Kublin-Balenciaga show at Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum, Spain opens this June

LOOKING beyond the designs, the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum in Spain is opening a new exhibition that will bridge the gap between photography and fashion by celebrating the relationship between the Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga and Hungarian photographer Tom Kublin.

For the first time ever, there will be an extensive show in the museum in the designer’s hometown of Getaria exploring Kublin’s work with Balenciaga that spanned over two decades.

Kublin was born in Zalaszentgrot, a small town in Hungary, in 1924. Due to the instability after the Second World
War as well as the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Kublin emigrated to Zurich in 1956, where he opened a photographic studio, having studied photography when he was 15 at the Budapest School of Photography.

Harper’s Bazaar, June 1965 ©Hearst Magazines Media Inc

Balenciaga Bouquet, Harper’s Bazaar, July 1964 @ Hearst Magazine Inc

At that time, Zurich had an affluent textile industry that led him, due to his work with the Abraham silk company, which supplied Parisian Haute Couture houses with fabric, to begin working with Cristóbal Balenciaga in the 1950s.

Presenting fashion from a new perspective is what photography facilitated – and Balenciaga was able to display his expertise in greater detail through Kublin’s lense.

However, Kublin’s career was shorter than his contemporaries due to his early death in 1966 in Locarno, Switzerland.

Night Poetry, Harper’s Bazaar, November 1965 ©Hearst Magazine Media Inc

In 1950s and ‘60s, photography began to present fashion from new perspectives – documenting and displaying the art of fashion creation as well as its innovative and technical qualities.

Kublin took many photographs of Balenciaga designs for a wide range of leading fashion publications in particular Harper’s Bazaar– images that clearly showed the designer’s skill as well as his taste.

Following the usual practice in Haute Couture, the House of Balenciaga used to photograph the designs of each collection for copyright purposes. And it was Kublin who Balenciaga entrusted to take these photographs.

In the early 1960s, Kublin also started to document Balenciaga’s collections in film and experimented with ways of capturing fashion in motion, for example Kublin filmed an advertisement for Balenciaga’s Le Dix perfume, which is part of the archiveof Maria Kublin, the exhibition’s curator and daughter of Tom Kublin.

Pink jewels of Evening, Harper’s Bazaar NY, December 1963 ©Hearst Magazine Media Inc

With more than 100 images and five film extracts, as well as unpublished work, this fascinating exhibition is one you do not want to miss.

by Imogen Clark 

Tom Kublin for Balenciaga: An Unusual Collaboration runs from  June 11 – October 30, 2022