Friday, June 26, 2009

Striped Korean Jacket (Jeogori)

Accession Number: A.8416.64-1a

Label: Woman’s Costume, Korea, c.1960’s, Gift of Miss Younghee Choy

This tradional Korean garment is usually worn with a large skirt (chima). Together, the two items are known as a Hanbok.

This particular jeogori was originally paired with this chima.

This silk jeogori has a front and back of yellow fabric woven with pink flowers. The sleeves are made of a multicolored, striped fabric woven with small decorative symbols. The garment ties in the front with two strips of red fabric (Gorem). It is lined with pink silk.

When deconstructed, the lining was removed, as was a thin cotton batting. Although the finished sleeves have a semi-circular lower edge, they were made from rectangles of fabric and left untrimmed, with the original corners hidden behind the lining.

A 1961 packet of Barbie® sewing patterns was used. The pink lining fabric was used to make a Barbie® Oriental Sheath while the striped sleeve fabric was used to create a Barbie® Kimono. Both garments were sewn following the instructions found in the packet and the Barbie® sewing book.

The accession numbers have been embroidered on the front of each garment.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paisley Skirt

Accession Number: TR8616-8b

Label: Quash, 12/12/86, Conley

This large skirt is made of a sheer yellow synthetic fabric with gold lamé paisleys. It is trimmed with green metallic trim and a ruffle of pleated pink tulle. The skirt is secured at the waist with a link of rope.

The deconstruction process involved removing the pleated tulle, the green trim, and unstitching the waist. The skirt itself was comprised of nine panels, totaling approximately 10 yards of fabric.

Three skirt panels were sewn together to form a banner background approximately 5’ 10” tall. Paper templates of each letter were created and, using these, the letters were cut from the pink tulle. The word “YOUR” was machine appliquéd to the background fabric and the green trim was machine sewn around each letter. Using pink embroidery thread, the words “BRIGHT” and “FUTURE” were hand appliquéd. The background fabric behind each letter was then removed. The banner was hemmed and a wooden dowel sewn in to weight the bottom. Finally, grommets were attached in the upper corners for ease in hanging.

This particular exhibition banner was created to advertise the LACMA exhibition Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea, opening June 28 and running through September 20, 2009.

The accession number has been embroidered on the bottom of the letter “E”.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Accession Number: TR8616-75

Label 1: Conley, 12/86

Label 2: Conley, 11/4/86

This is a large pair of loose fitting trousers. The legs and crotch are made of a colorful synthetic fabric printed with a faux Ikat pattern. The hips of the pants are made of one piece of white cotton split nearly in half but stilled joined along the waist and printed with an all-over floral and cartouche pattern in blue, green, and white. The selvage edge of this piece forms the waist. The Pants legs are hemmed, and the same cotton fabric is found on the inside of the hems.

When deconstructed, the piece appeared to have been homemade. Although machine-sewn, the seams were uneven and the seamstress had used a blue top thread and a red bobbin thread. Seam edges had been left unbound.

A sail-less boat was found. A mainsail template was drafted by measuring the boom and the mast. A jib template was also drafted. A section of the cotton was joined to a section of the synthetic fabric using a flat-felled seam. Sails were then cut, hemmed, and attached to the boat.

The accession number has been embroidered to the mainsail.

Monday, June 1, 2009

John Anthony Coat

Accession Number: M.75.129.1

Label 1: Coat, USA, John Anthony, C 1970

Label 2: John Anthony

This form-fitting coat is made of thick, felted, cream-colored wool. Both the cuffs of the sleeves and the large padded collar are covered with spotted white fur. The coat is lined with a heavy synthetic white fabric and there are pockets located in the side seams. The coat has no buttons, zippers, or other closures.

When deconstructed, the wool from this jacket proved to be a full 1/8” thick. There was a partial inter-lining of thin cotton canvas, as well as shoulder pads and a soft cotton batting in the collar and both the cuffs. The underside of the fur was originally stamped with a partially legible logo stating “PM PATENTED SUPERIOR.”

A commercially available pattern was adapted for this project. The body, arms, feet, hood and tail of the child’s costume were cut and assembled from the cream wool. A pair of ears was also cut. The hood was then lined, and the body partially lined, with the coat’s original synthetic white lining fabric. This fabric was also used for the inside of the ears. Pieces of fur were then sewn to the hood to form the lion’s mane and a ball of fur was attached to the end of the tail.

