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Sewing His Case: Charles LeDray Exhibit Opens in London

American artist Charles LeDray sets up his collection of teeny tiny suits in a London exhibit.

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The reclusive American artist Charles LeDray has a few things to say about men’s clothing — and he’s expressing himself with a needle and thread.

LeDray has spent the past three years laboriously hand-stitching hundreds of small-scale jackets, ties and shirts for his first major European show, “Mens Suits,” which opened last week at a former fire station in London’s West End. The miniature clothing is displayed in three makeshift thrift stalls set up in an industrial space, where everything is about three times smaller than it would be normally.

Some of the retro threads are arranged neatly on tiny tables and racks under a low, office-style ceiling with harsh UV strip lighting. In another corner, what looks like old clothing spills out of laundry baskets. Elsewhere, pale blue plaid trousers hang next to a red flannel jacket and an assortment of paisley-print shirts, which rest on carefully crafted pint-sized hangers.

Artangel, the British curating and commissioning body supported by Arts Council England, first approached LeDray about creating a piece four years ago, after one of its directors had seen the artist’s work in private collections. LeDray, whose pieces are displayed in New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Modern Art, is known for his laboriously created miniature craft sculptures of everyday objects such as porcelain vessels and jewelry carved from human bone.

“It’s a meditation on identity — the way we put on various outfits to portray a specific idea of ourselves,” said James Lingwood, who commissioned “Mens Suits” and is co-director of Artangel. Lingwood said the pieces in the current show, which runs through Sept. 20, are inspired by eras from the Fifties through to more modern times. “It may be that we want to disappear through our clothing,” he said, musing on the ideas the work throws up.

— Louise Bartlett


“Mens Suits” appears at The Fire Station, 1 Chiltern Street, through Sept. 20; artangel.org.uk.