By Nadine Kam
Essential Style: Vintage and Antique Purses
On view at San Francisco International Airport through July 22, 2016
Waiting at airports can be a boring, mind-numbing experience, but at San Francisco International Airport, in-house SFO Museum exhibitions turn it into a culturally enriching one.
SFO Museum became the first cultural institution of its kind located in an international airport, in 1980. Displays are compact, varied and fun. Last time I passed through, there was an exhibition of Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett's monster-themed guitars. There are 20 exhibitions throughout the airport at this time, but I happened to be passing through the international terminal en route to Dubai, and chanced on the "Essential Style: Vintage and Antique Purses" exhibition. I love purses so of course I was thrilled. Many of the pieces are credited to the Antique Purse Collectors Society.
According to exhibition materials, purses date to the medieval period, but I'm pretty sure they have been around as long as men and women had to carry talismans and other personal items. They didn't remain utilitarian objects long as humans have always wanted to put their personal stamp on items. Purses quickly evolved into a sophisticated decorative art and fashion accessory, and bags have always showed the creativity and skills of their makers, from metal and leatherwork to weaving, embroidery, and knitting. That's why I like them so much. They are a form of portable, everyday art.
Purses continue to fascinate and tempt us. I just read that a trio of Hermès Birkins topped $100,000 each in an April 18 and 19, $2.5+ million Heritage Spring Luxury auction in New York. A rare limited edition Matte So Black Nilo Crocodile Birkin topped the trio with a final price of $125,000, while an Extraordinary Collection Matte Black Porosus Crocodile Birkin Bag with 18k White Gold Hardware went for $118,750, and a Matte White Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin Bag finished at $100,000.
Historically, men and women wore purses attached to their belts or fabric bands that hung from the waist. After pockets were introduced to male clothing at the end of the 16th century, men's use of bags declined. But women's styles became increasingly sophisticated. A number of workshops in 18th century France began producing exquisite beaded purses employing up to 1,000 beads per square inch.
The exhibition opened on Jan. 22 and is on view in the International Terminal, Departures Level 3 through July 22, 2016. View more at: http://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/essential-style-vintage-and-antique-purses#sthash.AzKCyebj.dpuf