Ilene Hochberg Wood handbag collection in museums’ ‘Pursenoality’ exhibitions
When Ilene Hochberg Wood’s mother gifted her a little red handbag as a child, there was no way to know that the bag would become the basis of a world-class collection.
Now, years after the first bag that started it all, a portion of Wood’s collection is being displayed in several museums
“PURSEonality: A Stylish Handbag History,” opening Oct. 11, will showcase more than 400 handbags at Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites’ Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts and Moravian Museum of Bethlehem.
An opening reception for “PURSEonality: A Stylish Handbag History” will be held 5:30 - 8 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts.
Get a first look at the exhibit and meet the collector herself, as well as Karen Giberson, president of The Accessories Council, a trade organization dedicated to fashion accessory products with corporate members such as Swarovski, Bloomingdales, and Tory Burch. Admission is free for members and includes wine and light refreshments. Pre-registration is required and space is limited.
An additional 100 handbags are on display in an exhibition at America On Wheels, “Cars & Purses: A Timeless Pairing.” This display of automotive-themed bags includes designers such as Kate Spade, Karl Lagerfeld, and John Gaillano. A special combination ticket is available Oct. 11 through December.
The styles in the collection range from folk art, to contemporary designers, to embroidered. “PURSEonality” is the inaugural debut of a curated selection of Ilene Hochberg Wood’s bag collection, which numbers into the thousands and believed to be the largest in the United States, if not the world.
Highlights include the largest collection of handbags from Anne-Marie of Paris. Anne-Marie of Paris was a 1940s designer based in a Parisian hotel. She specialized in novelty bags such as the “Champagne and Ice Bucket” and “Telephone.” A version of the latter is in the collection of The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Displays at the Kemerer Museum will showcase 300 handbags arranged by themes such as design, innovation, materials, and personal stories of previous handbag owners and eccentric designers. One display will spotlight bags hand-decorated by Lehigh Valley artists. The Moravian Museum will focus on a selection of needlepoint handbags paired with examples of needlepoint from Historic Bethlehem’s collection.
“We are thrilled to bring ‘PURSEonality’ to life at the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts. This is the first exhibit in the history of the museum that covers such depth and diversity of a critical fashion accessory, the handbag,” said Lori Ann Wukitsch, Vice President of Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites.
“We encourage visitors to experience what we hope is a fun, intriguing and tantalizing exhibit, and that they will develop their own sense of the expanse of Ilene’s Wood’s unique collection,” Wukitsch said.
Exhibition elements include: explore a timeline of the handbag, representing the trends of each decade; the Handbag Hall of Fame, featuring the most rare, unusual, and expensive purses acquired by Wood in her decades of collecting, and a wall that demonstrates the democratization of fashion, from designs right off the runway to mass-produced bags available at big box retailers.