Story Time: Fairy Tale Art Exhibitions

Storybooks come alive in museum and gallery shows.

You're never too old for fairy tales. The stories spin their magic long after we're grown up, showing up in everything from movies to popular TV series. Fairies and their enchanted friends - and foes - are turning up in other places, too. Don't miss these enchanting, fairy tale-inspired museum exhibits. 

Eileen Costa / FIT

Fairy Tale Fashion, The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York City

From glass slippers to garments featuring playing cards like the ones in Alice in Wonderland, storybook characters are going high-fashion at the FIT though you'll have to catch it quick since the show is only up through April 16, 2016. You'll see clothing and accessories styles dating from the 18th century to the present, interpreted by some of world's most famous designers and brands, including Dolce and Gabbana, Marchesa, Thom Browne, Rick Owens, Walter Van Beirendonck and Prada. 

Eileen Costa / FIT

Look for Red Riding Hood’s cloak, crafted from scarlet patent leather, as well as sparkling red stilettos created by Christian Louboutin.

Christian Louboutin

Dorothy’s gingham frock is here, too; like the red stilettos, it was inspired by "The Wizard of Oz." 

Eileen Costa / FIT

A Rodarte dress embellished with oversized, organza roses represents "Beauty and the Beast."

Irving Solero / FIT

Rapunzel’s tresses cascade as copper-colored beads over an emerald evening gown designed by Alexander McQueen. There are 14 fashion displays in all, staged in four settings: a forest, sea, parallel world and around a castle. 

Eileen Costa / FIT

The museum is also featuring over 80 other fairy-themed pieces, including artwork by such 20th-century artists as Edmund Dulac and A.H. Watson. 

The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC

The Mint Museum has so many examples of fairy tale imagery, it dedicated a temporary exhibit to them, "Fairytales, Fantasy, & Fear," a few years ago. You can still see elements from that exhibit on permanent display in the museum's Craft + Design and ceramics collections. 

American artist Julie Heffernan’s "Self Portrait as Wunderkabinett" is one of the Mint’s most popular fairy tale works. It weaves allegory, still life and portraiture into a haunting and enchanting piece. 


Julie Heffernan (American; 1956--). Self Portrait as Wunderkabinett;  2003; oil on canvas. Museum Purchase:  Exchange Funds from the Gifts of Mrs. John White Alexander; Mr. and Mrs. J. Herbert Bridges; Mrs. Addison Reese; The Mint Museum Auxiliary; Dr. and Mrs. George T. Mims; and Harry and Mary Dalton. 2004.39. Collection of The Mint Museum;  Charlotte; North Carolina. © Julie Heffernan; 2003.

Another piece, "Hemophilia," explores the darker side of stories crafted by authors like the Brothers Grimm. It's a stained glass piece showing a bleeding, cartoon-like figure. In "Alice Goes to Washington,” a porcelain rabbit created by artist Carol Gentithes, politics merge with fairy tales. Look closely, and you'll see an image of President Barack Obama atop a magical mushroom. 

Carol Gentithes (American). Johnston and Gentithes Art Pottery (Seagrove; North Carolina; 1997--). Alice Goes to Washington; 2010; porcelain. Gift of Daisy Wade Bridges. 2011.59.1. Collection of The Mint Museum; Charlotte; North Carolina. © Carol Gentithes; 2010.

Wolves, Magic Mirrors & Spinning Wheels, Everhart Museum, Scranton, PA 

The Everhart Museum presents "Wolves, Magic Mirrors & Spinning Wheels: The Anatomy of Fairy Tales," from July 15 to December 31, 2016. The exhibit will use the museum’s natural science specimens and ethnographic artifacts, along with reinterpretations of fairy tales by contemporary artists, to touch on issues of power, gender and creativity. 

Works by artist Jessica Lagunas, for example, comment on the pressure women have felt since fairy tale-times to feel beautiful. In an hour-long video, “The Better to See You With,” Lagunas repeatedly applies mascara to focus attention on society’s fixation with seductive make-up. In other videos, “The Better to Kiss You With,” and “The Better to Caress You With,” she over-applies red lipstick and red nail polish for the same effect.  

Roni Mocan and Everhart Museum

Another artist, Paul Hazelton, will exhibit pencil on paper illustrations inspired by the story of the Little Mermaid. 

A Magical Journey Through Fairytales, Wenham Museum, Wenham, MA 

Open through July 23, 2016, the Wenham’s "Magical Journey Through Fairytales" will share the art of Ruth Sanderson, an award-winning children’s book illustrator and author. As visitors take a scavenger hunt through the museum’s Thompson Gallery for clues leading to a hidden fortune, they'll pass a woodsman’s cottage, a giant mushroom, a castle with a drawbridge, and many examples of Sanderson’s captivating, colorful illustrations from her 40 year-long career. You can also explore myths and legends illustrations from around the world. It's a chance for adults and children alike to play, look and learn, the museum says.

Wenhem Museum / Ruth Sanderson

Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, Museum of Science + Industry, Chicago, IL

Since 1949, this fairy tale castle has been on permanent display at Chicago’s Museum of Science + Industry. Imagined by Colleen Moore, a popular silent film star, it was built to her specifications by expert craftsmen. Moore took her castle on tour during the Great Depression to raise money for children's charities. 

Colleen Moore Fairy Castle @ the Museum of Science and Industry

JB Spector; Museum Science and Industry

Today, this miniature castle is a kind of museum within a museum, complete with working chandeliers, elegant furniture, and its own collection of art, including inch-square books signed by great authors, and a tiny Roman bust that’s 2500 years old.   

Look for murals of the Three Little Pigs, Humpty Dumpty, and other fairy tale characters in the castle kitchen. The castle's Great Hall holds figures of Cinderella, her wicked stepmother, and the prince--and there's much more to explore, including the golden eggs Jack found when he climbed the beanstalk, and the chairs Goldilocks sat in when she visited the Three Bears. 

JB Spector; Museum Science and Industry

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