‘Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’ at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters

Renee Minus White | 5/10/2018, 10:35 a.m.
When you think about religion, how often do you think about fashion and beauty?
Fashions from the Costume Institute's Spring 2018 Exhibition Metropolitan Museum of Art photos

When you think about religion, how often do you think about fashion and beauty? The Costume Institute’s Spring 2018 Exhibition at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters opened their new exhibit, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” which focuses on both. The exhibition runs from May 10 to Oct. 8, 2018.

At last Monday’s press preview, a reporter asked, “Why is the Church here?”

“Truth, goodness and beauty,” replied His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. His Eminence explained, “Truth, goodness and beauty are reflected everywhere. People all over the world are inspired by Pope Benedict, who has been on the best-dressed list due to his red shoes.”

The exhibit represents storytelling at its best and involves fashion designers and the deepest sensibilities of the Catholic imagination.

This exhibit is the Costume Institute’s largest. It is displayed uptown at The Met Cloisters and at The Met Fifth Avenue’s Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art, Medieval Galleries, Robert Lehman Wing and Anna Wintour Costume Center.

The thematic exhibition features an interesting dialogue between fashion and masterworks of medieval art in The Met’s collection. You can examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. From the Vatican, there are a group of papal robes and accessories that serve as the cornerstone of the exhibition. Opening the exhibit, these pieces highlight the enduring influences of liturgical vestments on designers. These garments have been on view in churches and on priests, nuns and clergy. This outstanding exhibition is made possible by Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman and Versace. Additional support is provided by Conde Nast.

“The Catholic imagination is rooted 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 Byzantine and Western medieval art, in combination with the architecture and galleries that house these collections at The Met, provide the perfect context for these remarkable fashions.”

In the exhibit, exquisite costumes are situated next to Catholic objects, such as statues. “Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,” said Andrew Bolton, head curator of the Costume Institute. “Although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive creations in the history fashion.”

The exhibit contains approximately 40 magnificent masterpieces on loan from the Sistine Chapel sacristy. These garments have never been outside the Vatican, and they represent 15 papacies from the 18th to the 21st century, on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries. This collection includes papal vestments and accessories such as rings and tiaras. The costumes are amazing. Top design houses represented in the exhibition include Cristóbal Balenciaga, Geoffrey Beene, Marc Bohan for House of Dior, John-Paul Gaultier, Gianni Versace, Donatella Versace, Yve Saint Laurent, Madame Grès, Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel, Raf Simons, Elsa Schiaparelli, Stephen Jones, Christian Lacroix and more.

Traveling from The Met Fifth Avenue to The Cloisters will be a wonderful journey for the family.