In 2018, the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields became the proud recipient of Stephen Sprouse’s fashion collection and archives. Sprouse (1953–2004), born in Ohio and raised in Columbus, Indiana, was one of the most innovative and influential designers of his time. After much consideration, Joanne Sprouse, Stephen’s mother, chose to entrust the IMA to carry her son’s legacy forward.
As a teenager, Sprouse took inspiration from his frequent visits to the IMA. He moved to New York to intern with designer Bill Blass, and later, following a stint at the Rhode Island School of Design, he became Halston’s assistant designer in 1971. While working for Halston, he met Andy Warhol and started experimenting with alternative mediums, such as photography and collage. He soon began styling the iconic new wave rock star Debbie Harry for her performances with the band Blondie.
As a key figure in 1980s downtown New York culture, Sprouse became one of the first designers to introduce street style to the world of high fashion. He earned an award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1984 and designed exclusive lines for Barney’s New York and Bergdorf Goodman. In 1995, he became the fashion curator for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2001 was hired by Louis Vuitton to graffiti a line of handbags and luggage—a collection that sold out immediately. Sprouse was an important force in the creative world, and his Day-Glo and graffiti-covered apparel and rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collections were at the cutting edge of fashion. Sprouse’s unique and unconventional aesthetic continues to influence contemporary fashion designers today.
The gift of the Sprouse archives and collection includes photographs, video cassettes, floppy disks, negatives, sketches, and two portraits of the designer that were painted by Andy Warhol in 1984. One of these portraits is included in the exhibition Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again, which debuted at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. It is on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through September 2, and then moves to the Art Institute of Chicago October 20, 2019, to Janurary 26, 2020.