By Alexander Nagel, Thursday, May 19, 2022
This is the first AHMP curated display at the Library of SUNY FIT. The Art History and Museum Professions program developed out of a Visual Arts Certificate program in the early 2000s. Today, AHMP students are curators, archivists, educators, and writers.
Inspired by holdings related to Greece throughout the collections on the campus at FIT, research for ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION began only a few weeks ago in late January 2022. Within a short time, however, it became evident that there are a number of exciting materials and archives related to Greek speaking designers, illustrators and writers on the campus.
Large collections related to Greece are in the FIT Library Image collections, a set of photographs printed on maps and in use in classrooms in past decades before the arrival of internet. Aside from slides collected — the History of Art Department still owns slides from the first decades of the program — images were needed and maps were an easy way to share ideas when books were the only way for many students to learn more about cultures around the world. Collecting fashion for the campus in a more organized way did not began until 1969, so even dresses were rare to see. Photographs and archives matter today more than ever in understanding early ways of education.
ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION includes a scrapbook from the FIT Library used to educate students about designs and other aspects of culture around the world. The displayed page shows an illustration cut out from a magazine In Greece. Quarterly. This photograph of men dancing in traditional Greek costume is by Elli Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari, better known as “Nelly” (1899-1998). Seraidari’s photographs were popular in the 1930s and later, inspiring entire generations. She first arrived in New York City in 1939 for the World Fair in Queens, decorating the Geek pavilion. In New York City, she began photographing the megacity for a project on the “New York Easter Parade,” and stayed in New York City for several years. Many of her photographs are in the Benaki Museum in Athens in Greece. The photograph on display in the scrapbook of the Library of FIT is not uncontroversial as is her her far reaching influence and legacy as a photographer of Greece in inter-war Greece.
Damaskos, Dimitris and Dimitris Plantzos, eds. A Singular Antiquity: Archeology and Hellenic Identity in Twentieth-Century Greece (Athens, Benaki Museum, 2008), esp. “The Uses of Antiquity in Photographs by Nelly: Imported Modernism and Home-Grown Ancestor Worship in Inter-War Greece,” The full volume is accessible online here.
Markessinis, Andreas. The Greek Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair (Pelekys 2016).
Zacharia, K. “Nelly’s Iconography of Greece,” In P. Carrabott, Y. Hamilakis, E. Papargyriou eds. Camera Graeca: Photographs, Narratives, Materialities. London: Routledge: 233-56.
About the Author:
Alexander Nagel is the current Chair of the Art History and Museum Professions Program (AHMP). He contributed an essay on the Greek legacies at the Smithsonian Institution to the volume Legacies of Ancient Greece in Contemporary Perspectives, ed. by Thomas Gerry (Vernon Press, 2022).
Current Favorite Reading or Art Exhibition:
Ariella Aïsha Azoulay. Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (London: Verso Books, 2019).