It’s ‘About Time’ at The Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art takes a look back, while looking ahead, in “About Time: Fashion and Duration.” This next Costume Institute blockbuster will open May 7.

Leave it to The Met to offer a unique way to explore the concept of time.

As recently announced, the spring exhibition of The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan is to be “About Time: Fashion and Duration.”

And the latest entry in the series of blockbuster shows will present, as advance materials share, “a disruptive timeline of fashion history.”

It will all get underway May 4 with the annual Costume Institute Benefit, informally known as The Met Gala. This year’s event will be co-chaired by fashion designer Nicolas Ghesquière; “Hamilton” creator and noted composer, lyricist, actor and activist Lin-Manuel Miranda; Academy Award-
winning actors Emma Stone and Meryl Streep — and, of course, the iconic Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Those attending the gala traditionally wear designs inspired by the theme, building the excitement for “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” which will open May 7 and continue through Sept. 7 in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall of The Met’s Fifth Avenue flagship.

As part of the museum’s 150th anniversary celebration, the exhibition will trace fashion from 1870 to the present.


Here’s how it’s being advanced:

“Employing philosopher Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée — time that flows, accumulates, and is indivisible — the exhibition will explore how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate the past, present and future. The concept will also be examined through the writings of Virginia Woolf, who will serve as the ‘ghost narrator’ of the exhibition. Michael Cunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel ‘The Hours,’ which was inspired by Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway,’ will write a new short story for the exhibition catalogue that reflects on the concept of duration.”

Max Hollein, director of The Met, shared in the announcement of “About Time,” that “This exhibition will consider the ephemeral nature of fashion, employing flashbacks and fast-forwards to reveal how it can be both linear and cyclical. As such, the show will present a nuanced continuum of fashion over the museum’s 150-year history.”

Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, added, “Fashion is indelibly connected to time. It not only reflects and represents the spirit of the times, but it also changes and develops with the times, serving as an especially sensitive and accurate timepiece. Through a series of chronologies, the exhibition will use the concept of duration to analyze the temporal twists and turns of fashion history.”


The exhibition will feature 160 examples of women’s fashions, with the majority of objects drawn from The Costume Institute’s collection (including gifts made as part of The Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative in celebration of the milestone anniversary).

Here’s how the exhibition is envisioned, as shared by The Met:

“A linear chronology of fashion comprised predominantly of ensembles in black will run through the exhibition reflecting the progressive timescale of modernity, and bringing into focus the fast, fleeting rhythm of fashion. Unlike traditional chronologies, which reduce the history of fashion to a limited number of decade-defining silhouettes, this timeline will be presented as a ceaseless continuum that is more complete and comprehensive in scope. “Interrupting this timeline will be a series of counter-chronologies composed of predominantly white ensembles that pre-date or post-date those in black, but relate to one another through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration. For example, a black silk faille princess-line dress from the late 1870s will be paired with an Alexander McQueen ‘Bumster’ skirt from 1995, and a black silk velvet bustle ensemble from the mid-1880s will be juxtaposed with a Comme des Garçons ‘Body Meets Dress — Dress Meets Body’ dress from 1997.

“The exhibition will conclude with a section on the future of fashion, linking the concept of duration to debates about longevity and sustainability.”

The exhibition is organized by Bolton with support from Amanda Garfinkel, assistant curator, and Jan Reeder, curatorial consultant. Visual artist and stage designer Es Devlin will create the exhibition design with The Met’s Design Department.

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