Gallery Hunt: Style

Gallery Hunt: Style

Style is an expression of identity. In many cases style represents a unique personality, while for others it speaks to an entire culture, belief, or movement. Travel through the VMFA galleries to see how art can express attitude, status, trends, spirit, and thoughts!

Grade Level:
Adult, College, Early Childhood, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Grades K-2
African American Art, African Art, American Art, Ancient Art, European Art, Modern and Contemporary Art
Africa, America, Europe, Rome
Subject Area:
Fine Arts, Visual Arts
Activity Type:
Gallery Guides & Hunts

Gallery Hunt: Style


21st Century Gallery, Level 2

Style can sometimes be seen as a performance, and a way to share something about yourself by what you choose to wear. The artist of this piece, Nick Cave, makes these “Soundsuits” using ordinary materials that range from sequins to human hair, buttons, feathers, wire, and other accumulated objects that make noise when they move. What objects do you see? What would you adorn your own “Soundsuit” in?


Great Hall, Level 2

Kehinde Wiley creates colorful, larger than life-sized portraits of everyday people, such as the man in this painting who is from Harlem, New York. Wiley uses older portraits as inspiration for his paintings but will typically replace the original sitter with a contemporary Black or Brown person. This portrait references a 1625 painting of a Dutch merchant by Frans Hals. In Wiley’s version, completed in 2006, the model sports a tracksuit by Sean John, (one of the first mainstream hip-hop clothing lines at the time) as well as a pair of Timberland boots, a classic example of urban fashion. What do you think this person’s style says about them and why? 


Ancient Art Gallery, Level 2

Agrippina, the mother of the infamous Emperor Caligula, sports a hairstyle with waves in the front—similar to the portrayal of Greek and Roman goddesses—while in the back she displays cork-screw curls, her signature style that became a trend in her day. What celebrity hair trends are popular now?


19th Century European Gallery, Level 2

In France at this time, fashion and identity were tightly intertwined. Portraits like this one by Franz Winterhalter were used to communicate the “status” of the subject, and subjects often bought clothing specifically to wear in their portraits. What details do you see that might tell us who this woman was? What can you learn about people today from their style choices? What do you think your style says about you?


African Art Gallery, Level 2

This extraordinary object represents the Yoruba concept of the inner and outer head. On the pedestal, there is a Yoruba proverb that says, “May my inner head not spoil the external one.” What do you think the message of that proverb is?

Images (as details)

1 Untitled (Sound Suit), 2011, Nick Cave (American, born 1959), fabric, sequins, embroidery, mannequin. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, gift of Pamela K. and William A. Royal, Jr., 2018.439

2 Willem van Heythuysen, 2006, Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977), oil and enamel on canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund, 2006.14

3 Agrippina the Elder, Roman, mid-1st century A.D., marble. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams, 68.69

4 Portrait of Lydia Schabelsky, ca. 1857-58, Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German, 1805-1873), marble. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams, 2004.69 

5 Ilé Orí (House of the Head), 19th-20th century, Yoruba culture (Nigeria, Republic of Benin), cowrie shells, leather, wood, metal, string, caning cloth, natural fibers. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Art Purchase Fund, 97.110