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07-11-2017
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A good example of a can of worms that definitely did not need to be opened at this particular time.

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08-11-2017
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The Costume Institute Takes on Catholicism

The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is stepping into the religious fray.

The title of the department’s blockbuster 2018 fashion exhibition will be “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Stretching across three galleries — the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the medieval rooms in the Met on Fifth Avenue and the Cloisters — and approximately 58,600 square feet, it will feature 50 or so ecclesiastical garments and accessories on loan from the Vatican, multiple works from the Met’s own collection of religious art and 150 designer garments that have been inspired by Catholic iconography or style.

These range from the obvious (Versace and Dolce & Gabbana icons) to the more unexpected (a Chanel wedding gown inspired by a communion dress, Valentino couture gowns inspired by Francisco di Zurbarán’s paintings of monk’s robes). It will be the department’s largest show to date. It may also be the most provocative. And not just because of all the eye-rolling wordplay the title invites.

“Every show we do at the Costume Institute has that potential,” said Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge. “This one perhaps more than any other. But the focus is on a shared hypothesis about what we call the Catholic imagination and the way it has engaged artists and designers and shaped their approach to creativity, as opposed to any kind of theology or sociology. Beauty has often been a bridge between believers and unbelievers.”

So a Balenciaga one-seam wedding dress will be displayed in a chapel in the Cloisters dominated by an enormous crucifix; a Dolce & Gabbana mosaic piece from fall 2013, inspired by mosaics in the Cathedral of Monreale in Sicily, will be set against the Byzantine mosaics of the Met’s collection. The point is to connect the dots between material expression and sourcing.

Yet juxtaposing the sacred and the profane at this particular moment in time, when the Catholic church is rived with internal disputes between conservatives and liberals, and religion around the world is being weaponized and politicized, is a risky move. Especially in a city that is home to a significant Catholic population. Especially at a museum that recently underwent its own kind of crisis of faith, after the former director Thomas P. Campbell resigned under pressure in February for not being able to control a ballooning budget deficit, and his C.F.O., Daniel H. Weiss, was promoted to president and chief executive — the next director answerable to him. No matter how nuanced the actual curation, it could easily devolve into a popular cause célèbre.

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You have to wonder: What will those who hew to a more conservative, absolutist line think?

Or, for that matter, other supporters of the pope, who has overtly rejected the sumptuous trappings and, indeed, fetishization of clothing within the church in favor of a simpler, humbler lifestyle? In many ways the Met itself, the imposing Beaux-Arts palace with its sweeping stair, as well as very high-end fashion — not to mention the Met Gala, the opening night party for the Costume Institute’s exhibition, which is famous both for being impossible to get into and for the amount of money it raises — stands for everything he has turned away from.

“We have confidence that the exhibition will inspire understanding, creativity and, along the way, constructive dialogue, which is precisely a museum’s role in our civil society,” Mr. Weiss said.

“We know it could be controversial for right wing or conservative Catholics and for liberal Catholics,” said Mr. Bolton, who noted he had consulted with representatives from different Catholic groups, including Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, to identify garments that could be incendiary. “There will always be viewers who want to reduce it to a political polemic.” But Mr. Bolton said he had not removed a single garment from the exhibition because it had been flagged as a potential lightning rod.

Still, the show may be the biggest gamble of Mr. Bolton’s career, and an early test for Mr. Weiss. And it is increasingly characteristic of Mr. Bolton’s tenure at the Costume Institute, where he seems to be pushing the department into the popular conversation. (By contrast his predecessor, Harold Koda, tended to more traditional shows like “Charles James: Beyond Fashion.”)

“It’s important to have ideas that are a reflection of contemporary interests,” Mr. Bolton said. “That strike a chord or are synergistic with the collective consciousness.”

Mr. Bolton had been thinking about doing a show on the connections between fashion and religion for years — since “the culture wars of the 1980s,” he said — but only became serious about it at the Met around two years ago. At that point, he had conceived it as an examination of the five world religions represented in the museum’s collections (Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam).

But after the designer Rei Kawakubo announced that she was ready for her retrospective last year, he postponed the project, and later decided to more narrowly define his topic, in part because he found that the majority of Western designers (and there are only three non-European or American-based names in the exhibition) were engaged in a dialogue with Catholicism. Perhaps because, as Mr. Bolton noted, so many Western designers were raised Catholic, including Elsa Schiaparelli, John Galliano, Riccardo Tisci, Christian Lacroix, Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Norman Norell, Thom Browne and Roberto Capucci, among others. (Mr. Bolton is also Catholic.)

