The House of Viktor & Rolf
Barbican Art Gallery

18 June – 21 September
£8, Concessions £6
Tue-Wed 11 am – 6 pm, Thu until 10 pm

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Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren could pass for brothers, or at least long-time partners. They’re both 38, they dress alike, and they even wear the same style of glasses. Their only real relation is a shared tendency toward workaholism on their eponymous line, but their summer exhibition at the Barbican proves that’s all they needed to turn out 16 years worth of ironic and surrealistic designs.

The Barbican’s House of Viktor &#38 Rolf – comprising two full floors of career-highlight pieces – is the first UK-based exhibition specifically for the Dutch design team. Video projections of runway shows form backdrops for mannequins, which can also be seen in miniature-doll version in the exhibition’s centrepiece: a giant white house.

Other show highlights include Haute Couture dresses from the 1999-2000 collection Russian Doll, in which the duo personally cocooned model Maggie Rizer in 10 layers of canvas and lace in front of their audience. Pieces from 2003-2004’s One Woman Show collection (dedicated to Tilda Swinton, who guest modelled on the runway) are also on display.

Viktor &#38 Rolf started working together after they graduated from the Academy of Arts in Arnhem in 1992, and they presented their first Haute Couture runway show in January 1998. Their first ready-to-wear collection, based on the American flag to emphasize their ambitions of going global, showed two years later. The Viktor &#38 Rolf scent Flowerbomb gained more attention in autumn 2004, and the designers sold out their capsule collection for H&#38M in 2006.

Known for bizarre antics like launching a PR campaign for a fake perfume and installing an upside-down interior in their Milan boutique, Viktor & Rolf have selected a range of outlandish but appealing garments for the Barbican. Dresses enhanced with bluescreen technology? Satin pillows transformed into collars? Don’t ask why. Just go see them.

– Jill Hilbrenner