Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper

In September 2017, after three years of planning, more than 90 works of art by Isabelle de Borchgrave, an internationally renowned artist based in Brussels, arrived in Memphis. The works flew from Liege on a FedEx flight, effectively launching one of the most important and highly successful exhibitions in Dixon history. Known for her full-sized paint and paper replicas of historical costumes and dresses, Isabelle de Borchgrave and Dixon organized a five-venue retrospective of her work and FedEx generously donated the international shipping as a crucial in-kind contribution to the project.

Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper opened at the Dixon on October 15, 2017, for a twelve-week run. The show then traveled to the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida; to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art; to the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh; and to Artis-Naples, the Baker Museum in Naples, Florida, finally closing in early May 2019. The exhibition attracted large audiences and an enthusiastic critical response at every venue, and before the tour ended, the Dixon received requests from the Flint Institute of Arts in Michigan, and SCAD FASH, Museum of Art + Film in Atlanta to send the show to those museums as well. Isabelle de Borchgrave supported the idea, and Dixon asked FedEx if it would be possible to delay the return shipment to accommodate Flint and Atlanta. The company generously agreed, and the tour continued.

By the time the SCAD FASH venue was nearing completion in mid-January 2020, the Dixon was receiving more requests from American museums to present Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper. Dixon again turned to FedEx, requesting another extension and the company again agreed. But before the Isabelle de Borchgrave exhibition could continue its tour, the COVID pandemic interrupted Dixon’s plans and those of much of the world. Isabelle’s paper dresses sat in a climate-controlled storage facility in Utica, New York, where the exhibition was next slated to appear, for more than a year.

Finally, in February 2021, the Speed Art Museum in Louisville was prepared to resume exhibition programming, and Dixon shipped Isabelle’s work from western New York State to Kentucky. The Speed had booked a double venue, twenty-four weeks, and the exhibition was met there with great enthusiasm, as eager museum visitors gradually returned to some semblance of normal activities again. When the exhibition closed in Louisville, Isabelle’s works were again transported back to Utica, where they appeared at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute until early 2022. The tenth and final presentation of Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper was held at the Wichita Art Museum from February until May 2023.

Isabelle de Borchgrave’s beautiful paper dresses returned to Belgium via another generously donated FedEx flight in early June 2023, almost six years after arriving in Memphis. The exhibition tour that FedEx helped bring to the United States attracted over 300,000 visitors, and stimulated hundreds of articles in the press and thousands of social media posts and email blasts. An outstanding project for Dixon to lead, the institution remains deeply grateful to FedEx for allowing them to bring this important exhibition to its full potential.

The FedEx donation of the international shipments was a part of the company’s FedEx Cares “Delivering for Good” initiative, in which FedEx lends its global network and unparalleled logistics expertise to organizations with precious cargo requests and helps communities before, during, and after crises. Learn more about FedEx Cares Delivering for Good initiative here.