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Patrick Kelly: Reclaiming Racist Memorabilia

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Photograph by Oliviero Toscani / © Patrick Kelly Estate / Image Randy Dodson, courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Racist memorabilia refers to artifacts that represent white supremacist views. While many ethnicities are subject to racist caricature, offensive artifacts depicting Black people are the most pervasive, commercialized, and closely linked to systemic racism. Patrick Kelly and his former business and life partner, Bjorn Guil Amelan, collected and utilized these objects in their studio, and Kelly reclaimed racialized tropes in his women’s wear designs. In this panel, David Pilgrim, founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Madison Moore, artist-scholar, DJ, and assistant professor of gender, sexuality and women's studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, and moderator Sequoia Barnes, artist and advising scholar of Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, explore how Kelly reappropriated racist memorabilia to confront white supremacy and challenged its anti-Black ideology in the United States and Europe. 
This program is in support of the exhibition, Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, honoring the life and legacy of the fashion designer. This event is part of Virtual Wednesdays, a weekly YouTube broadcast bringing you unique viewpoints exploring diversity, resilience, and creative spirit in the arts as we aim to reframe our exhibitions and collections. View upcoming Virtual Wednesdays programs.

About the Exhibition

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love celebrates the meteoric rise and enduring legacy of Black fashion designer Patrick Kelly (1954–1990). During his brief yet impactful career in the late 1980s, Kelly became the first American and first Black designer to be voted into the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, the prestigious French association for ready-to-wear designers. Kelly was lauded with such accolades while being and remaining, one of only a few designers who directly addressed issues of race in their work.

Patrick Kelly (1954–1990) was born and raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His grandmother, a cook and maid, fostered a love of fashion by bringing him fashion magazines from the family for whom she worked. Kelly briefly studied art and history before moving to Paris in late 1979. In 1988, he became the first American and the first Black designer to be voted into the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, the French fashion industry association and standards organization for ready-to-wear designers. Kelly’s career was cut short by complications related to AIDS in 1990. The epitaph on his headstone in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, is emblematic of the designer and his legacy: “Nothing Is Impossible.”

Ticket Information

No registration is required. Free online event. 

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