Michael Drummond: Being Played

Michael Drummond: Being Played weaves a narrative about the effects of the fast fashion industry on climate change through the lens of chess-inspired creations by Saint Louis-based garment designer Michael Drummond. The exhibit showcases new designs using a variety of naturally-occurring and man-made materials and techniques, including laser-cut synthetics, clothing spun from steel, handcrafted shoes and digitally-printed accessories.

More information coming soon!

Michael Drummond: Being Played

Michael Drummond: Being Played marks the second time the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) has presented a chess-themed solo exhibition of a regional artist. With a mission to celebrate the history of the game of chess, we strive to make everyone feel welcome here, whether you are a grandmaster, or you have never picked up a chess piece. Since opening in September 2011, we have presented an array of exhibitions that showcase the great players and contributors to the game as well as examining chess as it relates to popular culture, journalism, history, world cultures, science, and fashion.

In March 2017, the WCHOF opened the exhibition The Imagery of Chess: Saint Louis Artists. This was directly inspired by the groundbreaking 1944 exhibition The Imagery of Chess at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. Organized by Marcel Duchamp, Julien Levy, and Max Ernst, the original show included the work of over 30 painters, photographers, sculptors, critics, and composers, among others, and sought to challenge the general conventions of the ancient game. The highly-publicized exhibition was well received by the chess, art, and general communities, and the project went on to inspire artists of the last 70+ years to reinterpret the game in an artistic way and later became the basis of the artistic programming at the WCHOF. Our contemporary exhibition featured 20 leading local artists, writers, designers, musicians, and composers and their newly-commissioned artwork and performances inspired by the game of chess. This new exhibition was so inspiring because it celebrated the impact of chess culture in Saint Louis and promoted local artistic talent. Among them was Michael Drummond, who created a dynamic pair of connected black and white knit dresses—Queens—which is on view in the exhibition A Beautiful Game currently in our second floor gallery. I knew immediately that the WCHOF needed to create more local artistic programming and exhibitions.

Peter Manion was the first artist to participate in this new wave of commissioned regional artist exhibitions with his show Universal Turf (October 5, 2018-April 24, 2019). Manion’s innovative exhibition created an immersive environment where the viewer engaged with a series of drawings, plaster, and felt sculptures, and installations where one could get lost in endless interpretations of the universe, of time, of space, and of the mind of a chess player. The show was brilliant and so unbelievably well received that I could not wait to invite the next artist to exhibit at the WCHOF, and I wanted that person to be Michael Drummond!

I contacted Michael a year ago, and he seemed slightly nervous but agreed immediately. Our entire staff became so enamoured with him. His dedication and beautiful spirit have been an inspiration to all of us, and we are so fortunate to have him as an artist at our institution. I was first “introduced” to Michael when he was a contestant on Season 8 of Project Runway, and was fortunate enough to be personally introduced to him casually from time to time. He exhibited white wood and leather platform shoes in the 2013 WCHOF exhibition A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, Fashion & Chess alongside the likes of Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Gucci. When curating The Imagery of Chess: Saint Louis Artists, I selected Michael to represent the intersection of chess and fashion. From some wonderful conversations we had as he created his piece for that exhibition, I knew how thoughtful and innovative he would be in developing a solo show for us.

Being Played is an exhibition that could be loved by anyone...just as I try to make chess loved by everyone. Lovers of fashion, chess, film, and the environment will enjoy this exhibition. Drummond has somehow managed to successfully thematically marry the issues surrounding climate change and the stresses the fashion industry places on the environment with noted chess fan Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Though he has dedicated his life to celebrating and creating fashion, Drummond seeks to educate the viewer about the waste and pollution caused by the fashion industry. To represent the challenges climate change poses to humanity, he was driven to find a famous game depicting an underdog playing against a superpower. He was led to Dr. Frank Poole playing against the supercomputer HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Though Poole ultimately resigned, HAL 9000 was programmed to win 50% of the time to encourage good morale.

The majority of the pieces in the exhibition are based upon moves in the famous game and are named with algebraic notation of each move. Drummond’s hope is that, “If you are a chess fan, you can follow along as the game is being played in the exhibition, but if you just enjoy art, then you can enjoy the art.” As Michael likes to define his work as “practical and dramatic,” I have seen the show evolve to become something encompassing both “zen and chaos.” We hope you enjoy this installation, whether as a chess player appreciating the beautiful narrative blending fashion and chess, or as a fashion aficionado who may ultimately become inspired to study the game and pick up a piece. Special thanks to Michael for his unbelievably creative exhibition. And thank you to Sarah Stallmann for her thoughtful and beautifully written essay about Michael and his work. Additional thanks to the photography crew: Attilio d’Agostino, Sarah Carmody, and Austin and Crystal Fuller, as well as the models, all of the staff at the World Chess Hall of Fame, and Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield who all made this exhibition a huge success. Enjoy!

—Shannon Bailey, Chief Curator, World Chess Hall of Fame

Funding for this exhibition provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and the Regional Arts Commission.


10/22/2019: Alive Magazine — Michael Drummond Considers humanity's Next Move in 'Being Played'

10/14/2019: St. Louis Post Dispatch — World Chess Hall of Fame Exhibits Celebrate Best of Chess, Fashion and Beauty

10/10/2019: Ladue News — Fall 2019 Exhibitions Opening Reception

10/3/2019: St. Louis Public Radio — On Chess: Fashion, Climate, and Chess

9/24/2019: Press Release — World Chess Hall of Fame Exhibits Celebrate Best of Chess, Fashion and Beauty

Fall 2019 Exhibitions Opening Reception

Thursday, October 10 5pm

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Crafts & Cocktails: Textile Mending with Gina Alvarez

Wednesday, November 13 6pm

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Being Played: Artist Talk with Michael Drummond

Wednesday, January 15 6pm

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Crafts & Cocktails: Embroidery with Tara Meyer

Wednesday, January 22 6pm

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