In a little under a month’s time, the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA will be home to one of Philadelphia’s most beloved film icons. Grace Kelly and her classic style and gracious nature will be the centerpiece of the From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly Beyond the Icon exhibit from October 28th 2013 through January 26th 2014.
The exhibit is currently on view at the McCord Museum in Montreal, after which it will arrive to the Michener for its only appearance in the United States. It only seems natural that Philadelphia would host the collection brimming with personal archival pieces from the life of Grace Kelly, but the intimate gallery tucked away in Bucks County may seem like an unlikely venue. “A colleague of mine had learned about the opportunity and knew that Philadelphia would have to be the locus for one of the venues because of Grace Kelly’s history here,” says Lisa Hanover, Director and CEO of the Michener Art Museum. “The scale and timing of the exhibition was such that our larger counterparts in the city that plan their schedules two and three years ahead could not accommodate the exhibit.” Some leeway in the exhibition schedule allowed the Michener the honor of presenting Grace Kelly’s life to her hometown, and so much the better for film enthusiasts looking to discover more about the Hollywood icon. The Michener’s cozy gallery setting will no doubt cater to the personal story that the museum hopes will resonate with audiences. “Any exhibition that has a populist theme, you also have to provide an educational context,” says Hanover. “So that’s what we are doing with Grace Kelly, we’re providing information that goes beyond the glamour related to her personal life, her family, her philosophy on life. She really was quite an extraordinary woman.”
Among the artifacts to be shown include key pieces from Kelly’s couture wardrobe including her beautiful sea-foam green Oscar dress that she wore to accept her Best Actress statuette for Country Girl in 1955. Also of interest is The Mondrian dress designed by Yves St. Laurent and based on the artwork of the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. A rather fitting tribute to art history. It may seem counterintuitive to seek the woman beyond the image by looking at her now iconic appearance, but Hanover says Kelly’s fashion choices go beyond portraying a mere surface luster. “I think all of it points to a very consistent knowledge of how she projects herself. The pieces all reveal how strong an identity she had, and she remained true to herself. Stars today are all over the map in how they present themselves, but she was very consistent and her clothing helps to deliver that story.” These pieces will be displayed along with personal letters she exchanged with contemporaries that run the gamut from family members, her husband Prince Rainier III, stars like Bing Crosby and Jimmy Stewart, and her director Alfred Hitchcock.
Grace Kelly’s family both in Philadelphia and Monaco have also been adamant supporters of the exhibit and have graciously allowed curators from the McCord Museum to access the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. The Forum is akin to an archive and historical vault that houses Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III’s family artifacts and provided the majority of the pieces in the exhibition. “I think the home movies and the family pictures will really communicate with our audience,” says Hanover. “Her family, and most especially her son Prince Albert II, really carries on that humanitarian and philanthropic spirit all over the world, and that really shows in this installation.”
And just like Grace Kelly’s love for Philadelphia, the exhibit’s homecoming has also fostered wonderful partnerships throughout the region. “The Philadelphia Museum of Art has been a wonderful partner to us by lending us very key pieces from Grace Kelly’s wedding, including her head piece, her bible, and her wedding shoes,” says Hanover. The dress will not be on display, but H. Kristina Haugland, who wrote a book on the wedding dress, is also giving lectures and providing the Michener information from her book. “It definitely adds to the hometown presence of the exhibit,” says Hanover. The Michener is also housing an exhibit on the history of the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, where Kelly first appeared on stage.
Grace Kelly’s Hollywood career was a short but memorable one, and although she transitioned from movie star glamour to a life of royalty, she still remains a Philadelphia girl. “I hope the exhibit demonstrates the multidimensional layers of this woman and what she was able to accomplish,” says Hanover. “She had the infrastructure of the House of Grimaldi, but she took it and made it very personal. She physically represented her country, both Monaco and the United States in a very deliberate way that was the highest sense of taste and elegance.”
From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly Beyond the Icon runs at the Michener Art Museum from October 28th 2013 to January 26th 2014. All tickets must be reserved in advance through the Michener Art Museum website.