Geoffrey Beene Exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum

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The latest exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum features the work of an artist who was known for his work with fur and fabric rather than paints and pastels.

The museum's fashion design curator Dennita Sewell has put together a show of one this country's most influential names in fashion: Geoffrey Beene.

"Geoffrey Beene is an American master in fashion design," Sewell said. "He worked from 1963 to his death in 2004 in New York City, and produced some of the most masterfully made clothing in America in the mid 20th century."

At least one of the dresses in the exhibit can be spotted in the pages of the September 1988 issue of a Vogue magazine layout. But what may be most interesting is that all of the clothes in this unique exhibit belonged to one woman.

The exhibit, entitled "Geoffrey Beene: Trapeze," features the collection of Patsy Tarr, founder and publisher of 2wice magazine and a prominent supporter of dance in New York City.

"These clothes are still so absolutely timeless (Tarr) still enjoys wearing them today," Sewell said.

The exhibit includes clothing from the 1980s to some of Beene's last work before his death in 2004. Each piece is a work of art, reflecting Beene's modern approach, his understanding of fabric and function, his timeless sense of beauty, and a little bit of whimsy.

Even the plastic mannequins, Sewell said, were specially designed by Abbott Miller, a man who worked for Beene and understood his love of the circus.

At this point, there are no plans for this exhibit to travel, which some may see as a shame. Nonetheless, Sewell says it's enough that people here can enjoy these amazing creations.  

Sewell has been the brains behind at least 25 similar exhibits in the last 10 years, and she says Phoenix has one of a handful of museums in the country with such extensive fashion design departments. For proof of that, Sewell suggests a visit to the art museum's kiosk.

"Because we have over 5,000 pieces, they cannot all be on view at the same time," Sewell said. "But you can look at the images on the computer and read a little bit more about them."

While the Phoenix Art Museum does have a Beene creation of its own, it was not included because this exhibit was exclusively one woman's collection.

The exhibit will be on display until March 7. For more information, visit the Phoenix Art Museum website at