He began conversations with the Vatican in 2015; the loan came from the Sistine Chapel sacristy Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, as opposed to the Vatican Museums, since it involves garments still in active use. (They date from the mid-18th-century to the papacy of John Paul II.) Mr. Bolton said the church was immediately receptive to the idea of working together, though he had to make eight visits to Rome to discuss the show. And because of concerns about display and security, the loan contract was not signed until last week.

Asked if he had met the pope or knew whether he had approved the show, Mr. Bolton said he had had no contact with him, and did not have any idea if he was involved.

Greg Burke, the director of the Holy See press office, said: “The Roman Catholic Church has been producing and promoting beautiful works of art for centuries. Most people have experienced that through religious paintings and architecture. This is another way of sharing some of that beauty that rarely gets seen.”

The Vatican garments will be separated from the rest of the fashion in the exhibition, out of respect for the fact that they are still working garments and, presumably, to defray criticisms that could incur if a visitor were to see, for example, a sacristy robe next to a Jean Paul Gaultier dress with a chalice embroidered over the breasts.

Less has been done, seemingly, to defray the idea that Mr. Bolton’s definition of “fashion” is definitively Western. Save Isabel Toledo, who is Cuban-American, there are no South American or Latin American designers in the show, for example, though it is hard to imagine that no one else from that continent engaged with Catholic iconography. Challenged on the subject, he said he hoped to expand his purview in a future exhibition.

In any case, Mr. Bolton has been here before: In 2015, his show, “China Through the Looking Glass,” became the fifth-most-visited exhibition, despite accusations of skating over the surface of the issues it raised, underscoring for him the importance of tapping into the broader conversation. He followed it up with “Manus x Machina,” which examined the role of technology in fashion (and which became the Met’s seventh-most-visited show); and then “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between,” the Costume Institute’s first retrospective of a living designer since 1983. Though it was widely praised, Ms. Kawakubo is a less obviously buzzy choice, and the show and the attendance were smaller.

Which may partly explain why the museum decided to roll the dice with this show. The last time this many Vatican garments made their way across the ocean, in 1983 for “The Vatican Collections,” the exhibition became the third-most-visited in museum history, with 896,743 attendees.

“Heavenly Bodies” is being sponsored by Versace, which makes sense given the brand’s incorporation of Catholic iconography into its vernacular, as well as by Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman (and also, as usual, by Condé Nast). Mr. Schwarzman is chairman of Blackstone, the private equity group that bought 20 percent of Versace in 2014.

Two years ago, Mr. Schwarzman and his wife donated $40 million to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, an initiative from the archdiocese of New York to provide financial support for underprivileged children attending Catholic schools. The former J.P. Morgan banker Jimmy Lee once told The New Yorker that Mr. Schwarzman had raised more money for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York than any other Jew.

Mr. and Mrs. Schwarzman will be honorary chairs of the opening night gala, along with Anna Wintour, the artistic director of Condé Nast and a museum trustee; Ms. Versace; Amal Clooney; and Rihanna. The last two are not exactly known for their religious bent, unlike pop stars who have made their Catholicism a subtext of their work and look, like Lady Gaga and Madonna, though they are both recognized for their fashion influence. (Rihanna is, by the by, a star of “Ocean’s 8,” the coming movie with a heist scene that takes place at the Met Gala.)

An invitation will be extended to Cardinal Dolan. Everyone is hoping he will attend.
nytimes.com

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08-11-2017
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^

This is what I have been wondering since rumors: whether the exhibition will cover all religions or just Catholicism. I kind of understand the reason, but is it quite lazy to use only Catholicism just because the majority designers are/were Catholics?

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Originally Posted by AtticusFinch View Post
Every outfit will be deemed discriminatory or offensive by someone.
If I were invited I wouldn’t go. Some group will be offended by anything you wear.
Oh, I figured that was the point of the theme ... I'm not sure how useful it is, but I do think some people need to be offended. I've made a point of doing that myself a couple times in recent days

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08-11-2017
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Amal Clooney and Rihanna?? When I think of Catholicism and fashion, those two immediately spring to mind. LMAO!

This theme is tailor made for Madonna, but since Anna has some kind of weird grudge against her, it was never in the cards. I'm actually looking forward to this exhibition tho.

