NEW YORK — A memorial fund has been established in the name of Richard Martin, the late curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The fund, which was opened with a $10,000 contribution by Laura Johnson, a longtime supporter of the Institute, was announced Monday by Philippe de Montebello, the museum’s director, during a memorial service for Martin, who died of skin cancer in November.
The Richard Martin Memorial Fund will be used to further the programs of the Costume Institute, which operated under Martin’s auspices for seven years, and will be managed by the museum’s development office.
“The curator and the man often seemed inseparable,” said de Montebello. “I don’t mean to diminish his human qualities or to suggest that he didn’t, in the vernacular, have a life, but rather, he brought a sense of order to the natural disorder of the world of fashion.”
At the Met, Martin created such shows as “Cubism and Fashion,” “Bloom” and “Waist Not,” as well as retrospectives of the careers of Madame Gres, Christian Dior and Gianni Versace.
He also oversaw the so-called “Party of the Year,” held each December to benefit the Costume Institute, and during his lifetime made contributions to 99 books, gave 247 lectures, wrote 245 articles and reviews since 1980, and participated in 49 panels and 20 juries, added Stan Herman, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
“In my time there was no one who could take the frivolous nature [of fashion] and frame it as historically as he,” Herman said.
Prior to joining the Met, Martin was executive director of the Design Laboratory at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He was a font of knowledge on fashion history.
Martin was also described during the ceremony — held at the Met’s Temple of Dendur, located just above the basement-level Costume Institute — as an “unbelievable student of culture and community,” by Fred Lazarus, president of the Maryland Institute’s College of Art, and as a witty, passionate devotee of popular culture and kitsch, by his partner, Richard Slusarczyk.
De Montebello called Martin an indefatigable, extremely proud man who was not at all patient with unsolicited advice and had a “precise but dismissive nod he had perfected to an art.”
“I enjoyed his sense of irony, especially when it was aimed at someone else,” de Montebello said.
Of course, Martin’s irony was sometimes aimed directly in de Montebello’s direction, as portrayed in a film clip shown at the end of the ceremony. While accepting a CFDA award in 1997 for his contributions to furthering fashion as an art form, Martin, in his trademark black double-breasted Armani suit, said, “We may be assigned to the basement, but fashion lifts and inspires all of us.”

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