It's time to put aside the dreary greys of midwinter, and embrace the bold colors of eternal artistry.
Willa Kim, the late, two-time Tony winner known for her colorful career in costume design, is being recognized by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in the first-ever major retrospective exhibition of her work.
Titled The Wondrous Willa Kim: Costume Designs for Actors and Dancers, Kim’s archive was acquired by the Library in 2017 after her passing in 2016; this exhibition offers an assortment of costumes and designs from her career, including productions such as Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, The Will Rogers Follies, and her final Broadway show, Victor/Victoria starring Julie Andrews.
Born in 1917 to Korean immigrants in California, Kim's taste for whimsical combinations of color and texture brought her to Hollywood, where she worked under Raoul Pène du Bois, who was designing costumes for the Ginger Rogers 1944 film Lady in the Dark. From there, Kim came to New York, designing costumes for The Red Eye of Love, Goodtime Charley, Song & Dance, Dancin’, Tommy Tune Tonite!, and more. Her designs were beloved by choreographers for the way they "danced" around performers, leading her to work hand in hand with Ballet Hispánico and American Ballet Theatre on costume designs, as well as designing for opera performances, figure skaters, and even salad-themed dresses for a Super Bowl commercial. Kim passed away in 2016 at the age of 99.
The Wondrous Willa Kim is curated by Bobbi Owen, professor emerita of dramatic art at the University North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she taught costume design and history. Additionally, Owen is the author of a monograph of Kim’s work, published in 2005. The exhibition opens to the public February 23, and will remain available, free of charge, through August 19.
Take a look at the exhibition below before making your own trip to the library.