’Oiseau Bleu. Those costumes were designed by Picasso, Matisse, Bakst and other great artists.”

We know that many of the original costumes were kept in very poor conditions from the 30’s to 1967 and beyond. Slowly they have been acquired by leading Galleries around the world. How do you see your role in presenting a “fresh” paper collection?

My role is only to tell an exciting story about modern art thanks to my medium. I do not see myself as a conservator. It is an explosion of colours and the creations that created Modern Art.

How did you decide on forty pieces?

I chose them because of the beauty of the costume, the interest in the shape, the creativity and the colours. All the things that are passionate to me and inspired me!

Le Coq D’Or, 1914 image by René Stoelite

Did you have access to many of the original costumes or drawings?

No, all my research was based on the books I have. Of course I had the chance to see some of the original costumes while travelling and visiting museums, but everything was based on books. Museums didn’t help us for this collection, it is a personal project.

Many of the original costumes are owned by the National Gallery of Australia. (Canberra). Several of the costumes and drawings are always on view. Here are the ones I saw in January 2013.

Ballet Russe Costumes on display at the National Gallery of Australia, image Deborah Blakeley

How was the decision made to have the costumes mounted, as they are not on the usual forms?

The mannequins are mounted on iron wire. We created them in my atelier making sure they will take the form we wanted to enhance the costumes as I wanted it. The costumes do not touch the floor, they all are dancing, turning, .. to give a dance effect to the visitors. Actually the visitors will make the costumes dance with their own move.

La Péri, 1912 image by René Stoelite

Which has become your favourite costume and why?

The next costume is always my favourite, because it is always a new challenge and that is fascinating.

Tell us about the importance of layering in the costumes?

It is the beauty, the generosity, the multiplicity, the designs, the volume, the shape and the movement!

La Péri, 1912 Detail image by René Stoelite

With forty costumes, were they done individually or did you work on many at a time?

Several costumes at a time were made. Three stylists are working with me, so each of them work on a particular costume. They are helped by the 6 artists and interns working in the atelier too. It took us one year and a half to finish the costumes. We are now working on different sets that will go with the costumes.


Isabelle de Borchgrave, Brussels, Belgium,

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, January, 2013