Review: ‘The Times of Bill Cunningham,’ starring Bill Cunningham

February 14, 2020

by Carla Hay

Bill Cunningham at a Patou Collection in Paris in 1970.
Bill Cunningham at a Patou Collection in Paris in 1970. (Photo by Jean Luce Huré)

“The Times of Cunningham”

Directed by Mark Bozek

Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in New York City, the documentary “The Times of Bill Cunningham” chronicles the life of celebrity/fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, who came from a middle-class background but rubbed shoulders with society’s elite for most of his career while still maintaining a connection to street life.

Culture Clash: Cunningham kept his integrity in an increasingly tabloid-oriented media landscape, and in his early career as a milliner, he experienced sexism in this female-dominated part of the fashion industry.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people interested in a fascinating story about how a hat-designer-turned-photographer became one of the most respected figures of fashion and celebrity media.

Bill Cunningham at a fashion show in Paris in 1971
Bill Cunningham at a fashion show in Paris in 1971. (Photo by Harold Chapman/Topfoto/The Image Works)

If you’re aware of the most prominent American photojournalists of the 20th century, then you already know who Bill Cunningham was or where you were the day that you heard he died. Cunningham, who spent most of his career as a New York Times photographer, passed away from a stroke in New York City on June 25, 2016, at the age of 87. He never retired from working. And he was a rare fashion photojournalist who didn’t limit his work to one segment of society. He captured a wide variety of cultures, from haute couture lifestyles to street life of everyday people.

The insightful and somewhat worshipful documentary “The Times of Bill Cunningham,” which revolves around a rare 1994 video interview that director Mark Bozek did with Cunningham, takes a chronological look back at Cunningham’s life story. Sarah Jessica Parker provides voiceover narration. Because Cunningham was the type of photojournalist who didn’t seek attention and glory for himself, he rarely gave interviews. “The Times of Bill Cunningham” and the 2011 documentary “Bill Cunningham New York” are probably the closest things to Bill Cunningham memoirs.

“The Times of Bill Cunningham” consists almost entirely of archival footage, including some never-before-seen photos taken by Cunningham. In Cunningham’s own words, we hear about his childhood, growing up in Boston in a strict Catholic family. From an early age, he had a fascination with women’s hats. As a teenager, he worked as a sales clerk at the Boston location of luxury department-store chain Bonwit Teller. At age 19, he dropped out of Harvard University to move to New York City and pursue a full-time career in fashion.

When he moved to New York City to live with an aunt and to pursue his fashion dreams, it’s no surprise that, after a brief stint as an ad associate for Bonwit Teller, he became a milliner, first for Bonwit Teller and then striking out on his own. Women in New York’s high society, as well as Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford, became his clients. His fashion career was interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War, when he spent some time in France, and then he left the Army to return to New York in 1953.

However, even though his talent was recognized, Cunningham said he faced a lot of sexism because being a milliner was traditionally a woman’s job. And he was initially afraid to tell his family back home in Boston that he was in the fashion industry, so he began his career using an alias: William J.

Cunningham eventually was fired from Bonwit Teller, and he says in retrospect, his dismissal from Bonwit Teller was the best thing to happen to him, because it led him to start his own milliner business. He charmed his way into renting a studio space for a big discount, even though he hadn’t proven himself yet as a successful entrepreneur. Through his hat business, he met Bernadine Morris, who was The New York Times’ fashion critic at the time. She introduced him to a whole new set of clientele and eventually played a role in Cunningham switching careers from milliner to journalist.

But during his hat-designing days, Cunningham had some memorable moments, including times when actor Marlon Brando would hide out in the studio when he was being chased by female fans. Bill also remembers that writer Norman Mailer and his third wife, Lady Jeanne Campbell, shared the studio with him. And his most famous neighbor was photographer Editta Sherman, who later did some modeling for Campbell in his early years as a fashion photographer. Cunningham also remembers meeting former King Edward VIII of Great Britain and his wife, Wallis Simpson. Cunningham describes him as charming, down-to-earth, and willing to put people at ease instead of using his royal lineage to intimidate people. 

Cunningham closed his hat shop in 1962, and he began working at the New York City boutique Chez Ninon, which catered to the wealthy. As for which type of fashionistas impressed him the most, Cunningham says it wasn’t the Hollywood celebrities (he thought most of these stars didn’t have style in real life), but the New York high society women who were the ones with the most elegant style and best fashion taste. Jackie Kennedy was one of his favorite clients. Cunningham says that the pink Chanel outfit that Kennedy wore on the tragic day in 1963 that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated was actually not a Chanel original but a knockoff from a Balenciaga outfit.

