The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute has announced a two-part exhibition on American fashion together with two interconnected Costume Institute shows. In other words — two Met Galas.
Last year's marquee fashion exhibition “About Time” went ahead without the attendant gala event, which was canceled indefinitely due to the coronavirus. The Costume Institute is the only curatorial department within the Met that needs to raise funds for its own budget, most of which comes from the gala. With tickets starting at $35,000 each, the invite-only event is a crucial source of funding for the Costume Institute. In 2019, for example, the party raised more than $15 million. With a gala for each part of the show, the institute no doubt hopes to make up for the significant financial losses of 2020.
Part one of the new exhibition, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” will open on September 18, 2021. Per Page Six, Anna Wintour and Vogue will hold the famous takeover of the Met on September 13, pending government guidelines. Instagram will be one of the show’s main sponsors, along with Condé Nast.
Visitors will still be able to visit the first exhibition when the second, titled “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” opens on May 5, 2022 — around which time the Met Gala will return to its familiar slot in the fashion calendar. Meanwhile, both parts of the exhibition will run through September 5, 2022.
Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, explained that the museum landed on the theme after considering how much the American fashion community had supported the Costume Institute over the last 75 years. He told The New York Times, “We very consciously wanted this to be a celebration of the American fashion community, which suffered so much during the pandemic.”
Bolton explained that he also wanted the show to spur a broader reassessment of American fashion. He said that, historically, American fashion had been dismissed because of its associations with “sportswear and the related values of utility, functionality, and pragmatism,” while European fashion was considered full of “expression and emotion.”
The 1998 exhibition “American Ingenuity” was the last big exhibition to cover the theme and given the seismic shifts global and American fashion has undergone since then, it's well worth a revisit. “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the museum’s Costume Institute and “explore a modern vocabulary of American fashion,” the museum said in a statement. Then, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” will explore American fashion, with collaborations with film directors, by “presenting narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of those spaces.”
According to Vogue, “An Anthology of Fashion will explore unfinished American stories in the museum’s period rooms, examining the history of fashion in the context of race, gender, and materiality, while also considering who was able to inhabit the rooms and who was barred from doing so.” This is a difficult challenge given the Costume Institute’s curators are all white, according to the Times. That being said, Franklin Leonard, the founder of The Black List will be a collaborator on the exhibition, as will Bradford Young, the cinematographer behind Selma and When They See Us.