Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination—Exhibition Preview

Watch a video preview of the exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters from May 10 through October 8, 2018.

Featuring Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge, The Costume Institute

The Costume Institute's spring 2018 exhibition will feature a dialogue between fashion and medieval art from The Met collection to examine fashion's ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism.

Serving as the cornerstone of the exhibition, papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside The Vatican, will be on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Fashions from the early 20th century to the present will be shown in the Byzantine and medieval galleries, part of the Robert Lehman Wing, and at The Met Cloisters.

Andrew Bolton: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination is about the influence of Catholic imagery on designers. It's the largest show that The Costume Institute has staged. It's in two sites: The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters. The garments that we've chosen specifically relate to religious objects within The Met's collection. So, in a way, it's a series of interventions, forging dialogues between fashion and the display of religious arts within a museum context.

We have over 50 masterworks from The Vatican collection; many haven't been seen outside of the Vatican before. The Byzantine galleries focus on designers who've been inspired by the interiors of Byzantine churches. One example is Gianni Versace's last collection, which was inspired by the micro-mosaics at Ravenna Cathedral. And the Medieval Sculpture Hall focuses on the holy ordering of the Catholic church. One of the highlights is by John Galliano for Christian Dior, a sort of figment of John's imagination of a pope. In The Met Cloisters, the exhibition is focusing on designers who've been inspired by monastic orders, but also the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith.

With this catalogue, we worked with the artist Katerina Jebb. Katerina scans garments, sometimes up to a hundred scans and collages them back together, and that process captures the materiality of the garments in a greater detail than perhaps a camera. It almost gives a sort of saintly aura.

Fundamentally, designers who either were raised or educated Catholic have a metaphorical inclination that defines their creative impulses. Designers certainly gravitate towards religious imagery for provocation. On the whole, I'd say that the majority of designers engage with it for nostalgia and for reasons of beauty. I hope that one of the takeaways from the exhibition is that Catholicism as a belief system has inspired some of the most extraordinary works of art.

Director Kate Farrell
Producer Melissa Bell
Editor Sarah Cowan
Cameras Dia Felix, Stephanie Wuertz
Lighting Ned Hallick
Production Coordinator Kaelan Burkett
Production Assistant Bryan Martin
Original Music Austin Fisher
Time-lapse Photography Thomas Ling
Digital Composite Scans Katerina Jebb

© 2018 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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