Just like at Bonwit Teller, Cunningham was eventually ousted at Chez Ninon, and he says it was because the women who worked at Chez Ninon weren’t entirely comfortable with him as a milliner because he was a man. It was around this time that Cunningham got his first professional photographer’s camera, in 1967. He worked for a time as a fashion critic for Women’s Wear Daily and the Chicago Tribune, but photography turned out to be his true love.

He began taking photos of New York street life, but the photos of celebrities are the ones that got him the most attention. (Cunningham never considered himself to be part of the paparazzi, because he didn’t stalk people.) In 1978, he took a famous photo of Greta Garbo, who was a recluse at the time, while she was walking on a New York City street. The New York Times published the photo. And from that year onward, he worked for The New York Times until his death in 2016. It was during his long stint working for The New York Times that Cunningham began to wear his signature item of clothing: a blue jacket.

In the documentary’s video interview with Cunningham, he shares a lot of his thoughts on fashion, by saying that fashion can be described in three categories: what is shown, what is written about, and what is worn. “I don’t think of myself as a photographer. I think of myself as a fashion historian,” he says. He also says that he doesn’t have a favorite era in fashion because “fashion makes people feel good. As long as there are human beings in the world, there will be fashion.”

The first time that Cunningham covered the Met Gala (the annual fashion fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute), it was during the era when Diana Vreeland was editor-in-chief of Vogue. He chronicled the Met Gala, for 11 years when it was under Vreeland’s supervision, not only through photos but also through audio recordings and notes. The documentary includes a rare audio recording of Vreeland and Andre Leon Talley talking during preparations for a Met Gala. The one Met Gala preparation he didn’t cover extensively was the one in 1976, which had the theme “The Glory of the Russian Costume,” because Vreeland and the Russians clashed too much over the exhibit.

Speaking of conflicts, Cunningham also remembers how his presence wasn’t always welcome when he would take pictures. He tells a story about how the head of a perfume company (he didn’t say her name) called the police on him because she was sure that Cunningham was a pickpocket posing as a photographer. Although he was able to avoid being arrested, the incident was so unnerving that he remembered it in full detail all those years later.

One of the highlights of his career, he says, was being at the Battle of Versailles Fashion Show in 1973, when French designers and American designers who represented fashion’s A-list competed against each other in a fashion show to raise money for the Palace of Versailles in France. The French designers were Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Emanuel Ungaro, Hubert de Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent. The American designers were Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, Oscar de la Renta, Halston and Anne Klein. (The Americans won.) Cunningham said that Burrows was his favorite designer at the event because his designs were truly unique from everyone else’s.

Cunningham undoubtedly got to experience many glamorous events and take photos of many celebrities, but he felt it was equally important to document the street life of everyday people, including the homeless. He also covered news events happening on the streets, such as protests and parades, including the first Pride parade in New York in 1970. He breaks down and cries a few times during the interview: When he talks about things he saw on the street that he didn’t have the heart to photograph (he didn’t go into details in the interview) and when he talks about the devastation of the AIDS crisis.

Throughout the interview, Cunningham also shows his boyish wit and humility. He constantly downplays the importance of his work, and says at one point, “I’m not talented.” He also says that he’s basically shy, so he never got over being nervous about working on the street or meeting new people.

Cunningham was also very eccentric and very frugal, since he we would always stay at cheap hotels when he traveled for business, while many of his colleagues and peers would travel first-class. His only spending indulgence was for his art collection. Cunningham, who was famous for getting around by bicycle, also reveals his philosophy on how he chose which bikes to get: “The cheaper, the better.”

And he also explains what he loves most about his work: “The freedom.” He adds that “New York is an extraordinary city,” and The New York Times was like a “blank canvas” where he could display his work. And the hardest part of the job for Cunningham? Spelling people’s names correctly.

Although Cunningham doesn’t talk about it in the documentary, Parker’s voiceover narration mentions that during his lifetime, Cunningham was extremely generous with his money, by donating millions to AIDS charities and the Catholic Church. When Cunningham’s close artist friend Antonio Lopez was dying of AIDS and didn’t have health insurance, Cunningham bought a painting from Lopez for $130,000, and then gave the painting back to Lopez.

