As chief curator of fashion and textiles the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Pamela Golbin was the custodian of one of the most significant and extensive collections of fashion and textiles in the world. Golbin has personally staged important exhibitions on the work of iconic fashion designers such as Madeleine Vionnet, Hussein Chalayan , Valentino, Dries Van Noten and Marc Jacobs , many of which attracted several hundreds of thousands of visitors.
“There is no formula for mounting an exhibition,” the curator told BoF. “Every project is a fresh start and I have to approach it with an open mind, free of any preconceived ideas I may have on the designer or theme. But it’s always a collaborative process. Most people don’t realise how many people work for how many hours to put on an exhibition, it is actually a very long, thought-out and considered process.”
According to Golbin, at the root of all of her exhibitions on living designers is “a conversation that goes on and on and on.” She adds, “It is a very personal and involved process. It is about talking through a lot of stuff, about going through press clippings from the designers’ very early days — and I don’t stop asking questions.”
As for the result, Golbin told BoF, “It has to be visually engaging, stunning and surprising. The visual aspect of an exhibition is every visitor’s first [point of] access, and only if it speaks to him or her will they go on to the next level. Over the last decade, our public has really opened up; we have all types of visitors, from students to people who don’t know anything about fashion to people who are very passionate and knowledgeable. Whether dead or living, my job is to define the signature style of a designer, highlight what makes them different, and showcase the signature visual aesthetic, proper to their values, in a way that draws in and stimulates a modern audience.”
Golbin’s first expressed an interest in becoming a curator on trips she took as a girl, accompanied by her grandmother, to see the museum that would define her professional life to date. At age 18, with the help of her grandmother, Golbin landed an internship at the museum she now oversees. Golbin went on to study art history at Columbia University in New York and, in her second year, was selected for an apprenticeship program at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. In February 1993, soon after graduating from Columbia, Golbin was appointed head of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile (a department of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs), making her one of the youngest curators in the history of France, and one of the very few to have been born outside the country.
On December 31, 2018, Golbin announced her resignation as chief curator of fashion and textiles after 25 years at Les Arts Décoratifs. “Having celebrated 25 fulfilling years at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 2019 is all about new beginnings,” she said in an Instagram post.