Who’s the Dummy?: Defining Mannequins

artist_figureFIT Graduate Students explore the various meanings and forms of mannequins

By Mary-Anne Smith

They are not just ideal beauties! Who’s the Dummy?: Defining Mannequins challenges the conventional idea that a mannequin is simply a figure displaying clothes in a store.

Through objects and other visuals, the exhibition examines the various meanings, functions, and forms of mannequins, which have been shaped by fashion, society and technology.

On view at The Museum at FIT June 22 through August 14, 1999, the exbition is organized by graduate students in FIT’s Museum Studies Program.

Who’s the Dummy?: Defining Mannequins features a fascinating range of forms, some conventional and some very unexpected, that expand on the meaning and uses of mannequins. Included are forms ranging from visual display mannequins to wooden artist’s model and from a life-like mannequin of Lucille Ball to an antique wire dress form.

The exhibition is divided into seven sections that pose questions challenging the viewer to reexamine the common view of mannequins. How do I help you? Lifesavers explores the medical and scientific uses of mannequins, displaying an anatomically correct Surgical Sally® used for medical instruction, a Rescue Randy® used in firefighting, as well as images of crash test dummies.

Are you Buying? The Sales Pitch presents a wide range of display mannequins used for visual merchandising. From early wax figures to the Theatre de la Mode fashion dolls to the new plus-size mannequins, this area of the exhibition illustrates the various forms, sizes, and silhouettes that display mannequins take, while challenging the ideals of beauty, consumption, desire, spectacle and style.

Other sections of the show include What’s in a Name? Namesakes, which examines multiple spellings and definitions of the word mannequin, and What’s the Fascination? Between Art and Fashion, which questions the ambiguity that has developed between art and fashion.

Who’s the Dummy? Definining Mannequins is the result of a yearlong graduate seminar that explores all aspects of exhibition planning. FIT, a State University of New York college of art and design, business and technology, first introduced the Master of Arts degree program in Museum Studies in 1985.

The Museum at FIT is open Tuesday through Friday noon to 8:00PM, Saturday 10:00AM to 5:00PM. Admission is free.

For further information on the exhbition, the public should phone (212)217-5800.