Blogging at the Met: Costume Institute Courts Instant Feedback

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute is reaching into the blogosphere with its next exhibit.

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NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute is reaching into the blogosphere with its next exhibit.

One of the goals of “blog.mode: addressing fashion,” which will be on view Dec. 18 to April 13, is to create an instant discourse about the exhibited clothes. To that end, the Costume Institute galleries will feature a ‘blogbar’ with as many as 10 computer terminals that visitors may use to communicate their thoughts on the 40 or so costumes and accessories being displayed.

“It’s something we thought about for a while, observing visitors’ behaviors in the different galleries in the museum,” said curator Andrew Bolton, who is putting the exhibit together with Harold Koda, curator in charge of the Costume Institute. “If you look at visitors in the painting or sculpture galleries, they are much more reverential with the objects. They are quieter and [the spaces] have a very library-like feel. In the Costume Institute, it’s always so lively and everyone has an opinion about fashion.”

After all, he added, fashion is a living art, and more democratic because it is part of everyday life, more so than a painting or sculpture.

“Part of the blog mode idea was based on the idea of concept, creativity and connoisseurship,” Bolton said. “The concept was looking at the designer’s original inspirations for the object, particularly in contemporary pieces. We are trying to ask designers to give comments about their concept behind the inspirations of the idea. The idea of creativity is really the readings people impose on them, whether they’re by a specialist or nonspecialist. The connoisseurship would be Harold and my interpretation of the object, why we acquired it, why we think it’s important in terms of dress history.”

The collection to be shown consists of pieces the Costume Institute acquired over the last seven years, many of which haven’t been exhibited. Among the 40 costumes and accessories are looks by designers such as Adrian, Azzedine Alaïa, Helmut Lang, Christian Dior, Hussein Chalayan, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Hamish Morrow, Comme des Garçons, Donna Karan, Rudi Gernreich and Yohji Yamamoto.

According to the Costume Institute, standouts include a 2001 Miguel Adrover ensemble made from Quentin Crisp’s old mattress, a jersey dress from Comme des Garçons’ Paris debut of 1983 and a 1947 Adrian dress inspired by Salvador Dalí. The exhibit will be organized chronologically, starting with a 1730s man’s suit and ending with a 2008 piece, which the curators are still determining. It will run through five galleries: The first gallery will be devoted to 18th- and 19th-century pieces, the second to apparel items from 1918 to 1945, the third 1945 to 2000, the fourth gallery will focus on the 21st century and the last gallery on ethnographic pieces.

This story first appeared in the September 26, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The curatorial office will monitor the blog daily and will respond to the public’s postings as appropriate. The blog will also be accessible from the “Special Exhibitions” link at metmuseum.org.

“People will be able to comment on pieces in real time,” Bolton said. “It is for us to engage more immediately with our visitors and to create more of a dynamic dialogue about fashion. Every object in the museum has a particular life history and we hope the comments will contribute to the life history of the objects.”

The blog will be open throughout the exhibit. After that, the museum will issue the show’s catalogue, including images of the clothes, the curatorial comments and excerpts from the blog. The catalogue will be distributed by Yale University Press. The exhibition is made possible by Manolo Blahnik.

“There is not just one monolithic interpretation of fashion,” Bolton said. “It has very different permutations of interpretations. I’d like to encourage more debate and more critical readings of fashion.”

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