A most exciting ‘First Monday in May’

Any careful reading of the operating hours of The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan yields the fact that in addition to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days, the museum is closed “the first Monday in May.”

Anyone with an interest in fashion knows exactly why.

That’s the day one of the industry’s biggest events – The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala – is held to celebrate the opening of its spring exhibition. The star-studded evening affair and its red-carpet entrances rival The Academy Awards for star power, fashion statements and just plain excitement.

Well, May 2 – this first Monday in May – was also the day that the press preview for The Costume Institute’s new exhibition, “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” (May 5 to Aug. 14) was held — and WAG was invited to the sneak peek.

As I neared the museum, the fact that a “major event” was coming was clear, from barricades along the side streets to the television trucks already lining Fifth Avenue to the massive tent set up for that evening’s entrances. The long line for press check-in, though moving quickly, was another sign that this was a big day.

Journalists and guests had a full hour to tour the exhibition – an intoxicating environment created thanks to the exhibition’s design, fashions and haunting music (that I later learned, during my quick chat with Andrew Bolton, the exhibition organizer and curator in charge of The Costume Institute, was by Brian Eno).

We were then summoned to the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court for a remarks program. Moments before it began, there was a craning of necks as Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, a museum trustee, walked to her seat. We heard about the exhibition from Thomas P. Campbell, the museum’s director (and a longtime Westchester resident), followed by Jony Ive, chief design officer of Apple (the exhibition’s sponsor), and finally, Bolton.

Then it was back to the Robert Lehman Wing to further explore the two-floor show, which delves into the relationship between handmade and machine-made fashions. It’s a dazzling display of more than 170 examples of haute couture and cutting-edge ready-to-wear dating from the early 1900s to today. One could have spent the entire day savoring the fashions from Balenciaga to Alexander McQueen, Coco Chanel to Karl Lagerfeld, Halston to Marc Jacobs, Mariano Fortuny to Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Poiret to Miuccia Prada… you get the idea.

We’ll have a story on the exhibition in our June issue, but know already, you’ll want to attend this exhibition – at least once – in coming months.

As I left the museum nearly three and a half hours after entering, I glanced over at the crowds already starting to gather for a glimpse at the stars who would later arrive – but hoped they realized the fashions inside were already stars in their own way.

And since you know we at WAG just love to run with a theme, I decided to cap my fashion-filled day by catching a late-afternoon screening of “The First Monday in May.” Filmmaker Andrew Rossi’s fast-paced, informative and thoroughly entertaining documentary traces last year’s blockbuster “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition at The Costume Institute and added another dimension to what I had just seen.

For more, visit metmuseum.org. – Mary Shustack

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