How can one follow the most visited Costume Institute show in the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the three most visited exhibitions in the world, one that addressed the sacred questions of God, biblical allusion and religious ornamentation? How does one of the "Celestial bodies: fashion and the Catholic imagination" stand out?
With, apparently, a face to face with the profane.
On Tuesday, the museum announced its main exhibition of the Costume Institute for 2019: "Camp: Notes on fashion", a work from the 1964 essay by Susan Sontag "Notes on the" Camp, "the 58-point treaty that possibly took the concept to the mainstream. and helped make Sontag a literary celebrity. "The essence of Camp is his love for the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration," he wrote in Partisan Review, at a time when the frontier between elite art and mass culture was disintegrating.
Cut to 2018. "We are going through a period of extreme camp, and it seemed very relevant to the cultural conversation to see what is often dismissed as empty frivolity, but in reality it can be a very sophisticated and powerful political tool, especially for cultures marginalized, "said Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge of the Costume Institute, who said he had been exploring the idea for the past several years." Whether it's a popular camp, a queer camp, a high camp or a political camp, Trump is a very figure of the camp, I think it is very timely. "
From "The RuPaul Drag Race "to the current celebration of all the self-destructive paintings of Warhol and Banksy, Mr. Bolton sees the camp explosion as a partial response to the corresponding increase in extreme conservatism and populism. "Much of the high camp," he said, "is a reaction to something."
In this, the exhibition is fully in line with its mission to use the lens of deceptively popular fashion to tackle challenging themes, from China's rise to religion, thus placing the museum at the center of a broader cultural conversation, rather than departing from intellectual and academic heights.
"At times like this, fashion is very powerful because of its ability to convey very complex ideas about our cultural customs in seemingly accessible ways," said Bolton. "One of my favorite definitions of Susan's essay is when she talks about the idea of camp as a failed seriousness, when she's campy, she's more aware of herself, but let's look at both of them."
There will be around 175 pieces on display, including clothing for men and women, sculptures, paintings and drawings, divided into two sections. The first will deal with the origins of the camp, which Mr. Bolton goes back to Versailles, through its inclusion in the dictionary of Victorian jargon in 1909, and the revolts of Stonewall and "the use of the camp as a language in the queer community" . He said, adding that he believes that the history of this camp may surprise some people.
The second half of the exhibition will focus on the camp as expressed in the work of contemporary designers, from the use of trompe l'oeil to pastiche, irony, theater and exaggeration. The names of Charles Frederick Worth and Balenciaga to Miuccia Prada and Demna Gvasalia will be represented.
"Sontag in his essay said that not everything is a camp, but since I have been working on the program, I began to think that it is everywhere and that all fashion is at a level camp," Bolton said. "He has earned so much money that he has become invisible, and part of my goal is to make him visible again."
The exhibition will be designed by the set designer Jan Versweyveld, who also created David Bowie's "Lázaro" will take place at the galleries Iris and Gerald B. Cantor, where the Alexander McQueen and "Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons: Intermediate Art" shows were held. Coincidentally (or not), Ms. Kawakubo, the first living designer to receive a show at the Costume Institute in more than 30 years, also had a moment of recent inspiration with the Sontag rehearsal, and in February she based her fall show 2018. (Probably will have a piece in the exhibition, said Bolton, in total, the sample will include around 37 designers).
At that time, Ms. Kawakubo wrote in a statement: "The camp is really something new and deep and represents the value we need." Mr. Bolton hopes that this show will generate a similar realization in his viewers.
The exhibition is being signed by Gucci, the Italian brand that has experienced an extreme renaissance in recent years under the creative director Alessandro Michele, with His vision of a world full of crowds that includes boys and girls, sequins, tennis sweaters and grandma's glasses, an aesthetic that has been a celebration of the power of the camp.
Mr. Michele wanted to participate, he said, because "there are often big misunderstandings about the real meaning of this word." He continued: "Camp really means the unique ability to combine art and pop culture, it is not kitsch, the Met exhibition will give a contemporary meaning to the Sontag perspective".
The show will be presented at the annual gala party on May 6, co-chaired by Anna Wintour (who is herself something an icon of the camp), editor of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast (who also supports the show); Lady Gaga, the superstar whose personal presentation and career are practically an ode to the transforming power of the camp; Mr. Michele; pop singer Harry Styles (a star of the current Gucci ad campaign); and tennis star Serena Williams.
Mrs. Williams' relationship with the camp is not very clear, but presumably that mystery will be resolved when she is at the top of the marble staircase in the reception line. In fact, it can be argued that the gala, in which guests are often encouraged to dress up with the theme of the exhibition, could be said to be the best parade of camps, dominated by millions of people. Just consider the wings of Katy Perry's archangel last May or Rihanna's version of the papal robes.
Then consider the possibilities this time.
An earlier version of the legend of an image with this article, using information from the Met, erroneously identified the designer for the set "Too much irony!". It's Moschino, not Virgil Abloh for Off-White.