Costume Institute Met Gala 2020 About Time Theme Announced

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Metropolitan Museum of Art 1902 - Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library, Public Domain

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has officially announced The Costume Institute’s theme for the 2020 exhibition and gala will be “About Time: Fashion and Duration.”  In line with the Museum’s 150th-anniversary celebration the exhibit is to showcase over a century and a half of fashion presented along a disruptive timeline from 1870 to the present.

Costume Institute
Surreal, David Bailey (British, born 1938), 1980 – Image Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Costume Institute 2020 Exhibit Showcases Theme of Time

On view from May 7 through September 7, 2020, “About Time” celebrates philosopher Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée—time that flows, accumulates, and is indivisible. The beautiful fashion displayed in the Met Fifth Avenue’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall will showcase an exploration of how clothing transcends time bringing together the past, present, and future.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, exclaimed:

“This exhibition will consider the ephemeral nature of fashion, employing flashbacks and fast-forwards to reveal how it can be both linear and cyclical. As such, the show will present a nuanced continuum of fashion over the Museum’s 150-year history.”

As part of the exciting theme will be an examination of the concept via Virginia Woolf writings. Woolf will also be employed as the exhibit’s “ghost narrator.”

A new short story will be written specifically for the exhibition catalog. The story, that is to reflect on the concept of duration, is to be penned by Michael Cunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel “The Hours,” inspired by “Mrs. Dalloway” by Woolf. As explained by The Costume Institute, “Cunningham’s 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 Costume Institute exhibition is made possible by Louis Vuitton with additional support provided by Condé Nast.

The Met Gala Will Celebrate ‘About Time’ Exhibit

Preceding the exhibition will be The Costume Institute Benefit to take place on May 4. The Met Gala has become a yearly exhibition in its own right with celebrities and notables taking the occasion to display unique worthy fashion statements designed specifically for the themed exhibit.

Co-chairs of the 2020 event will be Nicolas Ghesquière, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and Anna Wintour. The annual Met Gala is vital as The Costume Institute’s chief means for raising annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

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Exhibit Showcases Rhythm of Fashion in a Disruptive Timeline

As part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 150th anniversary, the exhibition will date back to 1870 – the year The Met was founded. With 1870 also being the year that a standardized time was developed it makes for the perfect theme for the exhibit, “About Time: Fashion and Duration.”

Approximately 160 specimens of women’s fashion from 1970 to the present will be showcased. Most of the pieces to be shown will come from The Costume Institute’s own collection. This will include gifts made as part of The Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative in celebration of the Museum’s 150th anniversary.

This unique exhibit will bring together a linear chronology of a fashion timeline of mostly black ensembles disrupted by a series of counter-chronologies composed of mainly white ensembles. The white pieces will pre-date or post-date those in black, but will show a relation in fashion through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration.

Unlike the usual chronologies of decade-defining silhouettes in a traditional museum display, this exhibit displays a ceaseless continuum. It will showcase an unending range of how fashion evolves while borrowing from past design elements.

The Costume Institute has teased with examples of the 2020 exhibit:

“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.

To conclude the exhibition will be a section on the future of fashion that links the concept of duration to debates about longevity and sustainability.

The Costume Institute Credits Many for ‘About Time’ Creation

The exhibition is being organized by Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. Bolton has organizational support from Amanda Garfinkel, Assistant Curator, and Jan Reeder, Curatorial Consultant.

Bolton states:

“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.”

Creation of the exhibition design will be by visual artist and stage designer Es Devlin, along with The Met’s Design Department. Devlin is known for creating large-scale performative sculptures and environments that fuse light, music, and language. Landscape architect Miranda Brooks will consult on The Met Gala décor with Raul Avila, who has produced the décor since 2007.

Along with Cunningham’s short story will be a publication by Bolton to accompany the exhibition. New photography by Nicholas Alan Cope will be included in the publication designed by Joseph Logan and published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press. The Costume Institute Exhibit, along with Met Gala, in 2020 is sure to be a thrilling show for all.

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