A Timeless Legacy, Balenciaga Museum

Cristóbal Balenciaga is regarded as one of the leading and most influential couturiers of the 20th century. This exhibition shows the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his contribution to history.

Cristóbal Balenciaga is unanimously regarded as one of the leading and most influential couturiers of the 20th century. A tireless perfectionist, he acquired an expert command of sewing techniques and spent his life refining the construction of his creations and introducing extraordinary innovations that allowed him to gradually evolve towards simpler, purer forms. His exceptional creative talent inspired him to design models that were audacious in both their form and aesthetics, taking the world by storm and setting the indisputable trend season after season. His command of the craft earned him the respect of his colleagues and he reigned supreme in the international haute couture world until he retired in 1968.

This exhibition aims to provide visitors with an insight in the principal characteristics of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work and demonstrate his crucial contribution to the history of fashion and design.

Comprising three chronologically arranged rooms, a través de una cuidada selección de 62 piezas y una selección e películas, the show examines the career of the Getaria-born couturier, from his beginnings in San Sebastian to his reign in Paris. It concludes with an analysis of his extraordinary technical legacy, which to this day continues to influence the work of the leading contemporary creators.

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum
The Balenciaga Museum is a public institution dedicated to studying and keeping alive the memory of fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. It is located in his hometown, Guetaria (Guipúzcoa) and was inaugurated in June 2011.

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa opened on 7 June 2011 in the town of Getaria (Spain), becoming the world’s first great museum of its type dedicated exclusively to a couturier. Created under the tutorship of the Cristóbal Balenciaga Foundation, its mission is to disseminate and highlight the importance of the figure and work of this brilliant designer in artistic creation in general and in the world of fashion and haute couture in particular.

The Museum is home to one of the most relevant collections of creations by Cristóbal Balenciaga at an international level, both due to the number and quality of the items included and to the timespan they cover.

In the Museum’s spaces, in addition to exhibiting, in rotation, a representative selection of his collections, there are temporary exhibitions linked to fashion and educational and leisure activities.

In 1994 the Balenciaga Foundation was created, whose main project was to open a museum in the birthplace of the famous designer. For this, the Aldamar Palace was chosen, a nineteenth century building whose owners had supported the young Balenciaga. Attached to the mansion, a building with a modern line would be erected, with glass as the main material.

The museum was to open at the beginning in 2003, but its preparation was affected by several irregularities. According to several sources, the new building had been designed by a Cuban architect who lacked homologation to work in Spain; in addition, the exhibition rooms were inadequate for the garments, since the intense light that entered through the windows threatened to deteriorate the tissues. On the other hand, a review of the funds revealed the disappearance of some pieces of Balenciaga, such as silk scarves, which had apparently been given as a gift to people outside the museum.

The Ministry of Culture decided to withdraw the subsidies in 2005. Two years later it was decided to unblock this situation when they saw that the facts were being clarified. The new building was adapted museologically to guarantee the preservation of the exposed garments. In any case, the amount of the exposed repertoire is reduced to 90 pieces, which will be rotated to avoid a prolonged incidence of light.

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The 7 of June of 2011 many personalities approached the Guipuzcoan town, including Her Majesty Queen Sofia, the veteran designer Givenchy, Spanish designers of several generations, and ladies wore Balenciaga designs, as Carmen Martínez-Bordiú.

The first director of the museum was Javier González de Durana, relieved in 2014 by Miren Vives Almandoz, and the vice president is Sonsoles Diez de Rivera (daughter of Sonsoles de Icaza).

It has a background of more than 1200 garments and accessories designed by the artist. They are exhibited in a rotating manner, both for reasons of space and because the materials are fragile and would deteriorate in a continuous exhibition.

Much of the collection has been gathered thanks to donations and loans. Some 300 pieces were donated by Rachel L. Mellon, wife of the American banking tycoon Paul Mellon and who was a prominent client of Balenciaga. In 2017 the museum dedicates a temporary exhibition to this donor. Other garments have been given in deposit by Hubert de Givenchy, disciple of the teacher of Guetaria, and by heirs of old clients such as Sonsoles de Icaza or Grace Kelly.

The Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum Collection is related to the professional career and personal profile of Cristóbal Balenciaga, the famous designer from Getaria, who dominated 20th century haute couture.

The Museum has the task of conserving and increasing these collections, while making them more accessible and open.

By exploring this section you will obtain better knowledge of the couturier, of the collections making up the Museum heritage, and of our work in relation to them.

Distributed by type, the collections include:

Balenciaga attire (1912-1971)
The Museum has a collection of clothing designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga and produced, in the main, at his Maisons in Paris, San Sebastián, Madrid and Barcelona. Outstanding among them are the:
Basque Government Collection
Rachel L. Mellon Collection
Balenciaga accessories (1940-1968)
Scarves, jewellery, gloves, tights, perfumes and headdress sold with the Balenciaga brand name and which completed the look proposed by Balenciaga. In these cases, only the headdress would actually be produced at the Maison ateliers.
Documentation and personal objects of Cristóbal Balenciaga (1899-1972)
Photographs, letters and objects belonging to Cristóbal Balenciaga make up this collection of more than 1000 items.
Working documents from the EISA and Balenciaga Maisons
Invoices, invitations, sales records, etc.
Balenciaga patterns and tools of the trade.
Historical Fashion Magazines
Particularly outstanding are the Pedro Esteban and Hubert de Givenchy collections.
Study Collection
physical replicas and audiovisual material made to facilitate research and study.
Immaterial collection of the testimonies of workers at the Balenciaga House

The collection making up the collections are registered, catalogued, handled, processed and stored according to the strict criteria and protocols established by the Museum’s Conservation and Restoration Department.