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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Goes Hollywood


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When Dorothy, Indiana Jones and Jack Sparrow come to town, Richmond may forget all about Picasso.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' first blockbuster exhibit of 2013 — which hasn't been officially announced — will be "Hollywood Costume." Suzanne Hall, chief communications officer for the museum, confirms the show is coming and says details will be announced in September.

The exhibit, originated by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, examines costume design in classic films, displaying the clothing of more than 100 characters as diverse as Holly Golightly and Darth Vader. They both look good in black.

"Clothes are never a frivolity, they always mean something," said James Laver, who was the first curator of the Victoria and Albert's Theatre Collections. According to that museum's description, the concept of the exhibit is to illuminate the creative process of costume designers, including the social and technological context in which they work.

The VMFA relies on traveling exhibits such as 2011's "Picasso" to bring in big crowds and attract new members, although such shows are expensive. With its recent expansion and more ambitious exhibits, the museum's operating budget has grown from about $10 million in fiscal year 2008-'09 to $30 million in fiscal year 2012. Meanwhile, state support has shrunk.

The museum faces some challenges in funding exhibitions during the next two to three years, Deputy Director for Advancement Linda Lipscomb told the board's executive committee at the beginning of the year. She recommended that the museum build a fund of $4 million for exhibition support. The goal would be to stop relying on ad-hoc funding for every exhibit and move from traveling exhibitions to a mix of museum-organized and traveling shows, she said.

The museum hasn't publicly announced what will follow October's exhibit of famed glassblower Dale Chihuly's work. Here's the lineup of major, ticketed events through 2015, as approved by the museum's board of trustees:

• The first North American retrospective of pop art figure Tom Wesselmann.

• "Flower Painting in France."

• "Treasures from the Forbidden City," a traveling exhibit for which the museum is the only American venue.

• "American Colonial," which explores French, English and Hispanic influences on the colonial revival in America.

• "Samurai Warriors," a private collection of arms and armor never before displayed in North America.

• "Caligula," organized by the museum's curator of ancient art, Peter Schertz.


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