September 15, 2020 – March 7, 2021

Abraham R. Family Gallery & Gallery 109

This exhibition encompasses highlights from the personal collection of Ilene Hochberg Wood. The handbags range in style from folk art, to contemporary designer, to embroidered, and numbers into the thousands, making it the largest collection in the U.S., if not the world. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore a timeline of the handbag, representing the trends of each decade. They will experience a selection of handbag superlatives featuring the most rare, unusual and expensive purses acquired by Wood in her decades of collecting. Also included in the show is the series BAG LUNCH with Ilene Hochberg Wood, a collection of short videos where Wood abounds on the history and anecdotes on specific pieces.

The display at the Coral Gables Museum will explore themes including Most Royal, Most Talkative, The Legends and The New Kids. The artist bag section will spotlight bags that are hand-decorated or inspired by famous artworks.

This show was conceived through a partnership between Wood and Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, Pennsylvania, where it premiered.

Special thanks to collector Ilene Hochberg Wood and to José Valdés-Fauli.


Join collector Ilene Hochberg Wood as she tells the story of a different selection of bags or a particular designer in each episode. View the full playlist here.


“Women love handbags. They are totems, and objects of desire, that convey who we are and what we hold dear, both literally and figuratively. Look at any woman and the bag she carries, and you learn a lot about her, and the image she wants to convey to the world. Empty the bag out and examine its contents, to learn who she really is inside, and what she finds essential to her everyday existence

I am interested in fashion, and the artistry and history of purses. I am drawn to bags that convey a story about their past, and the women who originally owned them. I appreciate originality, humor, bold statements, and details that give insight into the women who chose to carry them.

My collection is comprised of many categories. “It Bags”, evening bags, needlepoint bags, wooden bags, box bags, tramp art bags, and bags that signify their time and era, from the Victorian period through the jazz age, war years, and the “50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and today.”

~ Ilene Hochberg Wood

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