By war’s end, the Ballets Russes was turning international, enlisting French avant-garde figures such as Matisse, who designed a 1920 production of Stravinsky’s one-act “The Song of the Nightingale.” The company’s artistic circle would expand further in that decade to include modernists and surrealists. One high point was the adventurous 1924 ballet “The Blue Train,” a parody of sexual mores set in a beach resort that featured the music of Darius Milhaud and costumes by Chanel. The exhibit includes the imposing drop curtain Picasso designed for the show, depicting two frolicking, rotund women.
The final section of the exhibition details George Balanchine’s emergence as the company’s last choreographer, including designs and costumes from the 1929 surrealist ballet “The Ball.”
The exhibit is adapted from a 2010 show at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum with 50 additional pieces loaned by private collectors and museums, including the Dansmuseet in Sweden and the National Gallery of Australia.
Keeping with a recent trend of pairing museum exhibits with themed menus, the gallery asked chef Michel Richard to assemble a Russo-French bistro serving blinis, caviar, borscht and other favorites that will operate out of the West Building’s Garden Cafe. The experience aims to show how a single artistic institution changed modern culture. “Its legacy is found on fashion runways, in glossy magazines, concert halls and art galleries,” Kennel said.