Instead of greeting the usual swarm of media types to a preview of “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” representatives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute served up a video walk-through Monday morning via YouTube.
The Met’s director Max Hollein trumpeted the museum’s 150th anniversary showing colorful vintage video footage of guests outside the Upper East Side museum and glimpses of the Costume Institute’s archives. Explaining how the exhibition celebrates that milestone and illustrates the evolution of clothing, Hollein, who wore a mask, said, “It also offers a chance to reflect how fashion, art and culture can inspire and inform, as well as make connections across cultures and times — notions that take on new urgencies in these uncertain times.”
Tuning in from their living rooms or makeshift work-from-home enclaves, the media crowd caught a cameo from Nicolas Ghesquière, artistic director of women’s collections at Louis Vuitton, “About Time’s” sponsor. After giving thanks to Condé Nast’s Anna Wintour for raising awareness about The Met and its “extraordinary“ work, he said the exhibition’s “central idea of fashion intermingling with the evolution of time felt utterly compelling.” Ghesquière, some of whose designs are included in the exhibit, said, “As a designer, I have always looked to marry silhouettes, techniques, memories and impressions from the past with the latest technology to create fashion for today that speaks to the future.“
Acknowledging how the pandemic has altered many people’s perception of time, he said, “Yet the pause the pandemic has imposed on many of us has also created a certain space to reflect upon where we are and where we are going. And even in the most turbulent times, art, fashion and couture can help us navigate change and frame how we see the world anew,” adding how that is part of the museum’s history.
Es Devlin, the artist and lighting designer who created the dramatic clock that anchors the first gallery, spoke about approaching the project with the Costume Institute’s Wendy Yu chief curator in charge Andrew Bolton. “We thought a lot about the walkway of a girl walking through a show. I think a lot about the pathways of protagonists for dramas that I design for, and the singers that I design for [Beyoncé among them]. But how to really consider it in communicating something that is actually quite complicated. Time itself is rather hard to grasp,” she said. “At once, it needs to be communicated that this is linear, consequential — one historical, social, political fact led to the next and therefore one form expanded and contracted to the next.”
Bolton appeared on-screen to walk through the show’s 60 ensembles that span from 1870, the year of The Met’s founding, to the present. The primarily black selections were predominantly from the museum’s holdings, and the color is meant to reflect the changing silhouettes and interconnection. And visitors can follow along with dueling timelines inspired by French philosopher Henri Bergson and French poet Charles Baudelaire. Casually walking through the gallery, Bolton singles out work by Charles James, Iris van Herpen, Azzedine Alaïa, Coco Chanel, Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and others.