2011 - 2017

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum: Preserving and Sharing a Heritage 

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa

Discover where and how the museum preserves  the legacy of the 20th century's greatest designer and make sure that his contribution to the world of fashion, haute couture in particular, and to the world of art in general lives on.

A genius at work

Cristóbal Balenciaga revolutionized the concept of dressing and the female silhouette. For him, perfection was an obligation and his extraordinary technical skils facilitated the task. As a result of his innovative personality, he sought greater simplicity and purity of forms. He was hailed by fashion designer Coco Chanel as "the only true couturier amongst us, able to design, cut, assemble and sew a dress entirely by himself."

Cristóbal Balenciaga deserves the title of “The Master” due to the perfection of his creations and ability to be ahead of his time by creating a new technical and visual language for the female silhouette. His work has stood the test of time is even more relevant today.

For ever Balenciaga
The Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum's mission is to preserve, promote, develop and disseminate the work and the figure of Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizagirre and make sure that his contribution to the world of fashion, haute couture in particular, and to the world of art in general lives on.

A museum in his hometown

Opened in 2011, the museum is located at Getaria, a small fishermen village in the Basque Country, at the north cost of Spain. Cristobal Balenciaga was born in 1895 not far from where the museum stands today.

The museum is housed in a newly built annex to Palacio Aldamar. This majestic villa, on a hilltop overlooking Getaria, was the residence of the Marqueses of Casa Torres, grandparents to Queen Fabiola of Belgium and mentors to Balenciaga during the early days of his career.

The seeming neutrality of the front façade, a dark uninterrupted vertical plane which folds in on itself to frame the Museum’s main entrance, is clearly intended to allow the Palacio to predominate in all its symbolic splendour. Inside the building there are three suspended areas which house the galleries.

The interiors of the six exhibitions rooms are designed to create a calm and an enveloping ambience.

The Museum collections
The Cristóbal Balenciaga Foundation boasts a unique collection of the brilliant couturier's work. It comprises of more than 3,000 pieces, including sketches, fabric swatches, photographs, letters, toiles, accessories and garments. It has been form mainly from donations of former clients and friends.

The Musuem's curators, textile conservators and mount specialist are responsible for the preservation, conservation, investigation and display of the Museum's outstanding collections.

Textile heritage

The collection is renowned for its rich diversity in terms of both the items on display and the time period covered, which ranges from Balenciaga’s earliest creations to his final ones, making it complete, coherent and truly world-class.

The items in the collection are handled, treated and stored following strict criteria and protocols established by the Museum's Conservation and Restoration department. The department also carries out extensive research, including exhaustive analysis and documentation of the creations housed at the museum, coupled with study of Balenciaga’s personal and professional life.

The pieces are mostly displayed on custom-made mannequins. Their care during the assembly and the time of exhibition is a priority for the museum.

The conditions of the environment are very strict for the conservation of the pieces. Never exceed 50 luxes and 50% humidity.

Documental heritage

The textile collections are complemented by the documentary archive that includes the Historical Archive of the Marquises of Casa-Torres, commercial documentation of the Balenciaga House with its clients, work material such as sketches and fabric samples, photographs and personal correspondence of Cristóbal Balenciaga.

Model 181: Sketch

In the picture, sketch of model 181 with its fabric, from 1961.

Model 181: Dress

Evening dress in pink shantung satin with sack-back and train finished off with a bow.

Model 118: Sketch

Balenciaga presented the tunic dress, a dress with straight and refined lines that wrapped the body without oppression.

Model 118: Studio photograph and fabric

Intangible heritage

There is a permanentely opened research line in the museum to help us to interpret and disseminate the intangible heritage associated with the trade and Balenciaga's work. The aim is to put in value the artisan of this office and pay tribute to those people who worked with Balenciaga and who helped shape his creations.

Since 2014, the museum has conducted a project called “the hands that sew” which seeks to identify the contribution of the many people who worked for Balenciaga over the years, conserving the techniques used in his studios and shedding new light on aspects of his personality, through the eyes of his collaborators.

Testimonials

An important part of this research involves collating testimonies from people associated with the Balenciaga House. These include both the first-hand accounts of the people themselves and the second-hand recollections of their families.

On december 2014, 25 of Balenciaga's former seamstresses visited the Museum. They saw some of the dresses that they had worked on in the atelier including a very special wedding dress.

Transmission of a legacy
The museum runs a series of initiatives targeted at a professional audience. These are designed to extend the knowledge, skills and experiences associated with a specialist profile and, specifically, passing Balenciaga's values and techiniques to a younger generation of designers.The idea is to build bridges between Balenciaga's time know-how and nowadays creation.

The Museum supports the professional development of emerging designers, both through the transmission of knowledge and providing opportunities for visibility and contexts for development.

In the image, Javier Martin in his masterclass.

In the image, Miguel Elola, disciple of Balenciaga, in his masterclass.

Beyond the Museum
The figure of Cristóbal Balenciaga raises interest all over the world. Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa actively sustains the showcasting of its coleccions beyond its phisical container, though loans, collaborations, coproductions or the development of touring exhibtions.
Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa
Credits: Story

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum: Preserving and Sharing a Heritage

Organiser: Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa
© Fundación Cristóbal Balenciaga

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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