The one thing about Cunningham that the documentary doesn’t discuss is his love life. He never married, didn’t have kids, and he never publicly disclosed what his sexuality was. Whatever his sexual orientation was, it’s obvious from the documentary that Cunningham was married to his job. If he ever did have any serious love relationships in his lifetime, they definitely would’ve been less of a priority for him than his work. The documentary shows that he spent so much of his waking hours devoted to his work, that it’s no wonder he didn’t seem to have any time to settle down with someone special.

Although the documentary certainly reveals a lot about Cunningham (except his love life), it comes across as a little too fawning. He was certainly a beloved media figure, but the documentary could have been more well-rounded by interviewing people who were his rivals to get their perspectives. And because the basis of the documentary is a video interview that he did in 1994, the interview looks extremely dated. Had the interview taken place in a later decade, Cunningham would have been able to offer his thoughts on how digital technology and the Internet have transformed the photography profession. However, the documentary does have a treasure trove of archival footage, which is one of the main reasons to see this movie.

Cunningham’s legacy is a reminder that it’s possible to be a street photographer and be a well-respected gentleman, which is a rare quality when photographers who do their work on the streets are rewarded for being pushy and aggressively obnoxious. And in this day and age of smartphones and social media where people can curate and Photoshop their own images any way that they please, Cunningham represents a bygone era where photographers had more gatekeeper influence in the fashion industry. As more journalists than ever before have a tabloid “look at me” mentality, Cunningham always maintained the ethics of a true journalist, by observing and reporting truths, instead of trying to put the spotlight on himself.

Greenwich Entertainment released “The Times of Bill Cunningham” in New York City on February 14, 2020. The movie’s U.S. theatrical release will expand to other cities in subsequent weeks.

2019 Met Gala: Event Photos and Videos

May 7, 2019

The 50th annual Costume Institute Gala, also known as the Met Gala, took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 6, 2019. Because the theme was “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” guests were encouraged to dress in campy fashions. The event is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. This year, the Met Gala was co-chaired by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Serena Williams and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele. Here are photo and video highlights from the event.

Kacey Musgraves and Gemma Chan at the 2019 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 6, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Forevermark)

Costume Institute’s Spring 2019 exhibition at The Met Fifth Avenue to focus on ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’

May 6, 2019

House of Schiaparelli
Ensemble by Bertrand Guyon and headpiece by Stephen Jones for House of Schiaparelli, fall/winter 2018–19 haute couture. (Photo by Johnny Dufort, courtesy of Schiaparellia and The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The following is a press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

The Costume Institute’s spring 2019 exhibition, Camp: Notes on Fashion (on view from May 9 through September 8, 2019, and preceded on May 6 by The Costume Institute Benefit), explores the origins of camp’s exuberant aesthetic and how the sensibility evolved from a place of marginality to become an important influence on mainstream culture. Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’” provides the framework for the exhibition, which examines how fashion designers have used their métier as a vehicle to engage with camp in a myriad of compelling, humorous, and sometimes incongruous ways.

The exhibition is made possible by Gucci.

Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

“Camp’s disruptive nature and subversion of modern aesthetic values has often been trivialized, but this exhibition reveals that it has had a profound influence on both high art and popular culture,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “By tracing its evolution and highlighting its defining elements, the show embodies the ironic sensibilities of this audacious style, challenges conventional understandings of beauty and taste, and establishes the critical role that this important genre has played in the history of art and fashion.”

In celebration of the opening, The Costume Institute Benefit—also known as The Met Gala—takes place on Monday, May 6.  The evening’s co-chairs are Lady Gaga, Alessandro Michele, Harry Styles, Serena Williams, and Anna Wintour.  The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

“Fashion is the most overt and enduring conduit of the camp aesthetic,” said Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “Effectively illustrating Sontag’s ‘Notes on “Camp,”’ the exhibition advances creative and critical dialogue about the ongoing and ever-evolving impact of camp on fashion.”

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition features approximately 250 objects, including womenswear and menswear, as well as sculptures, paintings, and drawings dating from the 17th century to the present. The show’s opening section positions Versailles as a “camp Eden” and address the concept of se camper—“to posture boldly”—in the royal courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV.  It then focuses on the figure of the dandy as a “camp ideal” and traces camp’s origins to the queer subcultures of Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  In her essay, Sontag defined camp as an aesthetic and outlined its primary characteristics. The second section of the exhibition is devoted to how these elements—which include irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration—are expressed in fashion.