The accession number has been embroidered to the left breast of the costume.



Although there are a multitude of reasons a museum may wish to reduce its collection, it often boils down to a perceived lack. It may be lack on the part of the museum (lack of storage space, lack of money), on the part of the object (lack of quality), or on the part of the curator (lack of fore-thought.) The decision to deaccession an item is never an easy one nor is the process usually simple.

There are two main ways for a museum to deaccession an item. The first is to gift the item to another institution. The most spectacular recent example of this was the Brooklyn Museum’s decision to give their entire costume collection, over 23,000 items, to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Similarly, when LACMA decided to prune its own costume collection, it gifted items to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, the Autry National Center of the American West, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The remaining unwanted items from LACMA’s costume collection were sold at auction, specifically Bonhams and Butterfields Sunset Estate Auctions in Los Angeles. While selling collection items is generally frowned upon, it is a relatively common practice, and both the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) have published guidelines concerning the proper and improper deaccessioning of museum collection materials (LACMA’s sale was handled properly). The May 17th Estate Auction at Bonhams included not only items from LACMA, but also items from the Laguna Art Museum, the Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Museum of Art and Design in New York. The last of these had three lots for sale with a combined low estimate of $150 and a combined hammer price of less than $100. All three lots had previously been offered in Bonhams’ March 1st Estate Auction but had failed to sell.

Which brings up an important point: deaccessioning is often about money, but it is not always about large sums of money. While LACMA has earned over $7,000 trimming its costume collection, over 100 items have been sold. Many lots went for less than their low estimate, with some only selling after the opening bid was lowered considerably.

It is important to mention that even those museums that do not deaccession, such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, can expect to lose a certain percentage of their collection to shrinkage.

Red Korean Skirt (Chima)

Accession Number: A.8416.64-1b

Label: Woman’s Costume, Korea, c.1960’s, Gift of Miss Younghee Choy

This traditional Korean garment is usually worn with a cropped jacket (Jeogori). Together, the two items are known as a Hanbok.

This chima consists of a tomato-red, brocaded silk skirt with flowers in green and gold. Numerous pleats at the top of the garment allow it to form a graceful bell shape. These pleats are attached to a white cotton yoke that fits over the shoulders and is normally covered by the jeogori. The skirt closes in the back with a pair of white cotton ties located just above the pleats.

When deconstructed, the skirt yielded a single large rectangle of silk, comprised of three panels of fabric joined at the selvages. Due to the weaving process, the reverse side of the silk showed none of the red ground and instead displayed wide bands of green and gold. The cotton yoke was not deconstructed, but one half of the left-hand tie was removed.

Following instructions from an internet crafting site, two large pieces of silk were cut into a BBQ apron shape and then hemmed so that one apron utilized the red side of the fabric while the other utilized the green and gold stripe. To form the ties, strips of fabric were joined into two long pieces, then folded lengthwise, sewn shut, and threaded through channels in the hems of the aprons. Finally, rectangles of silk were sewn onto the front of each BBQ apron to form pockets, a red pocket for the striped apron, and a striped pocket for the red apron.

The accession numbers have been embroidered on pieces of white cotton removed from the original tie and appliquéd onto the pockets.



The notion of reuse goes to the core of every museum’s mission statement. Items are used for study or display, stored, and then studied or displayed again. Over the course of its life in a museum collection, some objects will be used in a multitude of ways, to illustrate a variety of educational and curatorial premises. Occasionally, collection items are loaned to others. Although this is most often seen when one museum loans items to another museum, there are other options. The Los Angeles Natural History Museum, for example, makes lesser collection items available to the general public through their Members’ Loan Service. For a small fee, anyone with a museum membership can check out specimens for up to two weeks. Similar programs exist at the Field Museum in Chicago and the San Diego Natural History Museum. At Oberlin College, the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s Art Rental Program rents works of art to both students and the general public for up to a semester.

Although LACMA does currently have an Art Rental Gallery affiliated with it, the works available there are not collection items. The gallery operates similarly to a for-profit gallery, with works from local artists available for rent or sale.

