5 Hidden Gems in Metro Phoenix Museum Collections

Museums traditionally acquire objects in two ways — via donation or purchase. As a general rule, museums show only 2 to 4 percent of their collections at any given time. That means their vaults are brimming with hidden gems that don't always make it to the gallery floor. We asked five local museums to share a few unique pieces from their collections.  From a 3-D printed object to a local musician's severed head, we've rounded up the most rare, cutting-edge, and just plain quirky objects inhabiting the vaults of Valley museums.

A 3D Printed Silicone and Polyurethane Dress

Museums owe a great deal of acquisitions to their support organizations. One important local group is the Arizona Costume Institute (ACI). Founded in 1966 to support Phoenix Art Museum's Fashion Design Department in the acquisition and preservation of garments and accessories of historical and aesthetic significance, it also promotes appreciation of fashion design through programs and support of the Museum's exhibitions. Recently, ACI, with the guidance of Phoenix Art Museum’s curator of fashion design Dennita Sewell, purchased the museum's first 3D printed object — a silicone covered polyurethane 3D printed dress.

It's known as the “Eleventh” dress and was the finale look from Iris van Herpen’s Fall/Winter 2014 “Biopiracy” collection. Van Herpen collaborated with architect Julia Koerner and Materialise to develop the innovative design and materials. The “Biopiracy” collection is one of van Herpen’s most significant because it demonstrates how cutting-edge technology can be generously incorporated into high-fashion without compromising its style and function. In addition to van Herpen’s creative use of new materials, “Biopiracy” was presented in a shocking visual performance that featured models suspended in vacuum sealed plastic sheets.

Unfortunately, you'll have to wait a few years to see this inventive dress at Phoenix Art Museum. The “Eleventh” dress is now on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in van Herpen’s debut U.S. exhibition, “Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion,” which travels to Phoenix Art Museum in 2018. 

The Severed Head of Alice Cooper (Sort of) 
The Musical Instrument Museum boasts a vast collection of unique instruments from around the world. But for this challenge, the museum offered up a quirky piece of local musical history — a molded severed-head stage prop, complete with bloodied stump at the neck, face paint, and a black wig, crafted in the likeness of Phoenix rocker Alice Cooper.

First known as the Earwigs, the Spiders, and the Nazz, the band Alice Cooper became an international sensation. Formed in Phoenix in 1964, the group soon showed an affinity for the theatrical and the bizarre, ultimately becoming one of the most influential and commercially successful "shock rock" acts. This display, a loan courtesy of Alice Cooper, is featured within MIM's Arizona section and contains objects from various moments in Alice Cooper history. 

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