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A First Look at the Costume Institute’s “In America: An Anthology of Fashion”

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Renaissance Revival Room, 1868–70 Augustus Truesdell (American, 1810–1872)Meriden, Connecticut

Gift of Josephine M. Fiala, 1968 (68.133.7). Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Creating cinematic displays inside the Greek Revival Parlor and the Renaissance Revival Room for the exhibition is a challenge and an excellent opportunity to work with Andrew Bolton and the Met curators as we dive headfirst down into strange and wonderfully intimate conversations with the fashion icons Mdm. Eta Hentz and Ann Lowe,” says Julie Dash of her vignette for the exhibition.

The in-situ installations and inclusion of the short films is just the latest in Bolton’s reimagining of what a fashion exhibition can look like. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while: How do we shift the paradigm of fashion exhibitions? I think we’ve been very successful working on blockbuster shows in the past. It’s a paradigm that has been adopted by a lot of museums and I’ve been thinking about how we can shift the paradigm,” says the curator. “One of the things I’ve been really, really focusing my energy on is these stories [for “Anthology”], but also I am very much object-based now.”

What does object-based really mean? Since working on this curation, Bolton says he has become obsessed with the idea of the anonymous designer. For decades, anonymous works—those without a specific person accredited, common in the early fashion boom of the 19th century—were less valued by collectors and museums than a garment with a label. “What I’m really interested in is doing these really deep dives and forensic analyses of objects so that we can create a sort of creative profile, even though we’ll never find who the person was.”

Take Eli Russell Linnetz’s quilted blanket worn by A$AP Rocky to the Met Gala. A quilt found in a vintage store and relined by Linnetz became a pop cultural phenomenon when the rapper wore it up the red carpet with Rihanna. The original was made by Mary Ann Beshers (1918-1999). Her great granddaughter, Sarah, recognized the quilt and identified it; months later Linnetz took a portrait of the family with their famous heirloom. Hundreds of other dressmakers and seamstresses will never be as lucky as Beshers—but with this show, Bolton hopes to retrain eyes and minds to consider the sources of all our garments.

Linnetz’s quilt will also have a starring role in “Lexicon.” By mid-March, Bolton and his team will have refreshed the exhibit with 70 new pieces from over 30 new designers not represented in the original show. Hanifa, Grace Ling, Batsheva, LaQuan Smith, CDLM, Lorod, Barragán, and many more will be added to “Lexicon.” “Anthology” will open on May 7 and the two shows will stay open until September 5.

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1 Comment
  1. Michael Valentin says

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