Korean Wedding Skirt (Chima)

(shown here with accompanying Jeogori)

Accession Number: CR.356.66.1b

Label: Wedding Dress, Skirt, Korea, c.1960’s

This chima is made of a gauzy, hot pink synthetic material with a woven medallion pattern. At the bottom of the skirt there is a 3” stripe of similar green fabric, a 3” strip of pink, and a 3” hem of green. The stripes are printed with silver characters and stylized peacocks while the dress is stamped with silver medallions. In places, the silver ink has seeped through to the red tulle lining. The pink skirt is gathered into a series of pleats and attached to a red tulle band that has two red tulle shoulder straps. The dress closes with two large hook and eyes just beneath the left arm.

During deconstruction, the tulle band was removed, all pleats were taken out, and the lining was removed. The three stripes on the bottom of the skirt were also removed.

A commercially available pattern was adapted for this project. The front of the garment bag was cut from the hot pink fabric of the skirt, being careful of the placement of the silver medallions. The sides and back were cut from the red tulle lining. For the piping, the green stripe fabric was cut into thinner strips and sewn into one long piece. This was folded over a cotton cord and basted closed. The garment bag was then assembled and ties made from the red tulle were attached to the front as closures.

The accession number has been embroidered on the right side of the front of the garment bag, just above the silver medallion.



When a collection item is deemed to be no longer suitable for either exhibition or study, as recently happened to a LACMA-owned Cranach, it can either be deaccessioned or it can be recycled.

Museum deaccessioning through auction or private sale is typically framed as a museum’s collection items being placed into a more suitable home, where they will be put to better use than simply sitting in museum storage. However, nothing can change the fact that the museum has decided that the deaccessioned items are useless to them, and that they no longer take an interest in preserving them for the future. Items slated for deaccessioning are, as far as the museum is concerned, trash. The only guarantee that a deaccessioned item might be cared for in the future is the large sum of money that might be paid for it. We would like to assume that the mid-six-figures price tag LACMA has placed on its Cranach would encourage the painting’s next owner to take extremely good care of this valuable object. However, buyers might have anything in mind. Marie Antoinette was known to slice up works by Boucher and Fragonard in order to decoupage fragments of the paintings onto furniture. More recently, we could look to the example of Martin Kippenberger turning a Gerhard Richter painting into a table.

While some may see these as terrible acts of destruction, they are actually landmark acts of art recycling. We are all being encouraged to recycle as much as possible today, and perhaps museums can look to this model too. What if an inferior Cranach could be turned into a superior someone else?

There is, in fact, at least one collection that has adapted this model: NASA. In over forty years of commissioning artworks, The NASA Art Program has not only loaned items from their collection to artists for inspiration (Norman Rockwell was able to borrow a spacesuit) but it has also donated items for use as raw material for art works. Chakaia Booker, for instance, ripped apart a space shuttle tire for use in a rubber sculpture. E.V. Day used spare parts from a Mars Rover to house a diorama.

Most unwanted collection items could make terrific raw materials for both artworks and everyday items as well. Paintings can be gessoed over and used for new paintings. If the canvas is still in good shape, it could be used to make deck chairs, totes, or numerous other items. Any large picture frame can easily be transformed into a striking, yet practical, ladder. A Giacometti would make a superb table lamp. Readymade sculptures, such as Chris Burden’s Urban Light (itself an act of recycling), can be returned to their original purpose. Metal sculptures can be melted and recycled into door handles, pipe fittings, bells, and cannons. Marble sculpture, when reduced to chips, can be used in landscaping or making cement. Prints, drawings, and watercolors can be turned into envelopes, paper bags, bookmarks, and scratch paper. Tickets for an exhibition can be printed on items deemed not appropriate for the exhibition. The options are limitless.

Two Pair of Guatemalan Trousers

Larger Pair (shown on left)

Accession Number: TR8616-31

Label: Guatemala, 12/12/86, Conley

Smaller Pair (shown on right)

Accession Number: TR8616-51

Label: Guatemala, 12/12/86

Both pairs of pants are made of hand-woven cotton fabric, with the larger pair having a pattern of widely placed purple stripes on a white ground, while the smaller pair has purple and white stripes of even width. Both have a wide band of multi-colored hand embroidery on the legs. The larger pair is embroidered with stylized trees, peacocks, and geometric bands. The smaller pair has a similar pattern of geometric bands with upright birds and flying birds.

