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The Costume Institute’s MASTERWORKS Unpacking Fashion on view at the MET

If you are in New York between now and Feb 5th, you’re in for a real fashion treat at the MET. Currently on display is the Costume Institute’s Fall 2016 exhibition, Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion.

Held at the Anna Wintour Costume Center from November 18, 2016, through February 5, 2017, the exhibit features significant acquisitions of the past 10 years.

The show, which is curated by Assistant Curator Jessica Regan with support from Curator in Charge Andrew Bolton, explores how the department has honed its collecting strategy to amass masterworks of the highest aesthetic and technical quality, including iconic works by designers who have changed the course of fashion history and advanced fashion as an art form.


"Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion" Gallery View, Early Twentieth Century. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion” Gallery View, Early Twentieth Century. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Our mission is to present fashion as a living art that interprets history, becomes part of the historical process, and inspires subsequent art,” said Mr. Bolton. “Over the seven decades since The Costume Institute became part of The Met in 1946, our collecting strategy has shifted from creating a collection of Western high fashion that is encyclopedic in breadth to one focused on acquiring a body of masterworks.”

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition highlights 60 of these masterworks from the early 18th century to the present, which The Costume Institute has acquired since its last acquisitions show, blog.mode: addressing fashion, in 2007.

The main Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery is organized chronologically with ensembles shown on platforms resembling oversized packing crates. Each object—primarily women’s wear, as well as some men’s wear and a selection of accessories—is accompanied by an in-depth explanation of its significance within the canon of fashion history. Some newly acquired objects are paired with pieces already in the collection to illustrate the enduring influence of certain master couturiers and iconic historical silhouettes. A recently acquired John Galliano for Maison Margiela dress from 2015 is paired with a Cristobal Balenciaga gown from 1964. An Azzedine Alaia dress from the 1994, new to the collection, is juxtaposed with a Charles James evening dress from the 1950s.

The Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery features some of the ensembles donated by designers in honor of Harold Koda upon his retirement as Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute in January 2016.

“While fashion is often derided for its ephemerality, its quick responsiveness to change ensures that it is an immediate expression of the spirit of its time—a vivid reflection of social, cultural, and political circumstances, and of shifting ideals of beauty,” said Ms. Regan. “The masterworks we’ve chosen to highlight are among many we have collected in the past decade that draw on forms, motifs, and themes of the past, reinterpreting fashion history in ways that resonate in the present.”

Designers in the exhibition include many an exemplary designer such as Gilbert Adrian, Azzedine Alaïa, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Geoffrey Beene, Thom Browne, Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Antonio del Castillo (Lanvin-Castillo), Hussein Chalayan (Hussein Chalayan and Vionnet), Christian Dior, Tom Ford, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano (John Galliano and Maison Margiela), Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga), Demna Gvasalia (Balenciaga), Charles James, Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons), Karl Lagerfeld (House of Chanel), Jeanne Lanvin, Christian Louboutin, Maison Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Paul Poiret, Zandra Rhodes, Yves Saint Laurent (House of Dior and Rive Gauche), Elsa Schiaparelli, Raf Simons (House of Dior), Hedi Slimane (Saint Laurent), Noritaka Tatehana, Philip Treacy, Iris van Herpen, Viktor Horsting and Ralph Snoeren (Viktor & Rolf), Gianni Versace, Madeleine Vionnet, Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren (Let it Rock), Jean-Charles and Jean-Philippe Worth (House of Worth), and Yohji Yamamoto.

The exhibition is featured on the The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website.

“An uplifting display of virtuoso talent and connoisseurship”—Vogue

“Visitors will be inclined to take a closer look to examine such how-did-they-do-that details…the stop-you-in-your-tracks effect is intentional.”—WWD

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