Designers whose work is on view in the exhibition include Virgil Abloh (for Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh); Giorgio Armani (for Armani Privé); Manish Arora; Ashish; Christopher Bailey (for Burberry); Cristóbal Balenciaga; Thom Browne; Sarah Burton (for Alexander McQueen); Jean-Charles de Castelbajac; Antonio del Castillo (for Lanvin-Castillo);  Dapper Dan (for Gucci); Christian Dior; Salvatore Ferragamo; John Galliano (for Maison Margiela, House of Dior, and John Galliano); Jean Paul Gaultier; Nicolas Ghesquière (for Louis Vuitton); Odile Gilbert (for Jean Paul Gaultier); Edda Gimnes and Manuel Vadillo (for EDDA); Molly Goddard; Bertrand Guyon (for House of Schiaparelli); Demna Gvasalia (for Balenciaga and VETEMENTS); Johnson Hartig (for Libertine); Deirdre Hawken; Pam Hogg; Marc Jacobs; Rossella Jardini (for House of Moschino); Stephen Jones (for Giles Deacon, John Galliano, and House of Schiaparelli); Christopher Kane; Patrick Kelly; Ada Kokosar; Christian Lacroix; Karl Lagerfeld (for House of Chanel and Chloé); Mary Katrantzou; Rei Kawakubo (for Comme des Garçons); Tomo Koizumi; Bob Mackie; Martin Margiela; Stella McCartney (for Chloé); Alexander McQueen (for Givenchy); Alessandro Michele (for Gucci); Edward Molyneux; Erdem Moralioglu (for Erdem); Franco Moschino; Thierry Mugler; Alejandro Goméz Palomo (for Palomo Spain); JiSun Park and KyuYong Shin (for Blindness); Marjan Pejoski; Phoebe Philo (for Céline); Paul Poiret; Gareth Pugh; Richard Quinn; Traver Rains and Richie Rich (for Heatherette); Zandra Rhodes; William Dill-Russell; Yves Saint Laurent; Elsa Schiaparelli; Jeremy Scott (for Moschino and Jeremy Scott); Hedi Slimane (for Saint Laurent); Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren (for Viktor & Rolf); Anna Sui; Jun Takahashi (for Undercover); Michael Travis; Philip Treacy; Giambattista Valli; Walter Van Beirendonck; Patric DiCaprio, Claire Sullivan, and Bryn Taubensee (for Vaquera); Gianni Versace; and Vivienne Westwood.

Exhibition Credits
The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute; with Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Associate Curator; and Amanda Garfinkel, Assistant Curator. Theater scenographer Jan Versweyveld, whose work includes Lazarus with David Bowie as well as Broadway productions of A View from the Bridge and Network, created the exhibition design with The Met’s Design Department, and consulted on the gala décor with Raul Avila, who has produced the décor since 2007.  All headdresses are specially created for the exhibition by Stephen Jones.

Related Content
A publication by Andrew Bolton with Fabio Cleto, Karen Van Godtsenhoven, and Amanda Garfinkel accompanies the exhibition and includes new photography by Johnny Dufort.  It is published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.  

A special feature on the Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/Camp, provides further information about the exhibition.  Follow us on Facebook.com/metmuseum, Instagram.com/metmuseum, and Twitter.com/metmuseum to join the conversation about the exhibition and gala.  Use #MetCamp, #CostumeInstitute, @MetCostumeInstitute, and #MetGala on Instagram and Twitter.

About Gucci
Founded in Florence in 1921, Gucci is one of the world’s leading luxury fashion brands, with a reputation for creativity, innovation, and Italian craftsmanship.  Gucci is part of Kering, a global Luxury group, which manages the development of a series of renowned maisons in fashion, leather goods, jewelry, and watches.

About The Met
The Met presents over 5,000 years of art from around the world in three New York City locations—The Met Fifth AvenueThe Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters.  Since it was founded in 1870, the Museum has brought art to life in its galleries and through exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and cultures.