When deconstructed, each pair of pants was found to be made of four pieces of narrowly woven fabric, sewn together at the selvage edges. The larger pair had hand-sewn seams while the smaller pair was machine sewn.

Two commercially available patterns, similar in design but different in size, were adapted for this project. Pattern pieces were cut from the fabric, being careful to match stripes and embroidery where possible. After being machine sewn, the bears were stuffed with fiberfill.

The accession numbers have been embroidered on the left breast of each bear.

Claire McCardell Dress

Accession Number: TR.514.2

Label 1: Woman’s Dress, 1954, USA, Claire McCardell, Gift of Sophia Snyder

Label 2: Claire McCardell Clothes by Townley, fabric by Stafford

This is a sleeveless, black silk, bias cut dress. It is high-necked in the front with a gathered fabric detail at each shoulder. The skirt is partially lined and flares out from the waist. The garment closes with a zipper under the left arm.

When deconstructed, the skirt portion of the dress yielded four pieces of lightly textured black silk. The blouse portion of the dress has not been deconstructed at this time.

A commercially available pattern was adapted for this project. Two semi-circular pieces of fabric were cut, as well as a single triangular piece. The two semi-circles were sewn together to form the hat brim and a piece of brim wire was inserted to define the outer edge. The triangular piece of fabric was sewn into a cone shape before being attached to the brim.

The skirt potion of the dress provided enough fabric to make three witch’s hats.

The accession number has been embroidered on the right side of the upper brim of each hat.

Purple Korean Skirt (Chima)

Accession Number: A.8416.64-2b

Label: Woman’s Costume, Korea, c.1960’s, Gift of Miss Younghee Choy

This traditional Korean garment is usually worn with a cropped jacket (Jeogori). Together, the two items are known as a Hanbok.

This chima consists of a brocaded, floral silk skirt in purple, green, and blue. Numerous pleats at the top of the garment allow it to form a graceful bell shape. These pleats are attached to a white cotton yoke that fits over the shoulders and is normally covered by the jeogori. The skirt closes in the back with a pair of white cotton ties located just above the pleats.

When deconstructed, the skirt yielded a single large rectangle of silk, comprised of three panels of fabric joined at the selvages. All seams on this portion were hand sewn, all hems hand rolled, and the pleats had also been hand sewn. In contrast, the white cotton portion of the garment has been machine sewn.

A commercially produced dog bed was obtained. The damaged cover was removed and deconstructed, with these pieces being used for the sewing pattern. The brocaded silk was then cut and machine stitched together to form the top portion of the dog bed cover. This was stretched over the foam dog bed form. The bottom of the cover was then hand stitched to the top, securing them together. Note: for the sides and bottom of the dog bed cover, the reverse side of the fabric has been used.

The accession number was embroidered onto a dogbone-shaped piece of white cotton cut from the top portion of the skirt. This was then appliquéd to the center of the dog bed cover.

Korean Coat (Jeogori)

Accession Number: CR.356.66.2

Label: Coat, Korea, c.1960’s

The body of this coat is made of a gauzy green synthetic material with a woven medallion pattern. This is lined with a green synthetic tulle. After construction, the garment was stamped with a design in silver paint. In places, this paint has seeped through the fabric and stained the tulle lining. The sleeves of the coat are made of similar materials in a variety of colors and have been pieced together to form stripes. The sleeves are lined with white tulle.

Currently this coat has only been partly deconstructed. The left sleeve has been removed and its tulle lining has been separated from it.

First a wooden dowel was cut into two pieces, one 28” long, one 23” long. These were tied together to form a cross and notches were cut into each end. A piece of string was strung through all four notches and secured to each with knots to form the outside edge of the kite. This was laid onto the sleeve fabric and used as a pattern. Once cut, the fabric was first pinned and then hand-sewn to the kite frame. A tail was constructed from small strips of fabric cut from the remainder of the sleeve, machine-edged, tied together and attached to the kite with a length of string.

The accession number was embroidered onto the yellow stripe of the kite, just above the level of the cross piece.

