Fashion – Over the centuries the architecture, fashion and crafts of Catholic culture built a religious imagery and symbolism inspiring designers’ haute-couture and ready-to-wear collections. This link is on show at the Heavenly Bodies, Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibition across two venues of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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“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.
A group of papal robes and accessories from the Vatican serves as the cornerstone of the exhibition, highlighting the enduring influence of liturgical vestments on designers. On show also designs by leading fashion brands such as Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Organised by the MET’s Costume Institute in collaboration with the department of Medieval Art, Heavenly Bodies invites visitors to engage a style-pilgrimage through various sections of the Fifth Avenue building and the MET cloisters. New York architecture firm Diller Scorfidio + Renfro designed the exhibition spaces.
At 5th Avenue, 150 ensembles, primarily womenswear, from the early 20th century to the present provide an interpretative context for fashion’s engagement with Catholicism. The design are on show at the Byzantine and medieval galleries and the Robert Lehman Wing.
The Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries showcase more than 15 papacies from the 18th to the early 21st century including papal vestments and accessories, such as rings and tiaras. Here also 40 ecclesiastical masterworks from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside the Vatican.
The Met Cloisters alongside medieval art from The Met collection. 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 construction of the Catholic imagination.
All photos: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.