The Met’s Costume Institute Unveils Sensory-Themed Exhibition and Gala for 2024

Anticipation surrounding the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s Costume Institute exhibition has come to a close with the reveal of its latest annual theme. A preview held Wednesday morning at the museum featured Andrew Bolton, the curator overseeing the Costume Institute’s extensive fashion collection, as he announced the title for the much-awaited annual showcase: “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.”

The theme, set to serve as the visual centerpiece for the Costume Institute’s annual Met Gala in May, the museum’s largest fundraising event, hinges on the concept of the senses and the natural world, Bolton told guests during the preview. Bolton elaborated that the exhibition would draw from the museum’s vast 33,000-item fashion archive and that curators selected 250 pieces that, in varying ways, relate to the “range of human senses.”

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The primary aim, he added, is to “reanimate” historical and contemporary garments— once worn on living bodies, but now exist as artifacts for study within the museum’s archives.

Bolton emphasized that the theme is focused on garments alluding to the natural world, referencing a number of pieces the museum has selected: a 1958 hat produced by American designer Sally Victor, which doubles as a floral arrangement, a dress by Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli bearing reproductions of floral postcards, and a 2011 Alexander McQueen piece embellished with artificial butterflies wings made from feathers.

The “impermanence” of fashion will also be a focus, the Met said. Adding to the exhibition’s focus on the senses, the Norwegian Berlin-based artist and chemist Sissel Tolaas will be a collaborator. Tolaas, who has collaborated with Balenciaga, will be tasked with reengineering scents associated with vintage clothes using geochemistry.

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