Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion debuts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

Joey Amato | June 17, 2022

Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion will debut at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) at Newfields on July 16, 2022 and close April 2, 2023. The exhibition will feature more than 60 ensembles and 40 pairs of shoes and boots designed by Indiana native Stephen Sprouse (1953-2004). The IMA acquired the Stephen Sprouse fashion collection and archives in 2019 through the generosity of Joanne and Bradford Sprouse, Stephen’s mother and brother. The donation included more than 10,000 pieces, including men’s and women’s garments, shoes, accessories, textile samples, fashion sketches, audio-visuals and Polaroids that will be featured in the exhibition. Two portraits of Sprouse painted by Andy Warhol were also included in this significant gift, one is on view in the newly renovated Clowes Pavilion and the other will be included in this exhibition.

“We are thrilled to have been entrusted with Stephen Sprouse’s legacy,” said Niloo Paydar, Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts at the IMA. “We hope this exhibition will bring a renewed interest and recognition to Sprouse who electrified the 1980s with his transformative styles.”

Sprouse was one of the first American designers to introduce street style into high fashion. He incorporated graffiti, Day-Glo colors and punk aesthetic into his designs. His collections were inspired by the music and culture of the downtown New York City in the 1980s. He was influenced by the artistic energy of his circle of friends including Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. His designs were sold at New York City’s exclusive stores, such as Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York. Sprouse’s high quality modern fabrics, combined with edgy youthful styles in unisex silhouettes, established him as one of the most innovative American fashion designers of the 20th century.

This exhibition is the largest survey of Sprouse’s work and features many ensembles that have not been seen since they debuted on runways in the late 1990s. The exhibition showcases Sprouse’s use of unconventional materials, original and bold patterns, innovative cuts, and construction and reveals key themes that occupied his work for more than 40 years. There are several garments in the exhibition dating from 1983-85 that showcase his creative and unique use of graffiti. He was one of the first designers to incorporate graffiti in his designs, and his ability to write backwards set him apart.

In 1987 a few days before Andy Warhol died, he granted Sprouse access to his archives. Several garments that are based on Warhol’s camouflage pattern will be included in the exhibition. For his acclaimed Spring/Summer 1998 collection, Sprouse obtained the rights from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to work with more of Warhol’s images. An homage to Warhol, the collection featured not only clothes that were based on Warhol’s paintings but also contained several garments that were inspired by Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s collaborations. Warhol’s 1984 double portrait of Stephen Sprouse will have its Indianapolis debut along with three iconic paintings, Iggy on the Cross (1987), Absolut Vodka Advertisement (1988), and Sid Vicious in Baton Rouge (1988) all created by Sprouse.

Sprouse’s friend Keith Haring also partnered with him in 1987 to create a line of fabrics that were quite extraordinary. There are a few garments in the exhibition that feature this unique artistic collaboration. Other highlights include a dress similar to the outfit his neighbor and friend, Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the New Wave band Blondie, wore in the Heart of Glass video.

Guests to the exhibition will be able to engage in interactive activities such as sketching sheets where they can fill in select Sprouse runway sketches with their own patterns and designs. True to Sprouse’s aesthetic, this exhibition will be filled with Day-Glo colors, bold graphic prints and a complied playlist of the music that Sprouse listened to and used in his runway shows.

To celebrate the opening of this monumental exhibition Newfields will host a punk rock concert on Wednesday, July 13 in The Toby featuring The Zero Boys. The concert is 21+ and tickets are $20 for members and $25 for the public and can be purchased at The Member and Community Partner preview will be held on Thursday, July 14, 2022.

Lead support for Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion is provided by Target, Absolut Vodka and the Jan B. Rubin Art Exhibition Fund. Generous in-kind support is provided by RALPH PUCCI International, KCD PR and Louis Vuitton. Additional support is provided by Amy Davidoff and David Phillips.