For the second consecutive year, The Metropolitan Museum of Art had another record-breaking show — “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” wrapped up Monday as the museum’s seventh most-visited show.
The exploration of the handmade versus the machine-made reeled in 752,995 visitors during its run from May 5 to Sept. 5. Those numbers helped to rank it among such all-time greats as “Treasures of Tutankhamun” in 1978, “Mona Lisa” in 1963, and the “Painters in Paris, 1895-1950”exhibition in 2000.
Last year’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” is still The Costume Institute’s all-time most popular show with 815,992 visitors. It ranked fifth as The Met’s most visited. The Apple-sponsored “Manus x Machina” finished up as the second-most-visited Costume Institute exhibition, exceeding the 2011 “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” show, which attracted 661,509 visitors.
The Costume Institute’s curator in charge Andrew Bolton seems to have the Midas touch, having curated all three of the aforementioned exhibitions. Late-summer tourists and other museum visitors helped to strengthen attendance figure for this year’s show, since the exhibition’s closing date was stretched out by three weeks and late-night gallery hours were offered for the closing weekend. Visitors who expected to see wearables, videos and LED light shows found instead a more contemplative exploration meant to appreciate, and question, the cultural and symbolic meanings of the hand-machine dichotomy.
Karl Lagerfeld, Hussein Chalayan, Issey Miyake, Courrèges, Miuccia Prada, Proenza Schouler, Noa Raviv, Iris van Herpen, Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli and Christopher Kane were among the numerous designers whose work was spotlighted. Having succeeded Harold Koda, who retired earlier this year, “Manus x Machina” was considered by some to be Bolton’s breakout moment. But during a preview of the exhibition, Bolton was understated as ever. “I never expect shows to be blockbusters, I never plan for them to be. I really think people make them. If you don’t engage people’s imagination or interest, then the show has failed no matter how clever or how complex it is,” he said. “If your audience doesn’t respond, then I think it’s a flop.”
To help heighten museumgoers’ experience, Bolton recruited OMA’s Shohei Shigematsu, the force behind Rem Koolhaas’ New York office, to create a cathedral-like entrance to the show. The Met’s director and chief executive officer Thomas P. Campbell said in a statement Tuesday, “We are [pleased] that so many people from around the world experienced this exploration of the artistry of fashion. The exhibition required the transformation of the Robert Lehman Wing into a domed cathedral-like space that invited people to slow down and contemplate the process and craft of the objects.”