 

2018 Met Gala: H&M designed custom looks for Lili Reinhart, Olivia Munn, Alek Wek, Kiersey Clemons, Jasmine Sanders, Luka Sabbat

May 8, 2018

Met Gala
Alek Wek, Jasmine Sanders, Valerie Messika, Kiersey Clemons, Olivia Munn, Luka Sabbat and Lili Reinhart at the 2018 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 7, 2018. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

The following is a press release from H&M:

Ethereal glamour and serene creation are the themes for H&M’s one-of-a-kind looks, created just for this year’s Met Gala in New York. The looks, designed by H&M’s in-house team, are inspired by this year’s exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” exploring the relationship between fashion and masterworks of religious art. To dress its guests, H&M’s design team evolved each look with the wearer and theme in mind, using techniques such as draping, beading and embellishment, in glistening metallic shades.

“Designing these H&M looks for this year’s Met Gala has been an honor. Each look has been entirely custom-made, focusing on rich detail and a modern take on red carpet glamour. We wanted each of our guests to feel both serene and effortless,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson, Creative Advisor at H&M.

“This is my first Met gala… I still can’t believe I’m going. I feel honored to be surrounded by such incredible artists and wear this customized gown. I feel like a gilded princess,” says Lili Reinhart.

“I love how this chainmail dress takes the theme of the exhibition and pushes it somewhere modern and fresh. It’s so much fun to wear,” says Olivia Munn.

“The hand-beading and embroidery that has gone into this dress is extraordinary. It is so perfect to wear on this special night,” says Alek Wek.

Actress Lili Reinhart wore a silver dress inspired by armor. A cloud-like drape of silver lamé organza was held by a silver corset, creating a dramatic contrast between control and flow. The corset was decorated with chunky metal chains in antique silver, while silver lame organza was draped first as a mini-skirt, before billowing into a long train.

Actress and model Olivia Munn wore a daring sleeveless chainmail dress that draped on the body like liquid. Golden chainmail was cut long and lean, with a plunging neckline and open sides, held by links of golden rings that reveal the skin beneath.

Model and activist Alek Wek wore a draped, flowing gown that took inspiration from mosaics. A long train of silver and jewel tones was created from a pattern of beading and sequins. The mosaic-like pattern also appeared at the off-the-shoulder bust, which was contrasted with a waist and skirt in deep red double silk, lined in gold and slit high at the front.

Actress Kiersey Clemons wore a richly beaded dress like a netting of gold and pearl. This diamond-shaped embroidered net sat close against the body with a deep neckline, leading to a full yet straight skirt held by a soft crinoline, the embellished net sitting on sheer nude organza.

Model and actress Jasmine Sanders wore a voluminous gown of gold metal lamé. The gown was softly draped off the shoulder, then held by an elegant slim waist. The dress then released into a dramatic full silhouette, a high slit revealing Jasmine’s legs to emphasize the modern lightness.

Model and influencer Luka Sabbat wore an extravagant robe entirely hand-embroidered with sequins. The intricate pattern was made from sequins in antique silver, deep red, burgundy, gold and royal blue, while the cuffs, shawl collar and lining were in black silk. Luka also wore tuxedo trousers made from sustainable materials organic silk, tencel and wool.

To celebrate fashion’s biggest night, H&M has created The Gala Collection, an exclusive capsule of four red carpet looks inspired by celestial glamour. The Gala Collection is now available online at hm.com worldwide, as well as at H&M’s Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York.

2018 Met Gala: Event Photos and Videos

May 8, 2018

The 49th annual Costume Institute Gala, also known as the Met Gala, took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 7, 2018. Because the theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,”  guests were encouraged to dress in fashion inspired by the Catholic religion. The event is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. This year, the Met Gala was co-chaired by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Amal Clooney, Rihanna and Donatella Versace. Here are photo and video highlights from the event.

 

Costume Institute’s Spring 2018 exhibition at The Met Fifth Avenue and Met Cloisters to focus on ‘Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’

November 8, 2017
The following is a press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

Image 1 (left): El Greco, Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara (1541–1609), ca. 1600, oil on canvas; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.5) (Image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Image 2 (right): Evening Coat, Cristobal Balenciaga for House of Balenciaga, autumn/winter 1954–55; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Bryon C. Foy, 1957 (C.I.57.29.8) (Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb)

Exhibition Dates: May 10–October 8, 2018
Member Previews: May 8–May 9, 2018
Exhibition Locations: The Met Cloisters and The Met Fifth Avenue’s
Medieval Galleries and Anna Wintour Costume Center