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Originally Posted by Marushenka View Post
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This is what I have been wondering since rumors: whether the exhibition will cover all religions or just Catholicism. I kind of understand the reason, but is it quite lazy to use only Catholicism just because the majority designers are/were Catholics?
I don't think it's lazy, no.

The article says the original concept was fashion + the 5 major world religions. Presumably as the concept went forward, Catholicism emerged as far more relevant/important than the rest in fashion terms ... and so he went with it.

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08-11-2017
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Originally Posted by mepps View Post
Amal Clooney and Rihanna?? When I think of Catholicism and fashion, those two immediately spring to mind. LMAO!

This theme is tailor made for Madonna, but since Anna has some kind of weird grudge against her, it was never in the cards. I'm actually looking forward to this exhibition tho.
Say what you want about Madonna, but she would have been perfect for this. When it comes to religion she's actually very intellectual, one can sense that it genuinely interest her. I doubt whether Rihanna ever opened a Catholic Bible in her life. She's probably only concerned with how much money she can get out of this. I think Anna should really try to appoint co-chairs who are actually interested and invested in the theme. It's always the most ridiculous trending names - Taylor, Rihanna, Katy, Jennifer Lawrence for China?????? I suppose these names are only for window dressing. Because when if you watched the MET China documentary you saw that it was actually the likes of Wendy Deng who put in the hours, educated herself by asking questions etc.

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09-11-2017
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Seriously, the co-chairs are getting more and more random as the years go by. What's next, Lady Gaga?

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09-11-2017
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Originally Posted by fashionista-ta View Post
I don't think it's lazy, no.

The article says the original concept was fashion + the 5 major world religions. Presumably as the concept went forward, Catholicism emerged as far more relevant/important than the rest in fashion terms ... and so he went with it.
Also Catholicism has the Vatican overlook it all whereas a lot of the other religions don't really have a centralised authority per se to advise the MET on how to organise the event. There's no centralised authority of Shia Islam or Sunni Islam for example to give advice on fashion and Islam.

Also I guess Catholicism and its iconography has had strong influence over fashion throughout the years whereas a lot of Islamic influence in fashion is actually influenced by Arab/Middle Eastern culture (ie Bedouin influence in Givenchy's fw09 couture collection) rather than the religion itself.

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Nice cop out with the Catholicism thing, they are probably the only ones that won't bring out the pitchforks to the doors of the exhibition.

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Nice cop out with the Catholicism thing, they are probably the only ones that won't bring out the pitchforks to the doors of the exhibition.
HAHAHAHAHA!! God, so true!! I also don't think it was chosen in terms of importance....

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HAHAHAHAHA!! God, so true!! I also don't think it was chosen in terms of importance....
Of course. Well Ben, I guess the party line is that we all have to collectively pretend that this theme came out organically, and some bullshit about designers being raised Catholic and that's why the infinitely more interesting theme of Fashion and Religion was dropped. Well maybe it's for the best.

And i God I agree with you, I find Today's Madonna insufferable, but she's was extremely influential in her day and this exhibition is tailor made for her, is a travesty she was not invited.

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Anyone who thinks there's any lack of Catholic outrage over cultural events and art simply hasn't been paying attention.

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Anyone who thinks there's any lack of Catholic outrage over cultural events and art simply hasn't been paying attention.
Why do you say that, Fashionista-ta? Over what have they been pressed recently? I think the public image of the Catholic Church has been in peril for the past decade. And it's not only because of priests touching little boys. It started with Susan Sarandon calling one of the Popes a Nazi, their outdated and damning statements on domestic violence and Aids in South America and Africa, the list goes on and on. So I doubt they have much leg to stand on while weeping over the fashion industry's superficial take on their sacred emblems. Not that I excuse Anna and her posse at all, I think it was ridiculous to start with.


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Of course there is protest and even outrage when Catholicism is and often the target of art and design. But lives were not threatened and taken.

Let's be real: The truth is veering so much on that they dare not even mention any other religions in what may be perceived as superfluous exploitation of "The Others" by the West— even if it’s purely positive, in these PC, and terrorist times. Even 25 years ago, when Karl embroidered Islamic scripture on his Chanel HC pieces in tribute to his Saudi clienteles, he had to immediately burn these pieces since they offended Islam. No one is going to dare go near that again in 2018. Whereas taking on Catholicism won’t be met with just the brand of finger-wagging criticism-- nor real threats on Anna’s life like Salman Rushdie’s head was called for 27 years ago when he offended Islam-- and this time, likely from the extreme alt-Left SJWs if they even touch any other religion other than Catholicism LOL


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