Costume Institute Benefit on May 4 with Co-Chairs Nicolas Ghesquière, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and Anna Wintour
The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced that The Costume Institute’s Spring 2020 Exhibition will be About Time: Fashion and Duration, on view from May 7 through September 7, 2020 (preceded on May 4 by The Costume Institute Benefit). Presented in The Met Fifth Avenue’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, it will trace more than a century and a half of fashion, from 1870 to the present, along a disruptive timeline, as part of the Museum’s 150th anniversary celebration. Employing philosopher Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée—time that flows, accumulates, and is indivisible—the exhibition will explore how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate the past, present, and future. The concept will also be examined through the writings of Virginia Woolf, who will serve as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibition. Michael Cunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Hours, which was inspired by Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, will write a new short story for the exhibition catalogue that reflects on the concept of duration.
The exhibition will feature approximately 160 examples of women’s fashion dating from 1870—the year of The Met’s founding and the start of a decade that witnessed the development of a standardized time system—to the present. The majority of objects in the show will come from The Costume Institute’s collection, including gifts made as part of The Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative in celebration of the Museum’s 150th anniversary.
A linear chronology of fashion comprised predominantly of ensembles in black will run through the exhibition reflecting the progressive timescale of modernity, and bringing into focus the fast, fleeting rhythm of fashion. Unlike traditional chronologies, which reduce the history of fashion to a limited number of decade-defining silhouettes, this timeline will be presented as a ceaseless continuum that is more complete and comprehensive in scope. Interrupting this timeline will be a series of counter-chronologies composed of predominantly white ensembles that pre-date or post-date those in black, but relate to one another through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration. For example, a black silk faille princess-line dress from the late 1870s will be paired with an Alexander McQueen “Bumster” skirt from 1995, and a black silk velvet bustle ensemble from the mid-1880s will be juxtaposed with a Comme des Garçons “Body Meets Dress – Dress Meets Body” dress from 1997.
The exhibition will conclude with a section on the future of fashion, linking the concept of duration to debates about longevity and sustainability.
“This exhibition will consider the ephemeral nature of fashion, employing flashbacks and fast-forwards to reveal how it can be both linear and cyclical,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “As such, the show will present a nuanced continuum of fashion over the Museum’s 150-year history.”
Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, said: “Fashion is indelibly connected to time. It not only reflects and represents the spirit of the times, but it also changes and develops with the times, serving as an especially sensitive and accurate timepiece. Through a series of chronologies, the exhibition will use the concept of duration to analyze the temporal twists and turns of fashion history.”
The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton with support from Amanda Garfinkel, Assistant Curator, and Jan Reeder, Curatorial Consultant. Visual artist and stage designer Es Devlin, known for creating large-scale performative sculptures and environments that fuse light, music, and language, will create the exhibition design with The Met’s Design Department. The exhibition is made possible by Louis Vuitton. Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.
In celebration of the opening, The Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 4, 2020. The evening’s co-chairs will be Nicolas Ghesquière, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and Anna Wintour. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements. Landscape architect Miranda Brooks will consult on The Met Gala décor with Raul Avila, who has produced the décor since 2007.
A publication by Andrew Bolton will accompany the exhibition and feature a new short story by Michael Cunningham. Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novels Orlando and Mrs. Dalloway, the story will recount a day in the life of a woman while evoking a span of 150 years, a duration the reader understands through changes of clothes and circumstance. The publication will be designed by Joseph Logan, and will include new photography by Nicholas Alan Cope. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.
A special feature on the Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/AboutTime, provides further information about the exhibition. Follow us on www.Facebook.com/metmuseum, www.Instagram.com/metmuseum, and www.Twitter.com/metmuseum to join the conversation about the exhibition and gala. Use #MetAboutTime, #CostumeInstitute, @MetCostumeInstitute, and #MetGala on Instagram and Twitter.
In 2020, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of its founding with a dynamic range of exhibitions, programs, and public events. Highlights of the year will include the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020, on view March 30–August 2; the opening of the newly renovated and reimagined galleries devoted to British decorative arts and design in March; the display of new gifts throughout the Museum; a three-day-long celebration in June; and a story-collecting initiative. More information is available at www.metmuseum.org/150.