Costume Institute Benefit on May 7 with Co-Chairs Amal Clooney, Rihanna, Donatella Versace, and Anna Wintour, and Honorary Chairs Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that The Costume Institute’s spring 2018 exhibition will be Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, on view from May 10 through October 8, 2018 (preceded on May 7 by The Costume Institute Benefit). Presented at The Met Fifth Avenue in both the medieval galleries and the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the show will also occupy The Met Cloisters, creating a trio of distinct gallery locations. The thematic exhibition will feature a dialogue between fashion and masterworks of religious art in The Met collection to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. A group of papal robes and accessories from the Vatican will travel to the United States to serve as the cornerstone of the exhibition, highlighting the enduring influence of liturgical vestments on designers.

The exhibition is made possible by Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman, and Versace.

Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

“The Catholic imagination is rooted in and sustained by artistic practice, and fashion’s embrace of sacred images, objects, and customs continues the ever-evolving relationship between art and religion,” said Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO of The Met. “The Museum’s collection of religious art, in combination with the architecture of the medieval galleries and The Cloisters, provides the perfect context for these remarkable fashions.”

In celebration of the opening, the Museum’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 7, 2018. The evening’s co-chairs will be Amal Clooney, Rihanna, Donatella Versace, and Anna Wintour. Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman will serve as Honorary Chairs. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

“Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “Although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion.”

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition will feature approximately 50 ecclesiastical masterworks from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside the Vatican. These will be on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries and will include papal vestments and accessories, such as rings and tiaras, from the 18th to the early 21st century, encompassing more than 15 papacies. The last time the Vatican sent a loan of this magnitude to The Met was in 1983, for The Vatican Collections exhibition, which is the Museum’s third most-visited show.

In addition, approximately 150 ensembles, primarily womenswear, from the early 20th century to the present will be shown in the medieval galleries and The Met Cloisters alongside religious art from The Met collection, providing an interpretative context for fashion’s engagement with Catholicism. The presentation situates these designs within the broader context of religious artistic production to analyze their connection to the historiography of material Christianity and their contribution to the perceptual construction of the Catholic imagination.

Designers in the exhibition will include Azzedine Alaïa, Cristobal Balenciaga, Geoffrey Beene, Marc Bohan (for House of Dior), Thom Browne, Roberto Capucci, Callot Soeurs, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Maria Grazia Chiuri (for House of Dior), Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana (for Dolce & Gabbana), John Galliano (for House of Dior), Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, Craig Green, Madame Grès (Alix Barton), Rei Kawakubo (for Comme des Garçons), Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld (for House of Chanel), Jeanne Lanvin, Shaun Leane, Claire McCardell, Laura and Kate Mulleavy (for Rodarte), Thierry Mugler, Norman Norell, Guo Pei, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (for Valentino), Pierpaolo Piccioli (for Valentino), Elsa Schiaparelli, Raf Simons (for his own label and House of Dior), Riccardo Tisci (for Givenchy), Jun Takahashi (for Undercover), Isabel Toledo, Philip Treacy, Donatella Versace (for Versace), Gianni Versace, Valentina, A.F. Vandevorst, Madeleine Vionnet, and Vivienne Westwood.

Exhibition Credits
The exhibition—a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters—is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, working together with colleagues in The Met’s Medieval department: C. Griffith Mann, Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters; Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator for The Met Cloisters; Helen C. Evans, Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator of Byzantine Art; and Melanie Holcomb, Curator.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the interdisciplinary architecture and design firm, will create the exhibition design with The Met’s Design Department. Raul Avila will produce the gala décor, which he has done since 2007.

Related Content
A publication by Andrew Bolton will accompany the exhibition and will include texts by authors David Morgan and David Tracy in addition to new photography by Katerina Jebb. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

A special feature on the Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/HeavenlyBodies, provides further information about the exhibition. Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter to join the conversation about the exhibition and gala. Use #MetHeavenlyBodies, #CostumeInstitute, and #MetGala on Instagram and Twitter.

2017 Met Gala: Event Photos and Videos

The 48th annual Costume Institute Gala, also known as the Met Gala, took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 1, 2017. Because the theme was “Rei Kawakubo/Commes des Garcons: Art of the In Between,” guests were encouraged to dress in avant-garde fashions. The event is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. This year, the Met Gala was co-chaired by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen, Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams. Here are photo and video highlights from the event.