Brocade Evening Dress

Accession Number: M.80.185.1

Label 1: 1 Piece Dress, USA, c.1952

Label 2: Mrs Chas Swett, Poss Gift, 8/27/80

This floor-length, form-fitting dress is made of a green, pink, and orange check silk with a silver brocaded pattern of stylized birds, flowers, and crabs. The check of this fabric is uneven, with up to ½” variation in the width of the stripes. The garment has a boned lining of darker green silk with three hanging straps; it fastens up the back with a series of hooks, eyes, and a zipper.

When this dress was deconstructed, it proved to be primarily made of three large pieces of fabric, one for the left side of the dress, one for the right, and a third for a short train. The shape of the garment is primarily achieved through a series of long darts. There was also a large amount of hand work evident: e.g. hand-rolled hems, hand-sewn closures, hand-finished edges, etc.

A period umbrella was obtained. The damaged canopy was removed and disassembled. One section of the canopy was then traced onto a piece of paper to create a pattern. Using this pattern, ten identical pieces were cut from the brocade fabric, being careful to match the pattern as much as the uneven stripes of the weave would allow. When sewn together, these pieces formed the new canopy. The outside hem was then hand rolled and the center of the canopy was re-inforced with extra rows of stitches before being threaded onto the end of the umbrella. Tips were hand-sewn onto the hem of the canopy and these were attached to the end of each umbrella rib. In addition, several stitches were made to secure each seam of the canopy to a corresponding rib. This prevents the canopy from shifting during the opening and closing of the umbrella. A snap from the original garment was attached to a section of one of the hanging straps to secure the umbrella closed.

The accession number has been embroidered onto the lower left-hand corner of one panel of the canopy.

James Galanos Long Coat

Accession Number: M.79.239.13

Label 1: Galanos, 1967

Label 2: 2 Piece Coat, U.S.A., 1967, Galanos

This is a heavy, sleeveless, floor-length coat, with a matching belt. The outside is a black-and-white woven floral pattern; the inside is fully lined in a similar black fabric. The front closes with five black buttons.

When deconstructed, it was found that the coat contained three large pieces of floral fabric, three large pieces of black fabric, and one small piece of each fabric to form the collar. The belt was left untouched.

A quick trip to U-pick U-save Self Service Auto dismantling in Gardena, CA, yielded the passenger seat from a 1972 Datsun. Following the original seams of the car seat, a sewing pattern was devised using muslin. From this, a floral car seat cover was easily constructed.

The accession number has been embroidered onto a rectangular piece of the black lining fabric, and this has been appliquéd to the front of the cart seat cover.

At the time of this LACMA de-accessioning, several other Galanos outfits that had originally been donated to the museum by Nancy Reagan were also de-accessioned. Those items were gifted to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.

Large Guatemalan Textile

Accession Number: TR8616-20

Label 1: Conley, 11/4/86

Label 2: Guatemala, 12/86, Conley

This is a 14’ length of hand-woven cotton fabric. It has a deep red ground with a black and white check woven in. It is an unworked piece of fabric and the selvage edges are intact.

First the fabric was ironed. Then it was carefully cut into twelve even strips, each the full length of the fabric. Four of the strips were attached to a hand crank rope-making machine (a reproduction Meyer’s four strand machine). The machine is designed to twist the four strips in the same direction, at the same speed, independently of each other. At a certain point, the tension on the strips becomes such that they twist together, forming the rope. This was done three times. Using the same machine, the three lengths of rope were then twisted together to make a single piece of cable a little over 7’ long. Finally, for ease in hanging, an eye was spliced into one end.

The accession number has been embroidered onto the end of a fabric strip.

Blue Bolivian Blanket

Accession Number: TR8616-35

Label: Bolivia, 12-12-86, Conley

This small blanket is made of thick blue wool. It’s edged with a thin strip of blue cotton that has a decorative design machine stitched in light blue and light yellow.

The deconstruction process simply required removing the decorative stitching. This both freed the cotton strip and un-hemmed the wool.

The wool was then cut into 9” squares. When sewn together, these made excellent potholders. The cotton strip was used to make a loop for hanging and the original machine stitch design was recreated with hand embroidery.

The blanket contained enough wool to make nine potholders. To date, three have been made.

The accession number has been embroidered on the bottom front of each potholder.