“Designer Bror Anders Wikstrom (1854–1909), a Swedish émigré, made a name for himself in New Orleans by engaging with the heart of the Crescent City’s culture: Mardi Gras. In celebration of Wikstrom’s artistry, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) presents Bror Anders Wikstrom: Bringing Fantasy to Carnival. The exhibition showcases highlights from Wikstrom’s Mardi Gras float and costume designs, including a full set of twenty float plates from the Krewe of Proteus 1904 “The Alphabet” parade and the only known bound set of float designs for the Krewe of Rex 1910 “The Freaks of Fable” parade.
At the turn of the century, Wikstrom elevated the extravaganza of carnival through his fantastical designs for early Mardi Gras krewes, serving as the chief designer behind twenty floats and hundreds of costumes with Rex, and then with Proteus. Bringing Fantasy to Carnival shows watercolor sketches for the elaborate floats and costumes that allowed otherworldly stories to come to life on the streets of New Orleans. The exhibition shows Wikstrom’s designs as early sketches, as final design plates, and as illustrated in newspaper parade bulletins. Photographs show how these creations looked rolling through the streets on Mardi Gras day.” — NOMA
“One sees our creative culture come alive during Carnival season, when everyone in New Orleans, whether with a krewe or not, uses wigs and costumes to try on a dramatic alter ego,” said Mel Buchanan, NOMA’s RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts & Design. “These drawings show the roots of this community spectacle through Wikstrom’s endless imagination for costumed characters within evocative scenes. You’ll see everything from Rex regalia – neoclassical crowns and scepters, to flower-adorned fairies that bring whimsy and mischief to Mardi Gras day.”
Images courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art.