The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced that The Costume Institute's spring 2018 exhibition will be Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, on view from May 10 through October 8, 2018 (preceded on May 7 by The Costume Institute Benefit). Presented at The Met Fifth Avenue in both the medieval galleries and the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the show will also occupy The Met Cloisters. The thematic exhibition will examine fashion's ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. A group of papal robes and accessories from the Vatican will travel to the United States to serve as the cornerstone of the exhibition.
"The Catholic imagination is rooted in and sustained by artistic practice, and fashion's embrace of sacred images, objects, and customs continues the ever-evolving relationship between art and religion," said Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of The Met. "The Museum's collection of religious art, in combination with the architecture of the medieval galleries and The Cloisters, provides the perfect context for these remarkable fashions."
The Met's next Costume Institute exhibit to focus on fashion and Catholicism
Next year's Met Gala will be co-chaired by Amal Clooney, Rihanna, Donatella Versace, and Anna Wintour. Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman will serve as honorary chairs. The event is The Costume Institute's main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.
"Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another," said Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of The Costume Institute. "Although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion."
The exhibition will feature approximately 50 ecclesiastical masterworks from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside the Vatican. These will be on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries and will include papal vestments and accessories, such as rings and tiaras, from the 18th to the early 21st century, encompassing more than 15 papacies. The last time the Vatican sent a loan of this magnitude to The Met was in 1983, for The Vatican Collections exhibition, which is the Museum's third most-visited show.
In addition, approximately 150 ensembles, primarily womenswear, from the early 20th century to the present will be shown in the medieval galleries and The Met Cloisters alongside religious art from The Met collection, providing an interpretative context for fashion's engagement with Catholicism. The presentation situates these designs within the broader context of religious artistic production to analyze their connection to the historiography of material Christianity and their contribution to the perceptual construction of the Catholic imagination.
Designers in the exhibition will include Azzedine Alaïa, Cristobal Balenciaga, Geoffrey Beene, Marc Bohan for Dior, Thom Browne, Roberto Capucci, Callot Soeurs, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, John Galliano for Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, Craig Green, Madame Grès for Alix Barton, Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Shaun Leane, Claire McCardell, Laura and Kate Mulleavy for Rodarte, Thierry Mugler, Norman Norell, Guo Pei, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino, Elsa Schiaparelli, Raf Simons for both his own label and Dior, Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Jun Takahashi for Undercover, Isabel Toledo, Philip Treacy, Donatella Versace for Versace, Gianni Versace, Valentina, A.F. Vandevorst, Madeleine Vionnet and Vivienne Westwood.
Photos: Image 1 (left): El Greco, Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara (1541–1609), ca. 1600, oil on canvas; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.5); Image © Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image 2 (right): Evening Coat, Cristobal Balenciaga for House of Balenciaga, autumn/winter 1954–55; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Bryon C. Foy, 1957 (C.I.57.29.8); Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.