NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute confirmed Thursday that it will stage its major spring exhibition on the history of Chanel, incorporating looks from the late designer and contemporary pieces by Karl Lagerfeld.
The show is planned to open on May 5 in the Met’s special exhibition galleries. The museum had originally planned its Chanel retrospective in 2000, but canceled the show after a dispute with Lagerfeld over the inclusion of contemporary designers. Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute, reopened talks with Chanel earlier this year and came to an agreement on the subject matter, as well as ensuring sponsorship from the fashion company.
While the Met did not reveal Chanel’s financial commitment to the show on Thursday, the company had planned to put forward as much as $1 million for it four years ago.
Olivier Saillard, a curator from the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris, will act as a creative consultant on the exhibit. The Costume Institute also lined up its co-chairs for its annual benefit to inaugurate the show on May 2, naming Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue; Lagerfeld, who is artistic director of Chanel, and actress Nicole Kidman, who also hosted in 2003 for the “Goddess” exhibit and who is the new face of Chanel No.5. Caroline of Monaco, the Princess of Hanover, will serve as honorary chair.
“There never has been a show that looks at Chanel in the way we’re thinking of,” said Koda, who had not yet joined the Met at the time of the earlier exhibition planning. “We are going to take a view that fashion people will understand, but maybe not art people.
“When you look at all the Chanel dresses through history, what we’ve been finding was that she was always acknowledging the body — her clothes were uncorseted and her customers were relatively thinner and involved in athletic lifestyles. As a result, the clothes are really contemporary looking, and to understand the importance of what you are looking at, you really need to compare it to Karl and what he does as a contemporary, exaggerated interpretation of Chanel.”
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who died in 1971, was one of the most intriguing designers of the 20th century, often credited with heralding the modern woman’s wardrobe by liberating women from corsets. Koda has in mind a more in-depth exploration of both her work and her biography, telling the story in a style that has become a hallmark at the Costume Institute, beginning with the present and working backward.
“What we’re hoping is that the present makes the past legible,” he said.
Condé Nast, which, like WWD, is owned by Advance Publications, is also a sponsor of the exhibit, planned to run through Aug. 7.