Katharina Kercher: Mannequin

Mannequins, rather than relics from a bygone era, continue to fascinate. In their fiberglass silence they whisper and shout using their own special brand of body language to reach passersby.

Used to spread fashion ideas as far back as ancient Egypt, mannequins and their clothes reflect social-economic changes as male and female identities have been being reconstructed over the decades. The growth of cities and technology set the stage for the development of window displays at the front of stores. Window gazing became a popular pasttime, which was eventually termed “window shopping”.

A marketable endeavor as well as an art form, the mannequin has created an ambiguous connection between art and commercialism. In New Zealand, Purfex has lead the way in terms of quality and variety, creating mannequins and forms for high fashion, contemporary artists, museums, and charitable community events.

This exhibition examines the production process that the renowned Purfex factory has come to master over 75 years in production, and offers a glimpse into the magic of bringing mannequins to life. Consisting of a photographic essay, multi-media installation, and a resident mannequin painter demonstrating his craft in the window, Mannequin runs in conjunction with a wider community celebration: In the New Lynn shopping district, ten shop windows have been taken over by mannequins dressed by artists and community groups. The public is invited to wander through the upgraded precinct and further ponder the role of the humble mannequin in society.

In a concurrent exhibition on Rosebank Road, documentary maker Rachael Allan has also captured the life and times of Purfex mannequin factory. The Purfex story has been made as part of the Rosebank Project, where twenty five designers, artists or art collectives will explore, research and make; working with key community groups, developing a response to what they find, in the place, at the place.

08 March - 10 March 2013

Find the exhibition catalogue here.

Listen to mannequin maker Glen Wilkin Holland and Doris de Pont from the New Zealand Fashion Museum talk on Radio New Zealand National's 'Arts on Sunday' on 17 March 2013.


Listen to Purfex owner Glen Wilkin-Holland discuss his business on The Real Life of Mannequins, on Radio New Zealand National's 'This Way Up' on 30 April 2011.